- When the Protestant world missionary endeavor began in the 18th century, India was among the first targets. The Danish-Halle Mission began work in Tranquebar in 1706. The mission, which eventually evolved into the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, was the lone Protestant presence for most of the century.British expansion in India in the 18th century piqued the interest of English missionaries, but the powerful East India Company was hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular, and even Anglicans were unable to establish operations. In 1792, William Carey, the first representative of the Baptist Missionary society, arrived in Bengal. His work in Serampore attained legendary status in Protestant church history. He was joined six years later by Congregationalist missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society. Calcutta became the early center of Indian Protestantism.In subsequent decades, a wide variety of Protestant churches established their initial missions. Among the more interesting were the American Congregationalists operating through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Their first group included Adoniram Judson, his wife, Anne Hesseltine, and Luther Rice. On their way to India, the three converted to the Baptist cause. They set up the original American Baptist mission in India (later relocated to Burma), and catalyzed the formation of the American Baptist Foreign Mission society, the first national Baptist body in America. The following year, the Church of England established its first independent mission under the supervision of the Church Missionary Society. The CMS's arrival in India also signaled the formal end of the company's opposition to missions. Among the first to benefit from the change were the Methodists, who had set up shop in Ceylon (sri Lanka) while waiting for an opening.A growing number of churches from England and increasingly the United States were now arriving in Calcutta. often British churches found themselves competing with sister churches from the United states. The competition grew intense as denominational bodies and Evangelical sending agencies launched missions. Further competition came from the indigenous Indian mass movements, in which large numbers of people, usually from one caste or subgroup, would convert to Christianity together.India received modern Pentecostalism even before parts of the United States. In 1908, George E. Berg, who had been in India for seven years, visited the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. Appropriating the experience of speaking in tongues, he returned to India to launch a new work there. In 1915, former African missionary Mary Weems Chapman settled in Madras; the Assemblies of God trace their presence in the country to her ministry. Robert F Cook, an Assemblies missionary who arrived in 1913, withdrew from the movement in 1929 and joined the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee) in 1936. In 1930, his former assistant, K. E. Abraham, founded the first indigenous Pentecostal movement, the Indian Pentecostal Church. These churches together number a million adherents.The Charismatic movement swept through the Indian Christian world toward the end of the 20th century; it claims to affect as much as half of the Christian community across denominations.A number of new Charismatic churches have cropped up, too, such as the Manna Full Gospel Churches and the Nagaland Christian Revival churches. The non-Trinitarian Pentecostals are also well represented; the United Pentecostal Church International has more than 200,000 members.Today, the Christian community in India includes approximately 62 million people, about 6 percent of the population. Of these, 14 million are Roman Catholic and 3 million are Orthodox. The remainder are scattered among several hundred Protestant and Free Church denominations, including the Church of south india (3 million members), the Council of Baptist Churches in northeast India (1.6 million), the United Evangelical Church of India (1.5 million), the Church of North india (l.3 million), the saora Association of Baptist churches (1.2 million), and the Methodist Church in India (1.1 million).In the 1850s, a movement emerged to create an Indian-based Christianity using Indian cultural forms, culminating in the Hindu Church of the Lord Jesus (1858), the first of a number of indigenous Christian groups. Among the more radical of these was the Subba Row movement formed during World War II. It refused to organize congregations or practice baptism, and built its life around informal prayer meetings and large healing crusades. The Assemblies that grew from the ministry of Indian Christian leader Bakht Singh drew much of their inspiration from the Plymouth Brethren and the Local Church movement founded by Watchman Nee in China.The modern Ecumenical movement had one of its greatest successes in India. In 1912, various Protestant and orthodox churches formed a unified Missionary Council, which matured through several steps into the National Council of Churches of India (affiliated with the World Council of Churches). The Missionary Council became the meeting ground for those groups that wished to go beyond close working relationships to form unified Protestant churches. Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Brethren, and Anglicans engaged in numerous ecumenical contacts culminating in the formation of the Church of South India (1947), the Church of North India (1970), and the United Evangelical Churches of India (Lutheran 1926). Approximately a hundred groups participate in the Evangelical Fellowship of India, affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.A growing Christianity has encountered resistance from the Hindu nationalist movement. Radical nationalists have committed a number of violent acts against Christians, including the murder of missionaries and the burning of church facilities. Several states attempted to pass anticonversion laws, making it a punishable offense to "induce" people to convert, but these laws have been declared unconstitutional. This new tension between Hindus and Christians has grown simultaneously with heightened tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as the periodic clashes between India and Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation. Hindus constitute approximately 75 percent of the Indian citizenryChristianity can be found across India, but is strongest in South India, in the area north and east of Calcutta, and in some of the larger northern cites such as Lahore and Lucknow.Further reading:■ The Churchman's Handbook, 1989 (Christian Literature Society, 1988)■ Herbert E. Hoefer, Churchless Christianity (Madras, India: Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, 1991)■ S. Co. Neill, A History of Christianity in India, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-85)■ S. D. Ponraj and Sue Baird, eds., Reach India 2000 (Madhupur: Mission Education Books 1996)■ O. M. Rao, Focus on North East Indian Christianity (Delhi, India: ISPCK, 1994).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.