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28 September 2000

Joshua Russell Chandran (1918-2000)

Dr J. Russell Chandran passed away on 27 September 2000. The following tribute has been paid to him by Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC):

"It is with deep sorrow that we have learned of the passing away of Dr J.Russell Chandran. I have shared the news with the officers and members of the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) who are meeting here in Geneva at this time. They record their respect for this great son of the Indian Church and express their prayerful condolences.

Dr Chandran will be remembered with gratitude by the world church for his far-reaching contributions to the ecumenical movement. He was vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee from 1966-1968, a period of critical importance in the life of the Council. Its Fourth Assembly - held in Uppsala in 1968 - was being organized at that time, and he played a key role in opening the way for new voices from third-world churches to be heard there.

Dr Chandran leaves behind many marks of an always passionate and creative commitment to the unity of the church. This was evident in the role he played, as convenor of the negotiations committee, in the union negotiations leading to the formation of the Church of South India in 1947. More recently, he was the first secretary of the Joint Council of the Church of South India, the Church of North India and the Mar Thoma Church. He served the WCC's Faith and Order Commission in various capacities for over 25 years, and was able to bring the Indian experience to other churches engaged in union negotiations, as well as contributing fresh and lively theological perspectives to the work of the Faith and Order as a whole.

Dr Chandran's contributions to Christian theology and his determined efforts to make third-world theologies visible, including his contribution to the foundation of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, will long be remembered. His efforts to build up the United Theological College (UTC) in Bangalore, India also earned him deep respect and admiration. In 1954, when just 36 years of age, he was appointed first Indian principal of that illustrious institution. In that role, he was able to demonstrate the leadership capacity of Indian Christians in newly-independent country.

As president and member of the Senate of Serampore, Dr Chandran played a pivotal role in ensuring the high standards of excellence maintained by theological institutions in India. We in the ecumenical movement also remember with appreciation his contribution to the Pacific School of Theology in Suva, Fiji, after his retirement from UTC.

His theological work focussed on how the Christian faith speaks in the multi-faith context of our world today - a challenge we live with and learn from, even as we wrestle with rising religious fundamentalism and communalism in Asia and other parts of the world. As president of the Asian chapter of the Christian Peace Conference and through his active engagement in this global movement, Dr Chandran reflected admirably a deep commitment to his vision of the "wholeness of God's Creation".

We thank God for the life and witness of this ecumenical leader and, with many ecumenical friends around the world, we express our deepest condolences to his wife Vicky Chandran and children and to the church in India."

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.