Church of Ceylon

The diocese of Colombo was founded in 1845 as the diocese of the Church of England in Ceylon with its own bishop. Earlier, it had been part of the diocese of Calcutta and later Madras. In 1930 the Anglican Church in India separated from the Church of England and became the Province of India, Burma and Ceylon, still within the worldwide fellowship of the Anglican Communion. In 1947, churches of South India united to form the new Church of South India. The churches in North India and Pakistan followed thereafter. Burma and Bangladesh formed their own church and Sri Lanka therefore became extra-provincial within the Anglican Communion under the metropolitical authority of the archbishop of Canterbury. In 1950 the diocese of Kurunegala was carved out of the diocese of Colombo to include parts of the North-Western, North-Central and Central Provinces of Sri Lanka.

In spite of the fact that Sri Lanka is close to India, it is very conscious of having a history and a culture of its own. It was evident from the beginning that, if Sri Lanka as a whole was to have a united church, it must work in its own way and produce its own independent scheme. The first step towards union was taken in 1934. In 1941, an official committee, representing all the churches that were members of the National Christian Council of Ceylon, was formed. The Anglican diocese of Colombo did not join the Church of South India. The mission of the American Board of Foreign Missions (now UCC, USA) in the north of Ceylon was part of the old South India United Church and therefore joined the Church of South India as the diocese of Jaffna.

The movement towards church union in Sri Lanka - involving the Anglican dioceses of Colombo and Kurunagala, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Jaffna diocese of the Church of South India, and the churches of the Presbytery of Lanka - is still active in spite of decades of delays resulting from various legal disputes. Church union proposals hitherto pursued remain. A wider dimension of ecumenical participation has grown. Conversations are being held between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka for closer fellowship and participation at all possible levels.

With the inauguration of two new archdeaconries in the diocese of Colombo - one for the hill country and the East, in Nuwara Eliya, and the other for the South and South-West, in Galle, there are now four archdeaconries. The other two are Colombo, covering the city, the north-west coast and Sabaragamuwa; and Jaffna covering the Northern Province. This step ensures intensification of mission and more integrated participation in all departments of work. The diocese of Kurunegala has one archdeaconry.

In September 2006 the first three women priests were ordained in the Church of Ceylon.