Vednayakam Samuel Azariah

1874-1945. First Indian bishop in the Anglican Church. He was born at Vellalanvillai in Tinnevelly district of Madras state; his father, a convert from Hinduism, was an Anglican minister. After education at Madras-he could not take his degree because of illness-Azariah became in 1895 a YMCA secretary, working among students. His concern for evangelism showed in his helping to form the indigenous Indian Missionary Society of Tinnevelly (1903) and the interdenominational National Missionary Society (1905). He was first secretary of the Tinnevelly society, which sent a missionary to a hitherto neglected district called Dornakal in the Telugu-language part of the Nizam of Hyderabad's territory. In 1909 he himself was ordained and went to Dornakal, having resigned from the YMCA. The Dornakal church expanded and in 1912 Azariah was consecrated missionary bishop. Later Dornakal was separated as a diocese from Madras. Azariah welcomed the mass movements which augmented the Telugu church, including those from depressed classes.

He was a leader at the meeting of Indian ministers in Tranquebar in 1919 which marked the beginning of the church union movement in India. To him, “unhappy divisions” were in fact a “sin and a scandal” in the Indian setting. He did not live to see the two major church unions which resulted from the decades of negotiation. As chairman of the National Christian Council (1929- 45) and host at the World Missionary Conference at Tambaram (Madras) in 1938, Azariah had a special place in Indian Christian leadership during the period when the “younger churches” assumed importance and replaced foreign missions. He died at Dornakal.

See J.Z. Hodge, Bishop Azariah of Dornakal (1946).