The Episcopal Church's five-year dialogue with the Moravian Church in America has taken several significant steps forward in recent months, including approval of sharing the Eucharist.
At an April meeting in Sewanee, Tennessee, the churches discussed a draft resolution on Interim Eucharistic Sharing and the possibilities for a shared ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons in the future. (The Moravians trace their history to the Czech Hussite reform movement that separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1457 but they have preserved the three-fold order of ministry.)
The April meeting of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America passed a resolution that endorsed the plan to share the Eucharist with Episcopalians. The Northern Province meeting in mid-June also unanimously passed a resolution on the proposal. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy for ecumenical relations and an Episcopal participant in the dialogue, said that is 'a very important and exciting time in our Moravian dialogue. Building on previous Anglican-Moravian dialogues, we have found enough common agreement on matters of faith and practice to be able to stand together at the eucharistic table.'
Ferguson said that future dialogues will deal with areas of common mission, 'with the hope of further theological dialogue to allow for a possible full communion proposal in 2006 or 2009.' The Episcopal Church and the Lutherans established a similar sharing of the Eucharist in 1982 as a major step in moving to 'full communion' in 2000.
In his greetings, Ferguson noted that 'historically the Moravian Church has been one of the Anglican Communion's oldest dialogue partners. Although small in number, you have had an influence on the Christian world out of proportion to your size. We your Episcopal brothers and sisters have been enriched by your contributions to Christian spirituality, world missions, hymnody, and passion for following Jesus Christ.'
The Moravian Church in America is part of the worldwide Unity of the Brethren, consisting of 20 autonomous provinces with about 750,000 members. The U.S. and Canada are divided into two provinces that are in communion with each other but operate separately. They are both governed by synods that meet once every four years.