INDIGENOUS STRUCTURES OF GOVERNANCE OF THE CHURCH OF ST THOMAS CHRISTIANS IN INDIA
Being the only Church in India until the arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, the Church of St. Thomas Christians founded in the second half of the first century, had the autonomy and the freedom to develop its own system of governance for spiritual and temporal administration and resolution of conflicts without any territorial or hierarchical restrictions. Though this Church became hierarchically dependent on the Persian Church from the fourth century it had the administrative self-sufficiency to decide for itself under the guidance of the indigenous ecclesiastical leader called archdeacon who governed the Church with legislative, executive and judicial powers with the help of Yogams. However, after the arrival of Western missionaries, gradually Latin jurisdiction and Latin laws were imposed on the St. Thomas Christians by taking away all its powers and abolishing all its indigenous structures, leading to a complete loss of autonomy for this Church. Since the end of Latin rule, with the erection of three vicariates with native bishops in 1896, the Church has been gradually regaining its lost autonomy and is in the process of restoring the indigenous structures to the maximum possible extent.