Billy Graham Center

Interview of Francis Sunderaraj - Collection 483

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions


An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Record)

Brief Description
Interviews with Sunderaraj in which he talks about committing his life to Christ as a teenager in India; the development of his faith; the institutions and leadership of Evangelical Protestantism in India; Methodist churches in India and Malaysia; Sunderarajís education at the Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal, India, Princeton Seminary, and Wheaton College, the development of the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Events described in the interview cover the time period ca. 1942-1993.
Vol.: 5 Reels of Audio Tape

Collection 483
[March 12, 2001]
Sunderaraj, Francis; 1937-
Interview; 1993

5 Reels of Audio Tapes

Restrictions: None


Full name: Francis Sunderaraj

Birth date: April 7, 1937, in Madras, India

Parents: Abraham David and Sophia James
Siblings: Two brothers and a sister (who died at the age of three)
Marital Status: Married Sheila Bhanumathy
Children: Daughter (ca. 1966), son Vinodh (ca.1970)

Conversion: At age seventeen at a Youth for Christ rally in Madras at which Cyril Thompson spoke. (In 1961, during a Deeper Life convention at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Madras, he committed his life to full-time Christian service

1952 Graduated with a secondary school certificate from St. Paul's High School
1955 Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) from Madras Christian College
1965 Bachelor of Divinity from the Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal, India
1971 Masters of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary
1994 Masters in Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

1955-1962 Worked as a chemist, first for the Corporation of Madras, then for private companies
1965-1967 Assistant pastor at Emanuel Methodist Church in madras
1967-1970 Pastor of Methodist Churches in eastern Malaysia and also served as a District Superintendent for the newly formed Tamil Conference of the Methodist Church
1971-1972 Faculty of Union Biblical seminary, Yeotmal, India
1972-1974 Circuit pastor of three Methodist churches in Malaysia
1974-1976 Pastor in Kuala Lumpur of the largest Indian church in Malaysia. Also served as District Superintendent
1976-1991 Associate secretary, then (from 1978) Secretary for Christian Education of the Evangelical Fellowship of India
1984- ? General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India

Other significant information: Rev. Sunderaraj is from the Tamil ethnic group

Scope and Content

Francis Sunderaraj was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on February 24 and March 8, 1993, at the Billy Graham Center Archives. The events described in the interview cover the time period ca. 1943-1993.

T1 (60 minutes).

Birth; the Christian tradition of his family and connections with the Church Missionary Society and Anglican missionaries; Brother Bakht Singh and the church he started in India; differences in worship in Bakht church from churches started by missionaries; Sunderaraj's involvement as a boy in both churches; Brother Bakht's characteristics as a Christian leader; his favorable attitude toward Evangelicals and his prayer at Sunderaraj's dedication as General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India; his single-minded dedication to spiritual things; his church's separation from other churches; Sunderaraj's parents' religious beliefs; conversion of Methodist missionary Alfred Schneck while he was a missionary and the revival that followed in the Emmanuel Methodist Church in Madras; the Dravidian movement among Tamil people in south India and its influence on Sunderaraj; the Catholic church in Madras; Hinduism in India; the early days of the Youth for Christ movement in Madras (Cyril Thompson and Victor Manogram; Sunderaraj's commitment to Christ at a YFC meeting; the Western nature of YFC; T. Norton Sterrett; Sunderaraj's spiritual development after his conversion and doubts caused by his bout with typhus; problems caused by the separation of Christianity from Indian culture, particularly in sports; need for a close walk with the Lord; influence of Theo Williams; Samuel Kamaleson; Sunderaraj's spiritual development as a young man; committing his life to full-time Christian ministry; his early work as a chemist and struggling over entering ministry; going against his family's wishes; beginning at Union Biblical Seminary; criticism from family and friends for entering seminary; engagement and marriage

T2 (35 minutes). Becoming assistant pastor at Emmanuel Methodist; difficulty of being a pastor in the church where he grew up; Samuel Kamalson as a preacher and pastor; relationship with Kamaleson; call to Malaysia to pastor a church made up of Tamils; arrival at the church in a small village in eastern Malaysia; discouragement because of the small size of church; responsibilities for other congregations, including English-speaking Chinese and Indians; creation of a separate Tamil conference in the church in Malaysia; becoming a district superintendent in the new conference and description of his work among the Indian people in Malaysia; going for higher education to the Princeton Seminary in the United States; scholarship from the World Council of Churches; cultural shock and loneliness on Princeton campus; unrest on campuses at the time (1970); wife and daughter able to fly to the United States to stay and the difference it made in how people reacted to him; impressions of Princeton and his professors there; emphasis on social issues in his classes and its effect on him

T3 (60 minutes). The history of Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal and its philosophy; faculty at UBS during the time Sunderaraj was a student; Kenneth Bauman; Dr. Klein; Zoe Ann Alford as a teacher; spiritual life at UBS; distributing Christian literature in the countryside; areas in India where there is strong resistance to Christianity; UBS when Sunderaraj was on the faculty; appointment of the first Indian principal (Saphir P. Athyal) in 1972; composition of the student body; attitude of the mainline churches of India to UBS; regional differences among the students; Sunderaraj's classes; Bruce Nicholls; national differences between foreign missionaries; disputes between liberal and Evangelical Protestants in India over the uniqueness of Christ; lack of theological debate at UBS; affiliation of UBS with institutions of the national Christian association in India; strengths and weaknesses of UBS; things he learned at UBS, Princeton, and Wheaton; castism in the church; characteristics of UBS at the current time (1993); Dalit movement in India among low caste people; contacts with Hindus in Malaysia; baptism by the seashore; low status of Indians in Malaysia; the Tamil origin of most of the Indians in Malaysia and their materialism; developing Christian leadership in Malaysia; joining the Christian education department of the Evangelical Fellowship of India; changes in moving from Malaysia to Hyderabad, India, and the difficult struggle of the first six months; Anna Nixon; becoming general secretary of EFI in 1984; the joys of working with people in EFI; the difficulties of travel in India; factors relating to administration in Christian organizations

T4 (60 minutes). Visit of J. Elwin Wright and Clyde Taylor to India in 1950 and their encouragement to missionaries and Indian church leaders to organize a national organizational fellowship; organization of Evangelical Fellowship of India in 1951; early leadership of EFI and the creation of agencies for cooperation among Evangelicals; membership in the World Evangelical Fellowship; Ben Wati; John Richard; ethnic and regional composition of thestaff of EFI and their lack of influence on the organization; membership of the Fellowship; the resistance in India to the concept of Evangelical Protestants; groups joining EFI to gain credibility and finances in the United States and Western Europe; lack of relations between EFI and the National Council of Churches of India; relations with the Indian government; a commemorative stamp for William Carey; respect in which Christian institutions are held in the country; Catholic involvement in Indian culture; danger of syncretism in relation to some religious dances in India; changes due to Vatican II and the appearance of Catholic charismatics; the need in EFI to focus more narrowly in order to achieve results; the need for teaching on the Christian view of the spiritual world among Indian Christians; frustrations in being general director; necessary limitations on the work of EFI and strategic planning; complaints about EFI's limited goals; Sunderaraj's own sources for counseling and pastoral care; temptations involved in Christian leadership and the need to please God; Theo Williams - his background, influence and character; the Indian Evangelical Mission; raising support for Indian missionaries; declining role of western missionaries in the EFI and India; disadvantages of brief visits from church groups (of about a week); limited relationship of churches with other religions in India; freedom of Christians in India; problem of Christians holding on to harmful elements of culture such as castism and dowries. other problems for the church in India - poverty, unreached peoples; need for unity among the church in East and West and the exchange of Christian workers from different countries

T5 (15 minutes). Need for different cultures in the worldwide church to accept each other's lifestyles and not to equate spirituality with prosperity; the isolation of American Evangelicals from the larger society; role of Sheila Bhanumathy Sunderaraj in her husband's ministry; attitude of his children toward his ministry; the spiritual battle to be in the Lord's will in life and ministry; temptation of prestige and status; struggle between liberal leaders and conservative congregations in Methodism in Malaysia, India, and the United States; women in the pastorate


Francis Sunderaraj gave the materials in this collection to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center in February and March 1993.

Accession: 93-37, 93-41

December 13, 2000
Robert Shuster
W. Valentine

Accession: 93-37, 93-41
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the Audio Tape file.

T1 - Reel, 3 3/4 ips, 1 side. 60 minutes. Interview of Francis Sunderaraj by Paul Ericksen. February 24, 1993.

T2 - Reel, 3 3/4 ips, 1 side. 35 minutes. Conclusion of interview of Francis Sunderaraj by Paul Ericksen. February 24, 1993.

T3 - Reel, 3 3/4 ips, 1 side. 60 minutes. Interview of Francis Sunderaraj by Paul Ericksen. March 8, 1993.

T4 - Reel, 3 3/4 ips, 1 side. 60 minutes. Continuation of interview of Francis Sunderaraj by Paul Ericksen. March 8, 1993.

T5 - Reel, 3 3/4 ips, 1 side. 15 minutes. Conclusion of interview of Francis Sunderaraj by Paul Ericksen. March 8, 1993.

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Last Revised: 3/12/01
Expiration: indefinite