Foundations of Protestant Christianity: The Roots of Anglicanism in Colonial Coastal Andhra: Madras Presidency, India

by Dr. Santha Varikoti- Jetty

Date added: 26/01/2017

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Foundations of Protestant Christianity:

The Roots of Anglicanism in Colonial Coastal Andhra:

Madras Presidency, India

Dr. Santha Varikoti-Jetty


The study of the work of the Protestant Christian Missionaries in Modern India presents an interesting subject in the development and making of the Modern Indian History. Christian Missions were instituted for Gospel work and Christian missionaries took the vocation of gospel propagation and Church building.[1]  In the words of Rev. Henry Venn, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society (1841-1873), "we take the best men who offer themselves to us according to the standard fixed by the fathers and founders of the society, a standard confirmed by the practical experience of every year in the mission field as comprising the only qualifications which can win souls for Christ. It is by no formula of doctrine that we judge, but by the spirit of the men."[2]

 The beginning of Christianity in Coastal Andhra may be dated back to the time of the Theatines, who had pressed forward to establish themselves into the interior part of the Golconda Kingdom. After the death of Fr. Manco of Bimlipatam, the sad state of affairs of the Christian mission in that region moved Fr. Ardizzone to bring back as many as 100,000 unChurched Christians back to their holy duties.[3] Masulipatam (evolved as Masulipatnam: name derived from the production of a cloth type called ‘Muslin’) had the earliest connection with the ministers of the East India company when the ‘Chaplains for Southwards’ travelled in the ship ‘Globe’ to Masulipatnam in 1610. At this time, the chaplains to be stationed at Masulipatnam were James Rynd, Thomas Friday and Patrick Copeland.  Since that time onwards, a number of chaplains who had ministered amongst the soldiers were associated with the factories at Masulipatnam. It was a principal trading town of the Northern Circars since the 17th century and could also be credited as having the first site of an English factory on the Coromandel Coast.[4]

The Sultan of Golconda gave permission to the Dutch and the English Companies to establish their factories in Masulipatnam. It may be interesting to note that on 8th December 1678, Shah Raza, one of the principal ministers of the King of Golconda, was present in the Church service at Masulipatnam. On the following Sunday, the King himself was present at the Church accompanied by Shah Raza.[5]  However, until the beginning of the 19th century the presence of the Anglican missionaries was not felt except for conducting Church services for the company’s military personnel. Although the ‘Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge' was founded in 1698, and the ‘Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts’ in 1701, Great Britain did not enter into the field of missionary evangelism until the beginning of the 19th century.

By the year 1733, there were about 16 stations of the Carnatic mission. [6]  Great progress was made especially during the time of Bishop Clement Bonnard in the Northern area of the Carnatic Mission. At the end of 1762, the Colonial Andhra towns were placed under the control of the East India Company where Nellore, Ongole, Masulipatnam and Rajahmundry had three companies of European infantry, and one company of artillery.[7] Masulipatnam became the headquarters of the Northern Division of the army with a fortification.[8]  During 1766, the Northern Circars were transferred to the East India Company and any evangelistic efforts were aimed at converting the caste and influential Hindus. In 1793, a Church was built at Ellore, as it was one of the frontier stations of the East India Company where the 4th battalion of the Company's Europeans resided.[9]  Ellore was placed under the military chaplaincy of Sir Charles Oakeley and Rev. R. H. Kerr in 1795.[10]  According to the Ecclesiastical Proceedings of the Home department, the Chaplain‘s duties at the military station comprised of conducting Sunday worship services, admission of holy communion twice a month and conducting occasional services like baptisms and burials.  They were also directed to show an interest in the progress of schools by visiting and catechizing among the employees’ children.[11]  

At home, since the beginning of the 19th century there was a growing enthusiasm for missionary work in England. In 1792, Rev. William Carey, ‘the founder of modem missions’ published a work called “an enquiry into the obligation of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens, in which the religious state of the different nations of the world, the success of former undertakings, and the practicability of further undertakings are considered” which was said have marked a new beginning for the work of the Protestant Christian missions in India.[12]  The denominational missionary societies were founded; namely, the Baptist Missionary Society (1792), the London Missionary Society (1795), the Scottish Missionary Society (1796) and the Church Missionary Society (1799). With an eagerness to enlighten the public mind in England, these missionary societies pressed for the introduction of Christianity not only in India but throughout the Colonial possessions of the Crown.[13] 

The Church Missionary Society (The Society for Missions to Africa and the East). was formed with all the efforts of the ‘Electic Society’ in connection with the ‘Evangelical agenda of the Church of England’ and based upon the principle of "The Church” under the chief efforts of Rev. William Goode, Charles Grant, Josiah Pratt, John Venn and Charles Semeon.[14]  The chapel at Masulipatnam was built by General Pater in the year 1810 and Rev. Edward Vaughan was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate the Church and the Christian burial ground there.[15]  Thus CMS’ missionary activities were centered at Masulipatnam and it became the chief station for Anglican Christianity in Coastal Andhra.

Ecclesiastical Policy of the British East India Company

The East India Company followed a hostile policy when granting permission for the missionaries and held a firmly opposed any European missionary to set foot on British Indian soil without a license.[16]   Therefore owing to the Company’s hostility policy towards missions, it was not possible to gain a license.[17]  The chaplains who were appointed by the East India Company had to confine themselves to their work as Church of England clergyman and were could only discharge duties such as conducting Church worship services for the European residents and soldiers in the barracks, in the hospitals and in their own private houses.[18]  This policy of the Company was aimed at preventing the missionaries from seeking some sphere of influence in the Company’s territories, as the Company followed a strict policy of non-interference in the religious and social affairs of the natives India, as this was perceived to intervene in its trade interests.[19]  Furthermore, the missionaries were also warned against obtaining asylum in a foreign settlement with an intention to gain access to Company's territories.[20]  Therefore, the Serampore Triumvirate, Dr. William Carey, Dr. Joshua Marshman and Mr. William Ward resolved to settle in Serampore, a Danish settlement fifteen miles from Calcutta.[21] 

However, a Company official, Charles Grant, was the force behind the initiative of the missionary enterprise in India.[22] He had published an elaborate pamphlet titled “Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain” in 1790. It was in 1793 that William Wilberforce took up the ‘first battle for toleration’[23] and moved a resolution in the Parliament to facilitate missionary work in India. The resolution was read as; “it is the peculiar and bounden duty of the legislature to promote, by all just and prudent means, the interests and happiness of the inhabitants of the British dominion in India and that for these ends, such measures ought to be adopted as may gradually tend to their advancement in useful knowledge and to their religious and moral improvement".[24]  However, any resolution could not pass before East India Company’s inflexible policies.[25]  Prior to the passing of the Charter Act of 1813, Mr. William Wilberforce, Charles Grant and Mr. Babington sought for a grant of measures from the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, on the subject of the evangelization of India. The Premier had consented to grant a Seminary at each of the Presidency towns, and the provision of consecrating Bishops for India by the Board of Control, rather than by the Company’s Court of Directors.[26]  

The Charter Act of 1813 and the First steps towards the Proselytization of India:

During the formative years of the British Protestant Evangelism in India, one should note the evangelistic efforts of the famous ‘Five Chaplains’, David Brown, Claudius Buchanan, Henry Martyn, Daniel Corrie and Thomas Thomason.[27]  The Charter Act of 1813 was passed on the 16th June 1813 in which the 12th and 13th Resolutions received the Royal Assent.[28]  It gave a direction to the Company to allow the activities of the missionaries as long as they had conformed to the regulations.[29] An Ecclesiastical Establishment would direct the Company to afford facilities to persons desirous of promoting moral and religious improvement of the natives of India and an obligatory clause was inserted upon the Company to set apart a sum of not less than one lakh of rupees each year for the revival and improvement of English language, literature and sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories of India.[30]

Between the years 1812-24, the work of the CMS was mainly in the Black town area of the Madras town, where Telugu people resided, alon with the opening of a few vernacular schools.[31]  The Charter Act of 1833 provided for the establishment of two new Bishoprics, viz Madras and Bombay.  In 1835, Bishop Corrie was consecrated as the first Bishop of Madras. He was the visionary of the CMS’ evangelical activities in the Telugu country[32] and the center of the union and the soul of all its operations.[33]  Rev. John Tucker was credited as the organizer of the CMS’ Telugu mission. But the supply of missionaries from home was very inadequate and it was only in 1841 that the Telugu mission was formally founded by two CMS missionaries. The Collector of the Kistna district, Mr. John Goldingham, contributed to the founding of the mission in 1836. He loved the Telugu people for their great manliness of character and strong natural affections.[34]

Thus the growing enthusiasm for evangelical work in India could be seen as a result of the evangelistic concern on part of the British Congregationalists.[35] The proselytizing responsibilities of the missionaries started actively with the onset of the efforts of the London Missionary Society in Northern Andhra. The evangelical efforts of the Christian missionaries at the beginning of the 19th century were aimed at converting the high caste Hindus as the missionaries believed that Gospel teachings would flow downwards in a hierarchical social order. However, the policy resulted only in a handful of converts.[36]  

The progress of Christianity in India between 1850 and 1950 was remarkable owing to the combined efforts of the Christian missionaries, the translation and dissemination of the scriptures, the spread of education and an enthusiastic body of native workers from the ranks of converted Christians. The large-scale increase in the number of Christians in South India, especially in Coastal Andhra, was viewed as a result of the brave discontent with the hard lot (social and economic) on part of the converted Christians in their pre- conversion days that had lasted for many centuries.[37]  

Please follow my next article on the comprehensive history of the Church Missionary Society in Coastal Andhra, Madras Presidency, India.

[1] Edward Lawrence., Modern Missions in the East: Their Methods, Successes and Limitations, (New York: Harper Brothers Publishers, 1895), 35.

[2] Ibid, 34.        

[3] Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: 1707-1858, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 361.

[4] Ibid, 274.

[5] Penny Frank., The Church in Madras: The History of the Ecclesiastical and Missionary Action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras from 1805 to 1835, (London: John Murray Publishers, 1912), 69

[6] As remote as “Bouccapouram á la hauteur de Masulipatnam” (from Bukkapuram to Masulipatnam).  In Gordon Mackenzie., A Manual of the Kistna District in the Presidency of Madras, (Madras: Lawrence Asylum Press, 1883), 276.

[7] Penny Frank., Op cit, 350.

[8] Ibid, 689.

[9] In later years between 1794-95, the 4th battalion moved from Ellore to Masulipatnam. Penny Frank., The Church in Madras, Op cit, 415.

[10] Ibid, 682.     

[11]  Home and Ecclesiastical Proceedings, No 13-18, (Calcutta: April 1, 1871).

[12] John Rutherford., Missionary Pioneers in India, (Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot Press, 1896, 99.

[13] Ibid, 165.

[14] Eugene Stock., History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, Its Men and Its Work, Vol. I, (London: The CMS Publications, 1899), 64.

[15] Penny Frank., The Church in Madras, Op cit, 689.

[16] John Rutherford., Missionary Pioneers, Op cit, 107.

[17] Ibid, 103.

[18] A. Thomson., Great Missionaries: A Series of Biographies, (London: T. Nelson and Sons Publishers, 1870), 251.

[19] M. A. Sherring., The History of Protestant Missions in India from their Commencement in 1706 to 1881, (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1884), 32.

[20] John Rutherford., Missionary Pioneers, Op cit, 108.

[21] Ibid, 107.

[22] Anthony Copley., Religion in Conflict: Ideology, Cultural contact and Conversion in Late Colonial India, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 37.

[23] Eugene Stock., The History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, Its Men and Its Work, Vol. I, (London: The CMS Publications, 1899), 55.

[24] Henry Morris., Charles Grant: Director of the East India Company and Member of Parliament, (Madras: M.E. Publishing House, NY), 29.

[25] Penny Frank., The Church in Madras ,Op cit, 22.

[26] James Hough., The History of Christianity in India, Op cit, 192.

[27] Eugene Stock., The History of the Church Missionary Society, Vol. I, Op cit, 55.

[28] James Hough., The History of Christianity in India, Op cit, 193.

[29] Penny Frank., The Church in Madras, Op cit, 22.

[30] Henry Morris., A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Godavari District in the Presidency of Madras., (London: Trubner & Co Publishers, 1878), 38

Also George Smith., The 'Conversion of India from Pantaenus to the Present Time, A.D. 193-1893, (New York: Young Peoples Missionary Movement, 1903), 108.

[31] Eugene Stock., History of the Church Missionary Society, Vol. I, Op cit, 201.

[32] Ibid, 299.

[33] John William Kaye., Christianity in India: An Historical Narrative, (London: Smith Elder and Co, 1859), 521.

[34] Frederik Gledstone., Andhra Christian Church Founders: John Goldingham, Collector of Kistna,(Madras: Diocesan Press, 1940), 2.

[35] M. A. Laird., Missionaries and Education in Bengal 1793-1837, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 36.

[36]  Paul D Wiebe, Christians in Andhra Pradesh: The Mennonites of Mahbubnagar, (Bangalore: The Christian Literature Society, 1988), 14.

[37] The Imperial Gazetteer of India: The Indian Empire, Descriptive, Vol. I, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 445.

Dr. Santha Varikoti- Jetty

Dr. Santha Varikoti- Jetty



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