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Holy Orders: Nehemiah Goreh's Ordination Ordeal and the Problem of 'Social Distance' in Nineteenth-Century North Indian Anglicanism

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Using the example of Nehemiah Goreh, a mid nineteenth-century Brahmin Hindu convert to Christianity, the essay explores how Anglican missionaries interacted with Indian counterparts, sometimes encouraging their ordination (as was the case in the South), or (as was the case in the North) placing obstacles in their way. After an agonistically 'cognitive' struggle with Christian faith, Goreh was recommended for ordination by the Low-Church Anglican missionaries of Benares, only to be denied 'Holy Orders' by superiors in Calcutta, who felt that ordination would entail social intercourse of a kind detrimental to British status in colonial society. Having been a 'subaltern' of mission for some twenty years, Goreh converted again, this time to High-Church Anglicanism. I demonstrate that he did this not only to secure his ordination (High-Church Anglicans being less averse to having Indian counterparts), but also because, in the process of understanding the faith he had embraced, he had become convinced by High-Church Tractarians of the “Grace of Orders.” I argue, therefore, that Goreh's little-known ordination quest demonstrates exemplary integrity, politically and theologically.

Affiliations: 1: Timby Associate Professor of the History of Religions, Department of History, Princeton Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 821, USA—Princeton, New Jersey 08450;, Email:


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