One of the many pieces of legislation to be considered by General Convention this summer is the full-communion agreement between the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church and the Episcopal Church. If adopted, the agreement would represent a historic achievement of the first trilateral agreement between denominations.
The Moravian Church provinces in the United States, like the Episcopal Church are in full-communion with the Lutherans (ELCA). It was the desire the complete the linkage between the denominations that led to the start of conversations between Episcopalians and Moravians in North Carolina back in the 1990’s. After six years of interim Eucharistic sharing, which began in 2003, the two denominations are agreed that it is time deepen the relationship.
The Episcopal News Service writes of the agreement:
Moravians in America are part of a worldwide Christian communion formally known as the Unitas Fratrum, or Unity of the Brethren, which was founded in 1457 as part of the movement for reform of the church in what is now the Czech Republic. Persecuted almost to extinction, members of the Unitas Fratrum eventually found refuge on the estate of German nobleman Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. In the 1700s, they went through a rebirth under Zinzendorf’s protection and grew into a global communion.
The proposed full-communion partnership “is a unique opportunity to restore unity with the oldest church of the ‘first reformation,'” says the commission report. “Moravians are intensely missional, highly relational, have a rich musical and liturgical heritage and are led by a deeply pastoral episcopate.”
The Moravians’ formation over “two centuries of persecution yields a freedom to witness and serve anywhere, anytime,” Dugliss said. “They have embraced the call of one of their seminal leaders – Nicholas Von Zinzendorf – to seek and serve ‘the last, the least and the lost.’ In all this they offer to the Episcopal Church an antidote to our DNA of establishment and our hesitation in mission. While they have a limited presence in the United States, there are opportunities for significant collaboration in mission and witness here and globally.”
You can read the full article here.
That bit about how the Moravian Church is part of world-wide communion that balances provincial autonomy with shared mission and international cooperation might well be a model for the Anglican Communion to seriously consider. (The Church of England is nearly in full-communion with the Moravians in England. The sticking point there was English law that forbid having more than one bishop in charge of a region – the Moravian Church retains the ancient three-fold orders of ministry.)
Full disclosure: I’ve been part of the dialogue team since 2003 on behalf of the Episcopal Church.