Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam, in short GEL Church was established on 2nd November, 1845 by four German Missionaries named Emil Schatz, Fredrik Batsch, Augustus Brandt and E. Theodore Janke(the ordained ministers with professional expertise in the field of education, theology and economy) sent by Rev. Fr. Johannes Evangelista Gossner of Berlin. They arrived at Ranchi and erected their tent in the present Bethesda campus. They started their ministry by preaching, teaching and healing the people of the locality and of the region, who then were subjected to extreme sufferings and various forms of exploitation at the hands of the dominant communities having infiltrated into the region from outside. The Missionaries preached and practiced the Gospel of Liberation in Jesus Christ the Saviour by employing different measures like establishing enlightening educational institutions, health-care centers and other social services as part of the liberating act of Jesus Christ affecting a process of emancipation and social transformation among the native hitherto exploited.
Initially the Missionaries were supposed to go to Burma to the Karens of Mergoi, but God intervened them to stay in Kolkata for some time. In the mean time they happened to encounter with labourers from Chotanagpur engaged in the streets of Kolkata which compelled them to think of these people-who had a pitiable life. God talked to the missionaries through the suffering of these people and it is at this point that the missionaries got the vision and commission from God to come and work among these people at home in order to help them to come out from their suffering and to realize the God’s liberating love for them. Finally the missionaries took the way to Chotnagpur in spite of the fact that different form of challenges waiting for them on their way.
The first baptism was of a girl(Orphan) named Martha of Dinapur on 25th June 1846 and followed by other adopted children of Missionaries from Local Parents. But the mass conversion movement started after the baptism of four Oraons (Pahan Nawen Doman and Keso Baghat of Hethakota, Bandhu Oraon of Chitakuni & Ghuran Oraon of Karanda village) on 9th June 1850. Later after one year two Mundas – Mangta Munda(Christanand) of Balallong & Sadho Munda(Ishwar Dutt) of Bandheya were baptized on 26th October, 1851. The baptism of nine Bengalese from Manbhum took place on October 01, 1860 and the baptism of two Kharias – Mangru(Johan) & Bandhu(Paulus) of Phadsom on 8th June 1866 and one Ho family (David Captain Manki) took place on 10th May 1868. In the meantime many Adivasi Christian were taken to Assam, Silliguri, Jalpauguri of West Bengal as tea garden workers. In this way yhe GEL Church expanded not only in the north-west and south-west areas of Ranchi covering Odisha and Madhya Pradesh, but up to Assam and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
During the period of First World War (1914-1919) all German Missionaries were kept in isolation and forced to go back to Germany by British rule and there was no certainty of their return. In this situation it was a challenge for the leaders of the church to continue and serve the people and to fulfill the aims and objectives of the church. Under these circumstances the believers of the GEL Church engaged themselves in series of serious discussion and deliberations under the guidance of the commission of the National Missionary Society/NMS to find out ways to meet the challenges. This led them to finally decide and declare Autonomy of the Church as Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church succession of German Mission on 10th July, 1919. This solemn declaration was made by 79 representatives from the whole church under the leadership of Rev. Hanuk Datto Lakra the then President and Secretary Mr. Peter Hurad respectively along with other three officials 1. Mr. Nirmal Soy, Treasurer 2. Rev. Christgrih Tirkey 3. Rev. Isahak Ekka in the presence of the commission of National Missionary Society. After this, the constitution was drafted in which was organized in Ilakas and Church Council at the centre. The Church was duly registered under societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 at Patna on 30th July 1921 vide No. 273 – J, in the name of Gossner Evangelical Luther Church in Chotanagpur and Assam.
Further amendments were undertaken in 1949 in which Synodical system was introduced in the church which continued till 1959 later to be amended again and implemented in the year 1960 in which Anchal System was adopted. Initially the Church then had four Anchals Rev. Dr. Marshalan Bage, Adhayaksh, South East Anchal, Rev. Mansidh Hemrom, Adhyaksh, Assam Anchal, Rev. Christ Vijay Aind, Adhayaksh, Odisha Anchal and Rev. Juel Lakra, Adhyaksh, North West Anchal while Khuntitoli continued within the synodical provision and Ranchi continued as Headquarters congregation. However, Khuntitoli was later declared to be a full-fledged Anchal.
The Church had to face constitutional crisis with the 1960 constitution after few years of implementation following financial and leadership related reasons. Subsequently the then KSS(Kedriya Salahkari Sabha) had to be dissolved following the recommendation of the four officers(Pramukh Adhyaksh, Up-Pramukh Adhayaksh, Secretary and the Treasurer) who then resigned(on 6th November, 1973) having been compelled by an unexpected situation that prevailed in the church. The church then had to run under the leadership of two Acting Pramukh Adhyakshas, one after another, for some time and subsequently by one Care-Taker Pramukh Adhayaksh under whom the further amendment of the constitution was drafted within the framework of Episcopal Polity, and was completed (in 1974) and formally adopted by KSS in its meeting held during (8-14th July, 1975), which however could not be implemented. As a result some of the members separated themselves from the North West Anchal which meant their separation from the mainstream of the GEL Church. This crisis further continued till 1977 and ended up only with the formation of KSS under the existing constitution of 1960 in the same year.
As the process of adopting Episcopal Polity had already begun in course of negotiation the GEL Church was encouraged to proceed further and in this way decided to complete the amendment of the constitution under the leadership of United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India(U.E.L.C.I.) which however could not b completed. It was by the grace of God the amendment was completed and the Kendriya Salahkari Sabha(KSS) in its meeting held in September 1995 decided to implement the same with the beginning of the term i.e. November, 1995 on the historic event of 150 years of Gossner Church. The first Bishops of the Episcopal Polity were Rt. Rev. Dr. Christ Saban Royan Topno, Moderator(South West Diocese), Rt. Rev. Surendra Mohan M.G. (North East Diocese), Rt. Rev. Belas Lakra(North West Diocese), Rt. Rev. Manohar Barjo(South East Diocese) & followed by Rt. Rev. Sursen Kerketta(Madhya Diocese) and 1st Dean was Rev. Nemhia Topno in CRC. This implied that the whole GEL Church was divided into six units i.e. North-East Diocese, North West Diocese, South East Diocese, South-West Diocese, Madhaya Diocese and the Headquarters’ Congregation, Ranchi. These units had to be looked after by Episcopal Bishops and ‘Dean’ in the case of Headquarters’ congregation.
Further amendment was undertaken in the year 2010(which was finalized and implemented from 1st November, 2011) brought forth some more conceptual changes on certain provisions of 2006. The term of the Moderator was extended for another consecutive term or till the time of retirement. The General Secretary was conferred with special power and authority over the property movable and immovable including church related documents. The Auxiliary Bishop of Head Quarters’ Congregation was elevated to the post of Bishop et par with Diocesan Bishop being other needs the post of Office Secretary has been introduced for the Central Council, Ranchi.