FOOT PRINTS & MISSION FIELDS
Beginning of the Brethren
and in India
Dr. Johnson George, Toronto
Brethren Movement in India (particularly in the state of Kerala)
Anthony Norris Groves, a Brethren missionary from Dublin, came to Andhrapradesh, India in 1833. He established several churches in Andhrapraadesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. One of Anthony’s disciples John Arulappan, a native missionary from Tamilnadu, came to Kerala and conducted numerous revival meetings. The second wave of great revival started in Kerala by the arrival of Tamil David in 1894. Tamil David’s message influenced a Marthoma priest from Kumbanadu, Rev. P.E. Mamman (known as Kumbanattachan) and he got saved in 1895. In 1898 he learned about baptism from missionary J.G. Gregson and then got baptized by another missionary Handley Bird. P.E. Mamman learned about breaking of bread from Handley Bird. Soon he left his high position in Marthoma church and on 19 March, 1899 with three other brethren (Kuttiyil Mathai, P.C. John and P.C.Chacko), he started a Brethren gathering in Kumbanadu. This was the first native Brethren gathering in Kerala. (Though 2 years earlier (in 1897), another Brethren missionary V. Nagel had started a Brethren assembly in Kunnamkulam, Thrissur, with breaking of bread. But what happened in Kumbanadu was the first native gathering, without the presence of a foreign missionary).
Four prominent people in the early Brethren history of Kerala are: two foreign missionaries V. Nagel and E. H. Noel and two native people P. E. Mamman and Mahakavi (Great Poet) K.V. Simon.
PRACTICES OF OUR FOREFATHERS IN KERALA, SHOWING ‘SEPARATION' (‘VERPADU’) AND SIMPLE LIFE STYLE:
Brethren forefathers in Kerala (India) wanted to lead a simple and separated life because of their Christian faith. For this reason they said ‘No’ to many worldly temptations, including the following:
- No extra-biblical elements in the worship services
- No worldly entertainment in daily life
- No special day celebration
- No extravagant marriages
- No fancy clothes
- No ornaments – 1 Tim 2: 9-10
The issue of ornaments is a disputed one. The controversy is because the traditional Brethren people in Kerala have been taught not to wear the ornaments (including wedding rings). But those who came from other denominations into Brethren assemblies want to keep their ornaments because of sentimental reasons. Also some traditional Brethren people now want to wear ornaments out of imitation. So now there are two groups of people in Brethren assemblies with regard to the ornaments. How can we address this issue?
First of all, the best way for the people who have been brought up in a traditional Brethren family, is to resist the temptation of starting wearing ornaments. There is no justifiable reason as to why a person needs ornaments all of a sudden if he/she hasn’t wore it before.
However, since this is an issue in many of the assemblies, there should be some guidelines which both sides could follow. Biblical expectation is this: Those who don’t wear ornaments should not be judgemental towards those who wear them (Romans 14: 1-4). On the other hand, those who wear them should keep them minimum or eventually give them up altogether, in order to avoid offending others (1 Cor 8:9, 13; Romans 14:15)
“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves” Romans 14:22
The Brethren movement has a glorious beginning, but there are a few things that historians point out against us. It would be good if we were careful about them. The following are the main flaws:
- Since Brethren are strong in Bible teaching, they serve mainly believers, ignoring evangelization.
- They split frequently because of the autonomous structure of their assemblies.
“The Brethren are remarkable people for rightly dividing the Word of Truth and wrongly dividing themselves”. – Dr. Griffith Thomas
More Information about Brethren history, assemblies and doctrine
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www.brethrenonline.org (check FAQs)
Brethren movement is the story of How God used ordinary people to restore the first century church principles in our time. May we do our part to pass on these truth to the next generation.