June 23, 2015
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Saturday, June 27, 2015, 9:30 a.m.
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Pearl River
The Rt. Rev. Andrew R. St. John, Presiding
The Rt. Rev. Johncy Itty, Preaching
Visiting Clergy: Cassock, Surplice, Tippet
Friday, June 26, 2015
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
St. Stephen's, Pearl River
Born on August 4, 1934 in Kerala, India, Bishop Ninan was raised an Anglican. After studies at Leonard Theological College in Jabalpur, he was ordained in 1964 as an Anglican priest and began what became a ministry of global significance, serving in India, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Canada.
His ministry especially focused on the poor. During the 1970s, his leadership in the Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development (BUILD) and the innovative programmes he initiated to help people living in the slums of Mumbai manifested Christ's own mission to the poor. He encouraged committed Christians to minister in rural and urban situations of poverty and exploitation, and he urged the churches of India to advocate for the poor and participate in the struggle for social justice. From 1979 to 1985, Bishop Ninan served as Executive Secretary of the Urban Rural Mission of the Christian Conference of Asia, and the programs he developed to support pastors and church workers were at the forefront of the human rights movements in Asia. These programs aided church workers and human rights activists imprisoned by dictatorships, as well as leaders and activists of trade union movements working with the slum dwellers in many parts of Asia.
His gifts as a visionary, organizer, and practical theologian eventually led him to higher office within the churches of Asia. From 1985 to 1990, he served as the Associate General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia. In 1994, he began his ministry as the Bishop of Nasik, a diocese of the Church of North India, a united church of several Protestant denominations that is a successor to the Church of England.
Bishop Ninan and his wife Rachel, whom he married in 1961, first came to the United States during the 1970s for his doctoral studies at Phillips University in Oklahoma. They returned in 2004 to be near their three adult children and their grandchildren, making their home in our diocese. In the decade of his ministry among us, Bishop Ninan served as Vicar of All Saints' in Valley Cottage, Interim at St. Mary's, Scarborough, and Pastor of St. Andrew's, Brewster. He was also a beloved preacher and spiritual leader for Asian Indian Christians throughout the United States.
When he first came to the Diocese of New York, I was introduced to Bishop Ninan by two of our Indian priests with the words, "We would like you to meet a hero of human rights." A warm friendship quickly grew between us. Over time spent across the table from one another and in our common life in this diocese, I came to know and understand more of the courage and faith with which he advocated for Dalits in India and witnessed to justice and reconciliation within the wider Anglican Communion and Church.
I also came to know Bishop Ninan as he helped to build the Malayalam-speaking membership of All Saints', Valley Cottage, culminating in this congregation of the Church of South India choosing to accept the jurisdiction of the Bishop of New York and join The Episcopal Church. Today, All Saints' is a beautifully harmonious community of long-time Episcopalians and Malayalam-speaking Indian Christians. Just last April, we held a memorial service for the Reverend John Fredenburgh in our cathedral, and Bishop Ninan was present. On that occasion, he shared with me his memories of the holy partnership between that priest and this bishop in bringing to fulfillment the vision of the community which All Saints has become. I express my condolences to the Reverend Jacob Nanthicattu, a newly ordained priest in our diocese who now leads All Saints', for whom Bishop Ninan was a dear mentor and friend, and to all of our sisters and brothers in Christ in that good parish.
Bishop Ninan's funeral is expected to draw many Asian Indian clergy and will be a truly cross-cultural liturgy. Because of my responsibilities at General Convention, including the election that same day of The Episcopal Church's next Presiding Bishop, I profoundly regret that I will not be able to participate. To Bishop Andrew St. John, who will represent me, to Bishop Johncy Itty, who will preach, I extend my gratitude. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Episcopal Charities, in honor of Bishop Ninan's care for the poor.
Please remember our brother George in your prayers and at your altars, and please pray for God's consoling presence with Rachel, the children Reny, Reena and Rajive, their wider family, and all who mourn. With every good wish, I remain