Die Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam zählt über 400000 Mitglieder in Nordostindien, vorwiegend kastenlose Adivasi. Diese Kirche geht auf das Werk der Missionare Emil Satz, August Brandt, Friedrich Basch and Theodore Yankey zurück, die 1845 von Johannes Michael Goßner (1773-1858), dem damaligen Pfarrer der böhmisch-lutherischen Bethlehemsgemeinde in Berlin, ausgesandt worden sind. Goßner stammt aus Hausen/Waldstetten bei Ichenhausen westlich von Augsburg und war ursprünglich katholischer Priester, unter anderem von 1798 bis 1801 Kaplan bei Johann Michael Feneberg in Seeg im Allgäu.
Über die Geschichte der Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam schreibt Peter Vethanayagamony, Associate Professor an der Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago Folgendes:
Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (GELC)
The GELC is one of the largest and most widespread Lutheran churches in India. Its origins can be traced back to 1845 when the Johannes Gossner Evangelical Missionary Society in Germany sent four missionaries, Emil Satz, August Brandt, Fredrick Basch, and Theodore Yankey. These four missionaries, who were chiefly farmers and artisans rather than theologians, arrrived in Calcutta. In Calcutta they came into contact with some street laborers of aboriginal origin, known as “Kols.” They had resolved to follow them to their native habitat in Chota Nagpur. Arriving in Ranchi in 1845 they established a base there and supported themselves by farming. After much initial frustration a few converts were made in 1850. Missionary work was begun among Kols people who migrated to the province of Assam. Work was carried on among ten language groups. By 1984 the church had 336,524 baptized members.
After a period of very slow growth, Lutheranism thrived among the Orans and Mundas tribes due to a large-scale conversion to Lutheranism. Particularly after the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), the people began to embrace Christianity in increasing numbers, so that by 1900 a community of 100,000 had arisen. Christianity brought a “sense of liberation from many factors operative in those days, including the exploitation and oppression they endured under the landlords and kings.” The fast growth did not happen without difficulties. A conflict that broke out among the missionaries in the 1869 divided the mission in two. Some of them joined the Anglican Church, thus interrupting the work. Further disturbance to the work came when the Belgian Roman Catholic Mission came to Ranchi. A number of Lutheran adivasi (aboriginal) converts embraced Roman Catholicism because of the extensive material benefits extended to them. Despite the losses to Lutheranism, the Gossner church thrived.
During the crisis created by World War I, when all German missionaries were deported and no other Lutheran missions came forward to take their place, the church was restructured and given to local people, leading to the birth of first fully self-governing and property-owning church on July 10, 1919, the Gossner Evangelical Church. A central committee was set up to administer its affairs. Pastors and other workers carried on in spite of financial privation. Despite Anglican offers to assume financial responsibility, Indian Gossner leaders expressed their staunch desire to remain confessionally Lutheran Christians learned to give what was available to them—rice. In many Christian homes, a handful of rice is set aside each time a meal is cooked. The rice collected during the week is brought to the altar. This sacrificial giving sustained the church during those crucial years. German missionaries were able to return in 1925, but their service is to an autonomous church. In 1928 the church framed its constitution and Rev. Hanukk Datto Lakra became its first president.
The composition of different tribal and language people groups has caused strife and tension since 1935. At times the church was pushed almost to the point of division, especially in the 1950s. These tensions and conflict, fortunately, affected mostly only the top-level leadership and a few congregations. Life in most of the parishes went on quietly. This is both the strength and weakness of the GELC.
The GELC has five dioceses headed by a bishop. Ranchi, Jharkand (formerly Bihar) is the headquarters and a dean heads its congregation. The main concentration of this church is Chotanagpur, Assam, the area surrounding Ranchi. At present it has around 500,000 congregational members spread over 1687 pastorates in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Assam, and Haryana, and the major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, etc. It has a presence in the northeastern states as well. The women and youth in the church play a vital role in conducting relief and awareness programs, especially during the Bhopal gas tragedy and the cyclone in Orissa. The GELC continues to be a lay-driven church. Most of the parish work and evangelism is carried out by catechists and women workers.
Namenspatrone spielen eine Rolle. Folgerichtig wurde zum 150. Todesjahr von Goßner von 3. bis 4. März 2008 von der Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ranchi ein Gossner Jubilee Seminar organisiert, wo Goßners Lebensweg vorgestellt worden ist.