Brief History of the Church:
UCNI MAP in 1968 from the book The United Church of Northern India Survey
The United Church of Northern India (UCNI) is today a merger of Presbyterian, Congregational and Moravian Churches which owe their origin to the Missionary Societies of many Lands. Dr. William Stewart has given us the following story of the UCNI brief:
“Nathaniel Forsyth was sent to Bengal by the London Missionary Society early in the 19th Century and his arrival marks the beginnings of those Churches which are merged today in the UCNI. Alexander Duff came from Scotland in 1829. The beginning of the unified Church structure was related to his work and the formation of a Presbytery in Bengal as converts were won and churches formed. Other Presbyterian Churches sent missionaries to India, from the United States, Ireland, England, Canada, and New Zealand. Among these the first to organize a full “Synod”, knitting together three infant Presbyteries, were the American missionaries in the Punjab and from this Synod in 1863 there emerged “A Plea for a Presbyterian Church in India”. The Plea was heard with alert interest in various quarters, and across the great distances Conferences were summoned to seek a way whereby missionaries from different lands, and those of India who embraced Christ as Saviour, might meaningfully be linked within one Church structure.
“In the year 1875 there came into being the Presbyterian Alliance of India, an instrument of consultation intended to work toward organic unity. Through the next fifteen years, the council of the Alliance met five times, but a mere Alliance proved less than what was needed and, late in the century, it a activities languished.
“The Church Union of 1990 in Scotland aroused keen interest and, within a few months, Church leaders in India were meeting to draw up a Confession of Faith and a basis of Union which might unite Christians of Presbyterian tradition. Their labors were crowned with success when, on December 19th, 1904, under the Moderator ship of the Rev. K. C. Chatterjee, the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of India was convened.
“The newly constituted Church showed the quality of its life by immediately setting up a Committee on Wider Union and in 1921 the vigorous and growing Presbyterian Church in Assam, evangelised largely from Wales, joined the Presbyterian Church of India, while the New Zealand Mission in the Punjab was received three years later, in 1924.
“In the same year the Presbyterian church willingly surrendered its name for the more comprehensive title, “The United church of Northern India”. This church as the fruit of long negotiations with a large body of Christians in congregational churches, the fruit of the evangelism of missionaries by the American board of Commissioners for foreign Missions, now merged in the United Church Board for World Ministries. When the Union was consummated at the General Assembly of December, 1924, a call was sent out to all other Christian bodies in North India to enter into discussions with a view to still wider union.
“In 1925, when a United Church was formed in Canada, a considerable body of Presbyterians remained in separation and, for a time, their missionaries withdrew from the United Church in India, a breach which was happily healed in 1944. In 1938, the great body of Christians who constitute now the Chattisgarh and Orissa Church Council in the heart of India, whose missionaries brought with them a Presbyterian Structure and a Lutheran Confession were received into fellowship. In 1944, the congregational churches of Bengal were received. In the remote uplands of India’s border with Tibet, the sparsely populated territory of Ladakh, the Moravian Brethren had long witnessed to Christ, and there was joy in the General Assembly of 1956 when this tiny group of Christians sought and was received into the same fellowship. Nor was the satisfaction less when, following the reunion in Scotland, the church in Seoni entered the United Church and brought an access of strength to the Nagpur church Council”.
Thus the UCNI has grown and today has twenty-two Church Councils in India plus the “Great Church” in Assam, which has a largely autonomous existence. There is also the Synod of West Pakistan which, since 1964, has included two congregations in East Pakistan which were formerly part of the Bengal Church Council. (Extracted from the book “The United Church of Northern India Survey”)