Rev. K. O. John, 1922-2011
Interview with Rev. K. O. John in 2010
Hearing from our old church leaders is always a great inspiration for us. Their sacrifice, commitment and devotion to the Lord helped in reaching where we are today… Rev. K. O. John, who is 88 years old, shares about the early church days & gives advice to the young generation.
Can you remember incidents in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s which became a channel for the formation of Evangelical church?
Marthoma church was formed in 1856 as a result of the reformation and had a core Evangelical belief. During the early days, they gave preference to the Bible as the Word of God. Prayers to the saints and prayers for the dead were removed from the worship books. Abraham Marthoma Metropolitan was one of the leaders with a great vision for Evangelisation. But after his death in 1947, Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan took charge as the Bishop in Marthoma church. He had an “either..or” stand in crucial matters like Holy Communion, prayers for the dead, Prayers to the saints etc. “Either…or” stand gives the freedom to the individual to use his free will in deciding whether he wants to pray for the souls of the dead. It also meant nobody could question those who decided to pray.
Juhanon Marthoma modified the “Taksa” (Order of Worship) to include transubstantiation of the bread and the wine in the Holy Communion. Transubstantiation is the belief that after consecration the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ and they are the presence of Christ Himself. He also included the prayers for saint and prayer for the dead.
In my 14th year of service, I was posted in Kuzhikkala Marthoma parish. When I came to know about the revised “Taksa”, I was grieved. Abraham Marthoma specifically taught me to always tell that the holy communion is “for remembrance” only. I was against the modified version of Taksa and decided not to follow it.
Will you use the revised “Taksa”(Order of Worship)?
I replied “No”.
Will you conduct the holy communion mentioning that the presence of Christ is in the bread and wine and we can experience Jesus through it?
I replied “No”
You don’t have to pray for the dead. But when you preach, you shouldn’t condemn it as wrong as we have an Ecumenical stand. Can you do that?
I replied “No”
You should teach that praying to the saints and prayer for the dead is not against Bible. Can you do that?
I replied “No”
So Juhanon Marthoma took my reply in written and asked me not to do anything in Kuzhikkala Marthoma church for an indefinite period. People in the church were divided with the outcome and some wanted me to come to church. To avoid confusion, I didn’t go church after this incident.
At that time I heard that the Pathiopodesa Samithi (Organization for the Propagation of Sound Doctrines) was formed under the leadership of K. N. Daniel. I joined them and we had regular meetings at different places. At that time we never thought about forming a church. It was just a movement against the unbiblical teachings and practices in marthoma church.
But in 1959 December 31st, after an intensive discussion in Adoor Aramana, the Bishop ex-communicated 4 presbyters and few other people from Marthoma church. The presbyters were Rev. P. John Varghese (later Bishop John Varghese), Rev. P. I. Mathai , Rev. C. M. Varghese and myself. After that , we all along with some evangelists met at Mulakuzha (near Chengannur) to discuss the future plans. In 1960, more than 10 presbyters from Marthoma church and a large gathering met at Kumaband for a meeting.
In the late 1960’s, all those were inclined to the Pathiopodesa Samithi met at Kuttalam and elected 55 representatives to take appropriate decisions for future. They assigned Rev. T. C. George and Rev. P. T. Thomas to find a suitable location to gather as a church. They found the place in Thaimala in Tiruvalla and in 1961, on January 26, we met and decided to form a new church – “St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India”. A large gathering came to attend the first meeting in 1961.
You have seen three generations in our church. Can you compare the Godliness in each generation?
The early leaders were zealous and lived by faith. There were instances where we were threatened by marthomites (especially when we lived in Mulakuzha). But we didn’t waver in our stand. But for a certain period, we had backslidden in our devotion to Lord and that caused different problems in church. But now I praise God for the present young generation who have active interest and enthusiasm in Lord’s work. Some already went to North India as missionaries (which was a dream of early church leaders) and that helped us to pitch out to different places.
You are very famous for your Biblical expositions and teaching the “Sound doctrine” enthusiastically. Could you explain how you learnt the Bible and your educational background?
The Kombadi Bible Institute taught me how to study the Bible and how to teach it. I was blessed with great teachers like Abraham Marthoma, Plavunkal achen, Mr. M. M. Varghese and Kodakotta Upadeshi, who taught us the great truths faithfully.
Later went to Bengarapett Bible College for further studies. But I still remember the Kombadi Bible Institute helped me to learn and understand the great truths in Bible.
Different types of churches exist now – Traditional, Pentecostal, New Generation, Charismatic etc. What is the importance of STECI in the midst of all these churches?
Preaching the Gospel is our important goal and it is the main differentiator from others. We should always be equipped to preach the Gospel and should win India for Christ.
What is your advice to the present generation?
Live for Christ and win many souls for Him. India is our country and we should love it. We should convey the love of Christ for them and should conquer it for Christ.