Tuesday, December 1, 2015



SAHTRI’s initiative to organize a seminar on the theological contributions of M.M. Thomas and to publish the presentations is greatly appreciated. M.M. Thomas is one of those thinkers and leaders who have inspired a whole generation of Indian theologians and ecumenists, whether or not they agreed with him. His addresses, articles and books are thought-provoking and can hardly be ignored.
After his visible role in debates in India and outside ended, one got the impression that his influence was fading. New concerns and  developments in India and in the world and new theological trends were determining the agenda of  debates in churches, the ecumenical movement and theological faculties and seminaries. New issues that were not at the heart of Thomas’ reflections increasingly needed attention, for instance, the perspectives offered by feminist and Dalit theologians, the concerns around ecological justice and, later,  increasing religious radicalism and violence. Thomas was fully aware of the changing agendas in theological reflection and urged younger theologians to take up these new subjects in their study.

It was felt that with these changing agendas  the relevance of Thomas’ thinking would also diminish. This volume shows that this is not the case. The centenary celebrations of his birthday have revived the interest in his writings. Several platforms and institutions, including  the Mar Thoma Church to which he belonged, have felt that it is worth going back to his writings. They try to discern what his approach to the questions and concerns of his days would mean  today. SAHTRI’s choice to focus on Thomas’ contribution to reflections on theological methodologies is therefore very timely and relevant.

However, reading his articles and books, one hardly gets the feeling that Thomas developed a systematic, academic theological methodology. Some remarks and insights can be found throughout the body of his writings, but he did not bring them together in a well-developed study on methodology. This does not mean that he would play down the importance of a sound theological methodology. On the contrary, his reflections on current issues in  society,  churches and the ecumenical movement, his Bible studies, meditations and sermons, all witness a deep awareness that theology implies a continuous interaction between sociology of religion and theology of society, as he formulated  in his book Man and the Universe of Faiths.

This volume of studies on Thomas shows that his theology can rightly be called a theology of dialogue. I would like to add a dimension to the dialogical nature of his thinking which has  often not been highlighted. His thinking has also a ‘journey’ dimension, or as we would call it today in the ecumenical movement, his thinking can be seen as a personal pilgrimage of justice and peace. In his unpublished manuscript ‘Faith Seeking Understanding and Responsibility’, he tried to write, probably challenged by some of his friends, an autobiography. At that time his attempt was not really a success as he more or less had brought together significant passages of his most important articles and annotated these passages with some notes with reference to the context in which they were written. It was never published as a book as it would probably not have appealed to a wider audience. However, this unpublished manuscript is of great importance for those who want to study the development of his thinking.

The title of this unpublished manuscript is very meaningful to understand Thomas’ personal faith journey and engagement in and understanding of socio-cultural, economic, and political affairs. He called it ‘Faith Seeking Understanding and Responsibility’. These four words precisely mark the key elements in his thinking: his personal faith and spirituality, the need to analyse and understand, and the urgency to take up responsibility. The word “seeking” forms a crucial marker for his methodology in bringing together faith, understanding and responsibility. For him it was a journey in which answers and solutions were not given once and for all. Comparing his early articles and meditations and his later books helps us to see that he has gone through a development in his thinking which is on the one hand a continuous response to current issues and on the other hand a growth in theological understanding of them leading to Christian responsibility.

This methodological approach is still very relevant. I hope that re-reading his articles and books will help us in our own faith search for understanding and responsibility. M.M. was a person who accompanied seeking out people with pastoral care and encouragement. But he was also a person who liked  critical dialogue challenging easy and comfortable assumptions. I hope that this volume will help the readers to engage with him in  a heuristic conversation.

Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters
Associate General Secretary

World Council of Churches

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Called to be Angels; not to be Strangels

Luke 1:19: The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.”

I want to talk to you this evening about angels. Who are angels and what is their role in the salvific act of God in history? In the Bible we see the presence of angels in many occasions in the life and witness of Jesus Christ. Especially angels are unavoidable characters in the event of Christmas.    In Christmas story, we see angels in the role of the event managers.  They set the ambiance, prepare the actors, and invite many to be part of this Christmas experience. In Christmas episodes we see the angels are the hosts who make the event of Christmas possible.

The Greek word angelos means “messenger.” Some traditions say an angel is a spirit created by God and commissioned by Him for some special purposes (see Col. 1:6; Heb. 1:14). In both OT and NT, the angel is referred to as “messengers” who carry out the work of God (Dan. 8 & 9). Some other traditions defined angels as “higher human beings” who have enormous power and wisdom than human beings. OT mainly refers angel to “heavenly hosts” who always do praise and worship God (Is. 6).  There are traditions that define ‘demons’ as failed angels (remember the story of Lucifer). However, angels in biblical tradition are defined mainly as the “messengers of God.”

In Luke 1: 19 we see an angel--Gabriel who reveals his own identity very clearly.

1   1. Angels Reveal the Presence of God
Here Gabriel says that he is standing in the presence of God. He said this as an answer to the question of Zachariah. Zachariah asks: How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” Gabriel was announcing the birth of the John the Baptist—the one who comes to prepare the way of the Lord. Elisabeth and Zachariah were not in a situation to spend time for worthless dreams. They were going through the difficult experiences of life. “Barrenness” was not the biological issue of the couple mentioned here; rather it was the political situation of lifelessness in the reign of Herod. (in Hebrew ‘barah’ means lifelessness).  Not the barrenness of Elizabeth that matters, but the barrenness—the absence of life in the whole Roman Empire was the issue here. The personal desperate experiences of the couple signify hopelessness situation of the whole people in the Roman kingdom.  

Roman Empire was aggressive, arrogant, and elitist. Survival of the fittest was its political motto. The weak and the vulnerable became marginalized. It is into this context of destitution and marginalization; Gabriel announces the birth of a child who is going to prepare the way of the coming of the Lord (vs. 17). Here the annunciation becomes a political activity against the reign of the Empire and prophetic activity in favor of the hope for the hopeless. That is well-evident in the song of Zachariah (vs. 78 & 79): “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace.”Angel invites many more people like Mary to see the meaning of their life in the salvific act of God, and instilling hope into their lives over against hopelessness, anxiety and death—the experiences of the Empire.  Angels brings hope and life to those who live in darkness and desperation. The role of the angels is to presencing God—the God of hope and meaning. Presencing God in the midst of desperation, depression and destitution is the call and the commission of the angels in this world.

     2. Angels Share the Good news of God
Here Gabriel explains his mission; to preach good news to the people who live in darkness. Preaching God is always connected to presencing God. What is preaching? Preaching is an act of presencing God in the midst of the crucial situations of life.  In Dan. 8 there is a reference of Gabriel. Daniel had a vision; but he could not understand it. Vs. 16 says; “Then the voice came from heaven and said, Gabriel help this man to understand the vision.” In 9:21, we read Gabriel approaches to Daniel and says: “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding.”

Interpretation is not just carrying a message; but to make it meaningful to the receiver. It is to interpret things for the listener. Interpretation makes translation purposeful meaningful. Gabriel when he talks to Zachariah refers to many OT characters like Elijah and tries to translate the purpose of God in the calling of the people of God—the Israel.  While speaking to Mary in the following verses Gabriel even claims that God is going to retain the Davidic dynasty (vs. 32). Interpretation happens within the wider horizon of the economy of salvation.    

There is a Greek god –Hermes who interprets the message of God. It is after him, the process of interpreting Biblical message is called hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is an act of interpretation of the divine message in order to make it meaningful to the contemporary. Biblical interpretation is an angelic mission through which the church translates the message of salvation to the contemporary context. Or in other words, those who translate the divine message of hope and salvation into the human conditions of desperation and anxiety are called angels.

Seyoon Kim in his book entitled Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke comments that the Lucan annunciation stories  serve a purpose of portraying Jesus as the Messiah—the one who is coming to restore the dynasty of David—the egalitarian dynasty against the reign of the Roman Empire. Thus translation of the divine message of the coming of the Lord or the birth of the messiah or the good news of Christmas in the age of Empire is a political activity. It is to de-imperialize the culture, public space and human relationships that make human life perilous and precarious.  One who understands this divine purpose in history and engages in the process of meaning making today are called angels.  

For St. Paul the ekklesia –the Church is a community of angels who is being called to proclaim the good news of salvation (2 Thessa. 2: 13f). For Paul church has an angelic role to play in this world of Empire in favor of the weak and vulnerable. It is this role that makes church meaningful today.  Today in India we live in a context of socio-political and cultural imperialism where the weak find difficult to survive. A piece of beef is more expensive than a human life. Dalits always live under the threat of killing.  Farmers live at the edge of life and death. Sharuk khan is no more an actor in India today; there is new declaration by the Hindu fundamentalists that he is just a Muslim-a stranger in his own country while wee see the underworld king Chota Rajan finds his home here in this land.  The Green peace movement is labelled as an anti-progressive movement while Multi-National Corporates assume their role as the authority of progress and development.

What is the role of the church in India today? 

The call of the church India today is to be angels; not to be strangels.

Church is called to be angels; not to be strangels. 

May God bless us to be angels to presencing God and sharing the message of salvation in and around us!

Rev. Dr. Y. T. Vinayaraj                                                                                                preached at the Dharma Jyoti Chapel                                                                        10th November 2015             

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Academic Curriculum Vitae

Rev. Dr. Y. T. Vinayaraj  B.Sc., B.D, M.Th., Th.M., Ph.D                                                                                                                                                                          Professor of Theology  Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth, Fazipur Khader, Chandpur,P.O   Faridabad, Haryana, 121101

Ph.D., Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, IL, USA                                       
·         Dissertation: “God and the Other: Dalit Theology after Continental Philosophy”
·         Dissertation Committee: Catherine Keller (Drew University, New Jersey), John J. Thatamanil (Union Theological Seminary, New York), Linda Thomas (LSTC), Lea Schweitz (LSTC), and Vitor Westhelle (advisor)
Th.M., Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 2011

M.Th., with first class, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research
 Institute, Chennai, South India, 2006
·         Thesis: “Poststructuralist Theory of Language, Discourse, Power, and Resistance and its Implications for the Re-working of Dalit Theological Methodology”
B.D.,    with first class, Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, South India,
·         Thesis: “Critique of Modernity: Quest for Dalit Identity in Indian Context”
B.Sc.,   Kerala University, Trivandrum, Kerala, 1992       

Teaching Experience:
·         Teaching Dalit/ Tribal/ Adivasi/ Feminist/Womanist Theology/ Christian Ethics/ Doctrinal/ Philosophical Theology for BD & M.Th. students at Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth, Faridabad from July 2014 onwards.
·         Teaching Assistant: “Systematic Theology II,” Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 2012 (Linda Thomas, instructor)
·         “Constructive Theology,” Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 2013 (Lea Schweitz, instructor)
Church Affiliation and Ecumenical Association
·         Completed 18 years as an ordained minister of the Mar Thoma Church
·         Member of the editorial committee: Mar Thoma Church directory 1997, various   study Committees of the church 1998, 2000, 2002 etc.
·         Executive committee member of Evangelistic Association, Development Committee, Youth Department of the Mar Thoma etc.
·         Steward, Executive committee of World Council of Churches (WCC), South Africa, 1994
·         Senior secretary, Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI), Kerala Region, 2001-2004
·         Executive committee member, National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Member, Dalit Desk, Unit-IV, 2002-2004
·         Vice president, Kerala Council of Churches (KCC), 2002-2004

·         Theology of Dalit Experiences, (Malayalam), Thiruvalla: CSS, 2000.
·         God of Little Lambs, (Malayalam), Thiruvalla: CSS, 2004
·         Re-imagining Dalit Theology: Postmodern Readings, Thiruvalla: CSS, 2008
·         Re-visiting the Other: Discourses on Postmodern Theology, Thiruvalla: CSS, 2010
·         Intercessions: Theology, Liturgy, and Politics, New Delhi: ISPCK, 2015
·         God and the Other: Dalit Theology after Continental Philosophy, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 (To be released in the American Academy of Religions (AAR) in October 2015)
Edited Books:
·         Re-imagining Indian Christian Theology, co-edited with George Zachariah, Thiruvalla: CSS, 2014 (forthcoming)
·         Dalit Vision: History, Theology, and Politics, (Malayalam), Thiruvalla: TLC, 2002

Articles in Journals:
·         “Church, Diakonia, and Theology,” Religion and Society, Bangalore April 2015
·         “Agamben, Liturgy, and Politics,” SATHRI Journal, January 2015
·         “One and the Many: Looking at the Question of Religious Pluralism in India from a Materialist Philosophical / Theological Perspective,” NCC Review, Vol. CXXXIII, No. 7 August 2014.
·         “Spivak, Feminism, and Theology,” Feminist Theology, 2014, Vol. 22(2) 144-156
·         “Being One: Various Models of Ecumenism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 49:3, Summer 2014: Temple University,   Philadelphia
·         “Reconfiguring ‘Christian Unity’: Towards an Ecumenism of ‘Manyness,” Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol. XLV, No.2, December 2014
·         “Ambedkar, Politics, and Theology,” Theology for Today, ECC, Bangalore, April 2014.
·         “Representation of Subaltern: Spivak and Historiography,” Mar Thoma Seminary
Journal of Theology, Vol. II, No. 2, Kottayam, December 2013
·          “God of Life: Theology that Matters” NCC Review, Nagpur, Vol. CXXXIII, No 09,
October 2013
·         “God and the Other: Levinas Re-visited, A Critique of the Continental Philosophy of God,” in Theology for Today, ECC, Bangalore, November 2012.
·         “Dalit Body without God: Challenges for Epistemology and Theology,” in Gurukul   
Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. XXIII, No.2, June 2012, pp. 56-63.
·         “Epistemic Shifts in subaltern Discourses and methodological challenges to Christian Theology” in NCCI Review, November 2011, Vol. CXXXII, No. 04, Nagpur: NCCI; Previously published in Theology for our Times. October, 2010. Bangalore: ECC.
·         “Re-defining Oikumene: A Subaltern Perspective’, in Theology for our Times,” ECC, Bangalore, October 2010.
·         “Re-visiting the Other: Towards a Postmodern Understanding of Christian Mission”, in Journal of Theologies and Cultures in Asia, 2008/ 2009 Vol. 7&8 ISSN: 1682-6086. PCTA, Jorhat. 
·         “Re-imagining the Social Space, Social Position, and Subjectivity: Dalits in the Postmodern Social-Theoretical and Epistemological Context, NCCI Review, Nagpur, Vol. CXXVII, No 7, August 2009
·         “Re-locating Local Congregations in a Globalized Context”, NCCI Review, Nagpur, Vol. CXXVIII, No 2, August 2008
·         “Defining Dalit Epistemology: Telling Stories of the De-casteist Traditions as Dalit Epistemological Engagements”, Bangalore Theological Forum, UTC Bangalore, Vol. XXXIX, No 2, December 2007
·         “Towards a Postmodern Dalit Hermeneutics”, Voices from the Third World, EATWOT, Vol. XXX, No 2, December 2007
·         “Anointing: New Imaginations on the Body”, in God’s Image, Journal of Asian Women’s Resource Centre for Culture and Theology, Indonesia, Vol. 26, No 3, September 2007
·         “From the ‘Colonial Other to the ‘Asian Self’, Gurukul Journal of Theological Studies, GLTC &RI, Chennai, Vol. XVI, No 1&2, 2006

Articles in Books:
·         “Towards a Political Theology the Crucified God: M.M. Thomas and the Contemporary Political Thought,” M.M. Thomas Volume ed., Jesudas Athyal (London: Ashgate, 2015).
·         “Social Theories for the Theological Research,” in Theological Research in the Global South: Prospects and Challenges, ed., P. G. George (Kolkata: SATHRI, 2015).
·         “God and the Other: Re-locating Mission in the Context of Margins,” in Mission in the Context of Margins, eds., Kwon Jin-Kwan & P. Mohan Larbeer (Bangalore: BTESSC, 2015).
·         “Ecumenism and Marginality: Engaging Ecumenical Movements with the Margins,” in  Prophetic Ecumenism: The Journey Ahead, edited by R. Christopher Rajkumar (Thiruvalla: CSS & NCCI, 2014)
·         “Dalit Body without God: Challenges for Epistemology and Theology,” in Body, Emotion and Mind: ‘Embodying the Experiences in Indo-European Encounters, Martin Tamcke and Gladson Jathanna, eds. (Germany: Lit Verlag, 2013). 
·         “Kingdom is on the Road” in Even Now, But not Yet; the festschrift volume in honor of Rt. Rev. Dr. Cherian Thomas (Bangalore: Ecumenical Christian Center, 2013).
·         “Shaping Ecclesiology in a Postmodern Context” Vincent Rajkumar (ed.), Theologizing in India Today: Interpreting the Signs of the Times, pp. 109-119. Bangalore: CISRS, 2012.
·         “Hospitality: Reading Derrida, Re-imaging Mission” in Joseph Prabhakar and P. Mohan Larbeer (eds.), Margins in Conversation, Methodological Discourses in Theological Disciplines, pp. 310-321. Bangalore: BTESSC, 2012.
·         “Border Lives and Border God: Diaspora Reconfigures Heritage, Mission, and Theology” P. J. Alexander (ed.), Heritage and Development in the Mission of the Church, pp. 126-132. Thiruvalla: The MTSC of Malabar, 2011. 
·         “Re-visiting the Other: Towards a Postmodern Understanding of Christian Mission”, in  Challenges and Prospects of Mission in the Emerging Context, Koshy P. Varghese (ed.), pp. 171-180. Faridabad: Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth, 2010.
·         “Envisioning a Postmodern Method of Doing Dalit Theology” in Sathianathan Clarke, Deenabandhu Manchala, and Philip Peacock (eds), Dalit Theology in the Twenty-first Century: Discordant Voices, Discerning Pathways, pp. 93-103. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Other Publications:     
·         “Mission from the Diasporas,” Chalanam, Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, 2012.
·         “Forgive Me, O Lord,” Lenten Lantern 2012, Sunil Raj Philip (ed.), pp. 27-28. Nagpur: NCCI, 2012.
·         “Kingdom and the God of ‘Little Ones’,” Lenten Lantern 2013, NCCI, Nagpur
·         “Eternity at the Neighborhood,” Yuvadeepam, Thiruvalla, October 2014.
·         “Redemption of Life,” Darshan, Delhi, June 2015

Book Reviews:
·         Religion and Society. Vol. 56 No. 3-4, Bangalore: CISRS, 2011.
Invited Presentations:

·         M.M. Thomas and the Political Theological in India, National Seminar on “Re-reading M.M. Thomas in the light of Indian Christian Theology,” SATHRI on 11th-13th August 2015, UBS, Pune.
·         Reconstituting a Theology of Multitude in India, Main Talk at the National Consultation on “Resisting the Empire: Re-imagining Multitudes at YMCA on 11th August, New Delhi.
·         Theology, Ethics and Social Analysis: Contemporary Methodological Concerns, National Consultation on Christian Ethics, BTESSC, at UTC on 30-31st July, 2015.
·         Ordained Ministers: The Stewards of the Mysteries of God, Bible Study at the Annual Mar Thoma Clergy Conference, Charal Kunnu, Kerala on 25th November 2014.
·         The Theology of Marginality, International Seminar on Minjung/ Contextual/ Liberation Theology at Yonsei Unversity, Seoul, South Korea on 23rd-28th October 2014.
·         Theology after Postmodernity, A Lecture for the MTh students at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam on 29th September 2014.
·         Theology and the Contemporary, A Public Talk at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam on 29th September 2014
·         Eternity at the Neighborhood, A meditation at the Annual general body meeting of the Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam, Adoor on 27th September 2014.
·         Agamben, Liturgy, and Politics, International Seminar on Sovereignty: Theological Perspectives, Whitley College, Melbourne, Australia, 22nd-24th August 2014 (The paper was read and discussed in my absence).
·         Dalit Theology after Liberation Theology, Arvind P. Nirmal Memorial Lectures at United Theological College, Bangalore on 22nd August 2014.
·         God and the Other: Re-locating Mission in the Context of Margins, Key-note address, Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC), Dalit-Minjung Dialogue held at Vistar, Bangalore on 19th-22nd August 2014.
·         Social Theories for the Theological Research, SATHRI Jubilee Consultation and Thanksgiving Service at the Senate of Serampore College (University) on 15th-17th August 2014. 
·         “Towards an Ecumenism of Manyness,” in 2013 Annual Conference of the North American Academy of Ecumenists, at the Lutheran Church Worldwide Office, Chicago, Illinois on 27th September 2013.
·         “God of Life: Theology That Matters,” in The 5th Student Symposium on Science and Spirituality, The Zygon Center for Religion and Science, LSTC on 15th March 2013.
·         “God and the Dalit Body: Towards a Dalit Theology of God” in Graduate Theological Forum held on 23rd October, 2012 at Drew University, New Jersey, USA.
·         “Interrogating Colonial/ Postcolonial Gaze: Methodological Contestations on Ethnography, Anthropology and Theology” in Church and State: The Fifth Annual Student Theological Conference held on 20th April 2012 at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL 60201, USA.
·         “The Future of Dalit Theology”, Global Ecumenical Conference on Dalit Liberation, organized by WCC, LWF & CCA at Bangkok, Thailand, 20-24 March, 2009.
·         “Envisioning a Postmodern Method of Doing Dalit Theology” in the International seminar on Dalit Theology organized by WCC, held at Bishop’s College, Calcutta, India, 13-18th Jan 2008.
·         “Understanding of Self in Bhagavad-Gita,” in the Indo-Germen Cultural Seminar held at Missions Academy, Hamburg, Germany, 2005.

Fellowships, Honors and Awards:
·         Academic Proficiency (First) and General Proficiency (First) award for B.D, Mar Thoma Theological College, Kottayam (1997)
·         Academic Proficiency (First) and General Proficiency (First) award for MTh, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, Chennai (2006)
·         Mar Thoma Church literary award (2000, 2008 & 2015)
·         Grover Wright Scholarship, Lutheran School of School of Theology (2011-2012)
·         William J. and Elizabeth M. Danker Fellowship, Lutheran School of Theology (2011-2012)

Research languages:
·         Reading: Hebrew, Greek, French, Sanskrit

·         Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (1100 E, 55th Street, Chicago, Il 60615)
Vitor Westhelle; vwesthel@lstc.edu
Linda E. Thomas; lthomas@lstc.edu
Lea Schweitz; lschweitz@lstc.edu
Peter Vethanayagamony; pvethana@lstc.edu
·         Drew University, 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ 07940
·         Union Theological Seminary,
·         Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 94, Purasawalkam High Road, Kilpauk, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600010, India
·         Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Railway Station Road, Kottayam, 686001, Kerala, India
K. G. Pothen; kgpothen@gmail.com
·         United Theological College, Post Box No. 4613, 63 Miller’s Road, Benson Town, Bangalore, 560046, India
George Zachariah; gzachariahk@gmail.com