Hong Kong
2000-10-06 00:00:00

Leaders of various Churches in India have mourned the death of Protestant theologian Reverend Joshua Russell Chandran, calling him a leader of third world ecumenical theology.

Reverend Chandran, 82, died Sept. 27 in Bangalore, southern India. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Reverend Chandran was "a great source of encouragement to Churches all over Asia," said a message from the Hong Kong-based Christian Conference of Asia, which paid tribute to his theological service.

Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), said in a condolence message that Reverend Chandran, vice moderator of the WCC 1966-1969, was a "great son" of the Indian Church.

He will be "remembered with gratitude by the world church for his far-reaching contributions to the ecumenical movement," Raiser said.

Raiser noted that the Indian theologian "played a key role in opening the way for new voices from Third World churches to be heard" at the fourth-assembly of the WCC, held at Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968.

Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Kuncheria Pathil hailed the Protestant pastor as an ecumenist during a thanksgiving service Oct. 1 for his life, witness and ministry in Bangalore.

His contribution to Catholic-Protestant dialogue and theological discussions were "unparalleled," the Catholic priest said.

As a founding member of the Ecumenical Association of the Third World Theologians, Reverend Chandran made Third World theologies visible around the world, several theologians recalled at the service.

He was the first Indian principal of the Bangalore-based ecumenical United Theological College (UTC) 1954-1984.

Reverend Chandran built the college into an international, ecumenical and multiregional theological college, said Sathianathan Clarke, associate professor of Theology and Ethics at the UTC.

A native of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, he began his theological studies after completing his master´s in mathematics. He was an ordained pastor of the Church of South India (CSI).

He studied theology in Bangalore, Oxford, New York and Chicago before earning his doctorate from Serampore College in India.

The Protestant pastor joined the UTC as a theology professor in 1950. He also served as visiting professor at seminaries in New York, Kentucky and Massachusetts in the United States.

After retiring from the UTC, he taught for more than three years at the Pacific School of Theology in Suva, Fiji.

Reverend Chandran was "an outstanding leader who shaped the lives of many young people who came in contact with him," said George Mathew, director of the New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences.

The CSI pastor was the convener of the Negotiations Committee, which paved the way for the formation of the CSI, a union of Protestant Churches in southern India, in 1947.

He also served as secretary of the Joint Council of the CSI, Church of North India and Mar Thoma Church. He was also convener of the CSI Synod´s Theological Commission.

The WCC general secretary noted that Reverend Chandran was a member of the WCC´s Faith and Order Commission for 25 years, "and was able to bring the Indian experience to other churches engaged in union negotiations."

He noted that Reverend Chandran "leaves behind many marks of an always passionate and creative commitment to the unity of the church."

In 1967, he founded the Christian Union of India, a forum for peace with justice. He was also the Asia president of the Christian Peace Conference.

He authored two books - "Christian Ethics" and "Following Jesus" -- and published more than 1,000 articles in journals in India and abroad.


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