Chilkuri Vasantha Rao was born in a devout Christian family of Chilkuri Samuel and Vajiramma at Secunderabad on 22nd December 1962. He did his schooling at St. Patrick’s High School, Secunderabad, and later Andhra Vidhyalaya College, Hyderabad. Then he joined Osmania University for Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com) degree course at Nizams College, Hyderabad and successfully graduated in 1983 with flying colours.
Being a child, he was active in the Sunday school and later Youth ministry of the Church, and felt God’s call for ministry even as a child. After graduation, Vasanth decided to respond to the call of the Master and determined to pursue pastoral ministry. He was admitted as a ministerial candidate in the Diocese of Medak of the Church of South India and posted at Tonigandla Village under the Ramayampet Pastorate under the supervision of Rev B. C. Devavaram.
During the academic year 1984-1985, Vasantha Rao was sent to the United Theological College, Bengaluru for Bachelor Divinity Course (B.D.). In 1988, he obtained a B. D. with Senators Prize for Autonomous Colleges under the Senate of Serampore College (University) for the highest proficiency in the B. D. examinations. As partial fulfillment of the B.D. Course, he wrote a thesis entitled “A phenomenological study of the role of Edu-Payala Jathara in the religious life of its participants and its impact on the Christhu-Punaruddhana Jathara of Medak Diocese of Church of South India” under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Eric J. Lott. He exhibited brilliant academic excellence and passed in the first division and was awarded the following college prizes: Meyer’s Prize for Preliminary Hebrew–II; Stanton Marris New Testament Greek Prize for the I & II Year Greek Subjects–II; J. Klimkeit Prize for Sanskrit; Annual Scripture Knowledge Prize–III; Harry Holiday Newham Prize for Christian Theology; Sam Tucker Prize for Christian Theology and Ethics; Mrs. Asha Hivaulay Prize for Church History–II; Rev. J. P. Ambalavanar Prize for History of Religions–I; Dr. M. J. Dirks Memorial Prize for Homiletics (Workshop); Rev. & Mrs. K. J. Chacko Prize for Pastoralia & Practical Work–I; Kurien Memorial Prize for the Best Essay on Pastoral Ministry (Seminar on Christian Ministry); Chapel Prize for the Order of Worship; Dr. A. H. Oussoren Prize for Practical Work and B.D. Inter-Disciplinary Colloquium–II; and Dr. M. J. Dirks Memorial Prize for Communication (Folk Communication).
Rao was then posted at Mandamarri-Ramakrishnapur pastorate in Adilabad district and served there until 1990. Then, he was transferred to Bellampalli Pastorate of the same district. As a Pastor, he adopted indigenous methods in worship practices including bhajan and Dalit drums. Meanwhile the Diocese of Medak ordained him as Deacon in September 1988 and Presbyter in September 1989 and will be completing 25 years of ordained ministry in 2013. He exhibited brilliant academic excellence and passed in the first division and was awarded the following college prizes: Meyer’s Prize for Preliminary Hebrew–II; Stanton Marris New Testament Greek Prize for the I & II Year Greek Subjects–II; J. Klimkeit Prize for Sanskrit; Annual Scripture Knowledge Prize–III; Harry Holiday Newham Prize for Christian Theology; Sam Tucker Prize for Christian Theology and Ethics; Mrs. Asha Hivaulay Prize for Church History–II; Rev. J. P. Ambalavanar Prize for History of Religions–I; Dr. M. J. Dirks Memorial Prize for Homiletics (Workshop); Rev. & Mrs. K. J. Chacko Prize for Pastoralia & Practical Work–I; Kurien Memorial Prize for the Best Essay on Pastoral Ministry (Seminar on Christian Ministry); Chapel Prize for the Order of Worship; Dr. A. H. Oussoren Prize for Practical Work and B.D. Inter-Disciplinary Colloquium–II; and Dr. M. J. Dirks Memorial Prize for Communication (Folk Communication).
In 1993, the Diocese of Medak sent him to pursue higher studies in the Old Testament at the United Theological College, Bengaluru. During this period, he was able to study under several learned Professors including Theodore N. Swanson, Gnana Robinson, James Vijayakumar and D. Jones Muthunayagom. His M.Th. thesis was on “Preservation Motif in Pentateuch,” which was later published in 1996. In the year 1995, Vasantha Rao obtained an M. Th. and returned to his Diocese. He was posted at CSI Church Shakkernagar pastorate, Nizamabad district for pastoral work. In 1996, the Andhra Christian Theological College (ACTC), Hyderabad invited him to be on its faculty. From the academic year 1996-1997 onwards, he has been teaching at ACTC. In 2010, Dr. Vasantha Rao became the 12th and youngest Principal of the ACTC. Since 1st June 2010, he has been serving the College in that capacity.
In 1998, The Diocese of Medak and the Board of Governors of the Andhra Christian Theological College granted study leave to Vasantha Rao. He proceeded to the Ökumenischen Studienwerks e.V. in Bochum, Germany for a course in German, and after its successful completion in 1999, he was enrolled as a doctoral candidate at the University of Hamburg. At Hamburg, he was able to study under the eminent scholars like Ina WilliPlein and Friedhelm Hartenstein. In the academic year 2003-2004, Vasantha Rao submitted his doctoral dissertation entitled “Ecological and Theological Aspects of Some Animal Laws in the Pentateuch,” which was later published in 2005 and reprinted by Edwin Mellen Press simultaneously in USA, UK and Canada in 2013.
He has demonstrated extraordinary talent for languages; he learnt Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Syriac, Sanskrit, German, Hindi, English and Telugu. At the University of Hamburg, Germany, he audited language courses and oriented himself to ancient languages such as; Akkadian, Phoenician and Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs. At the French Institute of Alliance Française de Hyderabad he attended the Diplome d’Etudes en Langue Française (DELF) Level A-1. Currently he is learning Arabic at the Henry Martin Institute: International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation, Shivrampally, Hyderabad.
Dr. Rao has been interested in dramatics and got training from various teachers from his childhood. During his school days, he invariably used to be a prize winner in Mimicry and Mono- acting conducted by the YMCA, Secunderabad, YMCA, Hyderabad, YWCA, Secunderabad, Gujarathi Seva Mandal, Secundrabad, Leo Club of Hyderabad. He was given the “best actor” award by the Covenant Players of Australia. He has mastered the Telugu Regional Ballad called Burra Katha and had given umpteen numbers of performances in city congregations and in Jathara celebrations in the Medak Diocese.
Prof. Rao is also a well-known singer and Lyricist. He sings Bhajans and Kavali, the Islamic art of singing, and has performed in the platinum jubilee celebrations of the United Theological College. He has a special interest in the folk arts and sings Christian folk songs with a lot of passion. Dr Vasantha Rao has passion for establishing an “Institute for Evangelism Through Culture”, where young theological students as well as others, who have a burden of rural evangelism would learn, Burrakantha, Harikatha, Uggukantha, Gollasudhulu, Kollatam, Duula, Dappu and other forms and use the same for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Vasantha Rao advocates indigenization. He was the founder Secretary of Ashram Mitra and served as the assistant editor of its journal in Hyderabad. He is the founder member of Yoga Darshana Adyathmic Ashram, Lucknow, and was a member of the Management Board of Sattal Christian Ashram in Uttarakand. He was one of the Telugu Bible translators for the Bible Society of India. While at the United Theological College, Bangalore, he was one of the hostel auditors, chief student librarian, Sunday school Superintendent, Inter-seminary committee, and member of the hostel constitution revision committee. In the church he served on the Legal Question Board of Medak Diocese and was also elected as the Ministerial Secretary of the Medak Diocesan Godavari District Church Council. He was a member of the diocesan council and was elected to be member of the Synod of 1996. He also served on the committee of the CSI Synod Christian Education department and participated in the writing of lessons for the Sunday school in the series of ‘Wings of faith’. While in Germany as a research scholar he was elected to the Student’s representative on the Kuratorium – Board of the Academy of Mission at the University of Hamburg. He was also elected as an organizing secretary of the Arbeits Gemeinschaft Oekumenishe Forschurng, Germany, (the European association for ecumenical research) an international Ecumenical Scholars initiative and a member the Societas Oecumenica. As organizing secretary he planned and executed the 13th annual conference on the theme ‘Inter-kulturelle Exegese der Bibel’ in 2001. He was member of both the Academic and Working Committees of Henry Martyn Institute International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation, Hyderabad. He was elected on to the Executive Committee of the Society for Biblical Studies in India. There after he was elected to be its vicepresident. He served on the Awards Selection Committee of the Aradana Television, a Telugu Christian Channel in Hyderabad. At the Andhra Christian Theological College he was the Dean of the CSI Hall for several times; Property in-charge, Bursar, Registrar and Coordinator of International Exposure Program for Faculty and Families. He was invited to lead Bible Studies at various Church councils both nationally and internationally; he was invited to the Northern Germany Church Council (NMZ) at Razaburg, Germany. He led Bible studies at the North American Council of Church of South India silver jubilee celebration in Chicago, USA. He led Bible studies at the diocesan council at Medak, diocesan council in Dornakal and at the 34th Session of the Church of South India Synod in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.
Dr. Rao Lecturers in the Department of Old Testament. He is presently the Principal Andhra Christian Theological College. He is the founder of the Church of South India Telugu Dioceses Theological Education Endowment and Scholarship Fund and was instrumental in raising one crore rupees. He is the Secretary of the Telugu Theological Literature Board, Hyderabad. He is a Member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta George, USA. He is the President of the Society for Biblical Studies in India. He is a Member of the Berlin Society for Mission History, Berlin, Germany. He is the Advisor for the Student Christian Movement of India, Andhra Pradesh Region. He served as a Peace Committee Member to the CSI Central Karnataka Diocese. He is on the Award Selection Committee of the Government of Andhra Pradesh State Christian Minority Finance Corporation, Hyderabad. He is an Executive Committee Member-Board of Theological Text Book Program of South Asia (BTTBPSA). He serves as a Core Committee Member of the Church of South India Constitution Revision Committee, CSI Synod, Chennai. He has been recently elected to be the Chairperson and Correspondent for Faculty for Integrated Advanced Theological Studies, Andhra Pradesh. At the University he serves on the Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Ministries; he is also appointed as a member of the D.Min. Committee and Extension Programme Committee, Senate of Serampore College/University, Kolkata. He is a Member of the World Association for Christian Communication, Toronto, Canada. He serves as a Board Member of ‘Child Evangelism Fellowship of India, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Regions’. He is on the Advisory Panel of the ‘Rural Agricultural Theological College, Cuddapa, Andhra Pradesh.
Prof. Rao was Senior Visiting Scholar for 2008- 2009 at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He was invited to present ‘Telangana Christian Folk Music’ at the Kirchentag, in Hamburg, Germany in May 2013. He is invited to teach a course on ‘Ecology and Bible’ at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, USA in 2015, and has been accepted to be a Senior Research Scholar at the Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA in 2015. He has presented several papers in national and international consultations and his writings are published in Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, South Korea, United Kingdom, and United States of America. He has published in Telugu, English, German and Portuguese. He has a wide internet presence; his writings are posted in various websites such as of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestants. For instance: BERÜHRUNG MIT DEN ENTRECHTETEN: Bibelarbeiten, Texte und Bilder zur Dalit-Theologie,(German), Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland, Weltmission heute Nr. 51
ENCOURAGING READING: Ten Old Testament Studies for Presence and Engagement-Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5: The Ten Commandments
Die Liebe Gottes auf den Punkt bringen: Zeugnisse zur persönlichen Betrachtung: Missio, Zeugnis 4 – “Daridhra Narayana – Gott der Armen: Eine Dalit-Version des Psalm 22”, (German), pp.11-13.
International Journal of Contextual Theology in East Asia Vol. 16 (15th December 2011) – “Dalit Christians Struggle for Justice in the Indian Subcontinent”
OS DIREITOS DOS ANIMAIS E ECOLOGIA: UMA PERSPECTIVA A PARTIR DO ANTIGO TESTAMENTO (Portugese)
Festivals in the Church of South India, The Christu Punaruddhana Jatra in the Medak Diocese of the CSI Rev. Rao is a widely travelled person with good international relations and a friend of all. He visited Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and Vatican City.
Vasantha Rao is married to Kantha Evangeline, B.A., B.Ed., C.C.S., D.C.S, who is also theologically trained and actively involved in the ministry of theological education in the women’s department at ACTC. They are blessed with two children. Following his father, his son Samuel Stanley Jones is currently pursuing Bachelor of Divinity at the Dharma Jyothi Vidhya Peeth, Faridabad; and daughter Parimala is studying PreUniversity in St. Francis College, Secunderabad.