Reformation Movement

Reformation MovementSt. Thomas Mar Thoma Church Kozhencherry

Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan from Maramon and KaithayilGeevargheseMalpan from Kottayam who spearheaded this movement, never wanted to start a separate Church. They wanted the reformation, staying within the Church. This group gradually became vocal and approached Col. Fraser, the British Resident, with a memorandum in 1836. But since nothing came of it, Abraham Malpan decided to take action in his own parish of Maramon which was sympathetic towards his ideas of reform. He translated the liturgy of the Holy Qurbana into local language Malayalam from Syriac and also eliminated from it the prayers for the dead and invocation of saints etc. He celebrated Holy Qurbana in his church using the revised St.James liturgy on a Sunday in 1836. This was tantamount to firing the first shot of the reformation. He later on removed from the church the wooden image of a saint reputed to have miraculous powers and in whose honour an annual festival was held that brought in huge income to the Parish. Both at Maramon and at the Syrian Seminary at Kottayam, and in the neighbouring Parishes of Pallom and Kollad, Abraham Malpan popularized Bible teaching and preaching. Abraham Malpan and GeevargheseMalpan had to give up their service in the Seminary, in 1840. Since then Abraham Malpan concentrated his attention on the work of reform, holding Bible classes and prayer meetings and instructing the deacons who were loyal to him.


  • Return to the gospel message of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ;
  • Cleansing of wrong ways of life, and
  • Taking up responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to other;
  • All importance is given to the primacy of the Word of God.

Thus the reformation movement was started. It was a return to the purity of the life and practice of the early Church. The emphasis on preaching the word of God led to revival meetings, which were led both by the clergy and laymen. The domination of the clergy as custodians of grace became a thing of the past. Emphasis was given to the sole mediation of Christ, importance of laity and priesthood of all believers. More and more groups were formed for Bible study; and conventions for preaching and hearing the Word of God became common.

Metropolitan Chepat Mar Dionysius was not prepared to accept such changes. So he refused to ordain the deacons who had undergone training with Abraham Malpan. He also excommunicated Abraham Malpan. So Abraham Malpan went to his mother-parish at Maramon. He stood strong in faith and convictions when faced with serious challenges and great difficulties. However the whole parish stood with him. Others who favoured the reforms went to hear his preaching and were strengthed by his exhortations. Some other parishes also decided to adopt the programme of reformation. Abraham Malpan realized that unless he had the support of a bishop who was sympathetic towards his reforms, there was little prospect of the movement gaining ground. So he sent his nephew Deacon Mathew, who was then studying in Madras, to the Patriarch at Mardin in Syria. The Patriarch, being impressed with the character and ability of the deacon, in due course ordained him as priest and consecrated him as Metropolitan, with the name Mathews Mar Athanasius. The new Bishop arrived in Cochin in 1843 with credentials received from the Patriarch.

The new Metropolitan went to Trivandrum and tried to obtain the Royal proclamation declaring him as the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church. Chepat Mar Dionysius opposed this. Mathews Mar Athanasius got the royal proclamation in 1852 declaring him as the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church. Abraham Malpan died at the early age of 49 years in 1845. Having received the Royal proclamation, Mathews Mar Athanasius made himself more active and involved in the cause of reformation. Years later a group led by Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius who was consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch worked vigorously against him and his attempts to continue reformation. Mathews Mar Athanasius, consecratd his cousin Abraham Malpan's son, as Thomas Mar Athanasius in 1868. The reformed party had possession of the Syrian Seminary as Mathews Mar Athanasius had been declared as the Malankara Metropolitan. The Partriarch of Antioch himself came to Kerala in 1875. A prolonged litigation followed, as to who was the rightful Malankara Metropolitan. Mathews Mar Athanasius died in 1877 and Thomas Mar Athanasius had to carry the burden of conducting the court cases, for the possession of the Syrian Seminary and Church property. This case was decided in the royal court of appeal in Trivandrum, in 1889. Two judges decreed that Joseph Mar Dionysius was the rightful Metropolitan of the Malankara Church as he expressed allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. One Christian Judge gave the verdict in favour of Thomas Mar Athanasius because of his conviction that the Malankara Church has been an independent Church from the beginning. The majority view prevailed and Thomas Mar Athanasius had to leave the Syrian Seminary and the properties there, because he upheld the autonomy of the Church. It was suggested that Thomas Mar Athanasius would be recognized as Malankara Metropolitan, if he agreed that future consecrations of Bishops should be by the Partriarch of Anticoh. He did not agree to this proposal as it was against the autonomy of the Church.

Again, litigation continued for the possession of individual churches. The reform party got only Maramon and Kozhencherry churches by court decision, and the Kottarakara church without contest. Five churches were to be used by the two parties on alternate Sundays. They put up small sheds in other places to hold worship services.

Even though the reform party lost their hereditary and rightful possession, it became the occasion for the people to turn to God and to go forward in faith, trusting in the power of God. This led to a spiritual revival and great joy in spite of difficulties. It was this spiritual fervour which sustained the people. The Maramon Convention (Evangelistic Meeting) was started about this time in the year 1896. The famous Maramon Convention which we have been holding annually for over a century is a source of great spiritual power and inspiration for innumerable people. The losses were forgotten in the zeal of spiritual fulfilment. The concern for the spread of the Gospel gave momentum to the reformation movement. The successive Metropolitans of the Church also continued in the same spirit, with the help of dedicated clergy whose leadership and sacrificial lives have been deeply appreciated by the people in the Church.

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