Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in North America Northern and Southern Provinces celebrate Full Communion at festive service
A February 10 festive service will celebrate full communion between The Episcopal Church and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America.
The landmark Moravian â" Episcopal Full Communion Inaugural Service will be celebrated at the Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, PA at 6 pm Eastern. Bethlehem is a major center of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church and is located in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem.
âThis liturgical observance and celebration of full communion with the Moravian Church is an event that comes along once in a lifetime, if one is long-lived and fortunate,â commented Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. âInstances of reconciliation between different Christian communions since the Reformation have been rare â" and the fact that we are marking this reconciliation with the Moravians is remarkable.â
She added, âWe can give abundant thanks for the gifts that they offer us, and hope that the gifts we offer are helpful. Moravians are not widespread within the U.S. context of The Episcopal Church, but they are numerous in other places where Anglicans or Episcopalians are abundant â" the West Indies, Tanzania, Honduras and Nicaragua in particular. We can be grateful that we will come to know them for their distinctive gifts in music, liturgy, and ethos of reconciliation. I would urge Episcopalians to go looking for Moravian neighbors and begin to explore together how we can more deeply serve Godâs people and Godâs creation in the world around us.â
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Graham H. Rights, Bishop of the Moravian Unity, noted: "In our Ground of the Unity, Moravians declare that 'since we together with all Christendom are pilgrims on the way to meet our coming Lord, we welcome every step that brings us and other Christians nearer the goal of unity in Him.' This full communion agreement with The Episcopal Church is one more step toward that goal.â
He continued, "It is a particularly significant step in that both the Moravians and Episcopalians are in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This results now in a closer relationship among churches from three different reformation movements - the so-called First Reformation in Bohemia and Moravia in the 15th century and the 16th century reformations in England and on the European continent. This new relationship enables all of us to make a stronger witness in the world to the unity found in Jesus Christ, and it offers opportunity for greater collaboration and for strengthening the mission and ministry which we are called to carry out in the world today."
The relationship of full communion was approved by the Episcopal Church General Convention in 2009 and by the 2010 Provincial Synods of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America. The final report of full communion, âFinding Our Delight in the Lord: A Proposal for Full Communion Between The Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church-Northern Province and the Moravian Church-Southern Provinceâ is located here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/110055_111526_ENG_HTM.htm or http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/Finding_Our_Delight_Official_Text__2_.pdf
âMoravians anticipate with joy the celebration of a full communion relationship with The Episcopal Church because it continues a long tradition of both denominations working together to further the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,â says the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller, president, Provincial Eldersâ Conference, Moravian Church Northern Province. âThis new relationship offers a powerful witness to the world that what binds us together is always stronger than any divisions that may have existed from the past. I know that Moravians throughout the province will look for ways to partner with Episcopal congregations in their neighborhoods. I am confident that members from both communions will bless one another and the neighbors whom they will serve.â
The service will incorporate elements of both the Episcopal and Moravian liturgies.
Presiders for the service will be Episcopal Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Moravian Provincial Eldersâ Conference Presidents, the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller (North) and the Rev. David Guthrie (South). Preacher will be Episcopal Bishop Steven Miller of the Diocese of Milwaukee, who serves as chair of the Moravian-Episcopal dialogue.
Among the participants will be Episcopal Church President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, more than two dozen Episcopal Bishops, Bishops of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church, members of the Episcopal Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the Moravian-Episcopal Dialogue, and representatives from ecumenical partners and from the Anglican Church of Canada.
Included in the service are Prayers for Christian Unity, Psalm 96, and extensive musical favorite selections such as The Churchâs One Foundation, Come Come Come Christ Jesus Bids, Lord You Give the Great Commission, For the Fruit of All Creation.
The service will be videotaped and will be available for viewing on demand shortly afterwards on the websites of both The Episcopal Church (www.episcopalchurch.org) and The Moravian Church in North America (www.moravian.org).
Full communion relationships for The Episcopal Church, explains the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, PhD, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, âare arrangements with other churches, approved by the General Convention, which foster mutual recognition and ordained ministries.â
In full communion relationships, Ferguson added, clergy can serve in both churches.
In addition to the Moravians, the Episcopal Church maintains full communion relationships with the Provinces of the Anglican Communion as well as:
â¢ The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) http://www.elca.org/
â¢ Old Catholic Churches of Europe http://www.occe.co.uk/
â¢ Philippine Independent Church http://www.ifi.ph/
â¢ Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, India http://www.marthomasyrianchurch.org/
The Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America have full communion relationships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church, and covenant partnerships with the Presbyterian Church USA.
For more information and to attend the service, contact Ferguson at TFerguson@episcopalchurch.org.
The Moravian Church, which celebrated its 550th anniversary in 2007, is one of the oldest Protestant denominations, dating back to 1457 in Europe and first coming to America in 1735. The Moravian Church, whose motto is, âIn essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things love,â has strong traditions of ecumenical work, missionary endeavors and creativity in music and worship. The Moravian Church in North America includes more than 150 congregations in the U.S. and Canada. The Unitas Fratrum -- the worldwide Moravian Church -- counts nearly 795,000 members.
The Moravian Church in North America: www.moravian.org
The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org