Moravian Church

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

 
Jump to: navigation, search
This page is about the Moravian Church globally. For information about the church in a particular geographic area, use the links at Organisation below.
The seal of the Moravian Church featuring the Agnus Dei. (Stained glass at the Rights Chapel of Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA)

The Moravian Church (Latin: Unitas Fratrum, meaning "Unity of the Brethren",[1] Czech: Moravští bratři) is the oldest Protestant denomination. This church's nickname comes from the original exiles who came to Saxony in 1722 from Moravia to escape persecution, but its religious heritage began in 1457 in Kunvald, Bohemia, today part of the Czech Republic, an autonomous kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. The Moravian Church places a high premium on Christian unity, personal piety, missions, and music.

The Church's emblem is the Lamb of God (right) with the flag of victory, surrounded by the Latin inscription: Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur, or in English: "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him".

History[edit]

See also: Jan Hus and Hussite Wars
Jan Hus

The Hussite movement that was to become the Moravian Church was started by Jan Hus (English: John Huss) in the early 15th century, in what is today the Czech Republic. Hus objected to some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and wanted to return the Church in Bohemia and Moravia to early Byzantine-inspired practices: liturgy in the language of the people (i.e. Czech), having lay people receive communion in both kinds (bread and wine - that is, in Latin, communio sub utraque specie), married priests, and eliminating indulgences and the idea of Purgatory.

Jan Hus Preaching at Bethlehem Chapel

Jan Hus rejected indulgences and adopted a doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone;[citation needed] consequently, the Moravian Church became the first Protestant church.[2][3]

lJan Hus-Council of Constance

The movement gained support in Bohemia. However, Hus was summoned to attend the Council of Constance, which decided that he was a heretic and had him burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. From 1419 to 1437 were a series of Hussite Wars initially between various Roman Catholic rulers and the Hussites, and then a Hussite civil war; a Hussite sect known as the Utraquists allied themselves with the Roman Catholics against the other Hussite sects defeating them at the Battle of Lipany in 1434. The Utraquists signed the Compact of Basel on 5 July 1436.

Within fifty years of Hus' death, a contingent of his followers had become independently organised as the "Bohemian Brethren" (Čeští bratři) or Unity of the Brethren (Jednota bratrská), which was founded in Kunvald, Bohemia, in 1457. They received episcopal ordination through the Waldensians in 1467.[2]:36 ff[3]:107 ff These were some of the earliest Protestants, rebelling against Rome some fifty years before Martin Luther.[2][3] By the middle of the 16th century as many as 90 per cent of the inhabitants of the Czech Crown lands were Protestant.[4] The majority of nobility was Protestant, the schools and printing-shops established by the Moravian Church were flourishing.

By the middle of the 16th century there was not a single town without a Protestant school in the Czech lands, and many had more than one, mostly with two to six teachers each. In Jihlava, a principal Protestant center in Moravia, there were six schools: two Czech, two German, one for girls and one teaching in Latin, which was at the level of a high / grammar school, lecturing on Latin, Greek and Hebrew, Rhetorics, Dialectics, fundamentals of Philosophy and fine arts, as well as religion according to the Lutheran Augustana.[5] With the University of Prague also firmly in hands of Protestants, the local Catholic church was unable to compete in the field of education. Therefore the Jesuits were invited, with the backing of the Catholic Habsburg rulers, to come to the Czech lands and establish a number of Catholic educational institutions in the Moravian capital.In 1566 the Jesuits came to the Moravian capital. In 1582 they forced closure of local Protestant schools and by 1622 all Protestant schools in the Czech Crown lands were forced to close.

Emperor Matthias sought to install the fiercely Catholic Ferdinand of Styria on the Bohemian throne (which was conjoined with that of the March of Moravia), but in 1618 the Protestant Bohemian noblemen, who feared losing religious freedom (two of the Protestant churches being already forcibly closed[6]), started the Bohemian Revolt. The Revolt was defeated in 1620 in the Battle of White Mountain. As consequence the local Protestant noblemen were either executed or expelled from the country while the Habsburgs placed Catholic (and mostly German speaking) nobility in their place.[citation needed] The war, plague, and subsequent disruption led to a decline in the population from over 3 million to some 800,000 people. By 1622 the entire education system of the Czech lands was in the hands of Jesuits and all Protestant schools were closed. The Habsburgs not only suppressed Protestantism but also the Czech language: books written in Czech were burned and any publication in Czech was considered to be heresy by the Jesuits.[citation needed] The Czech language was gradually reduced to a means of communication between peasants, who were often illiterate.[citation needed] The Brethren were forced to operate underground and eventually dispersed across Northern Europe as far as the Low Countries, where Bishop John Amos Comenius attempted to direct a resurgence.

The largest remaining communities of the Brethren were located in Leszno (German: Lissa) in Poland, which had historically strong ties with the Czechs, and small, isolated groups in Moravia. These latter are referred to as "the Hidden Seed" which John Amos Comenius had prayed would preserve the evangelical faith in the land of the fathers.

In Addition to the Renewed Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church, which preserves the Unitas Fratrum's three orders of episcopal ordination, The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church also continue the Hussite tradition in the Czech and Slovak Republics today, although they only account for 0.8% of the Czech population (which is 79.4% non-religious, and 10.4% Catholic).

Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine, 18th-century Renewal[edit]

Zinzendorf preaching to people from many nations

In 1722, a small group of Bohemian Brethren (the "Hidden Seed") who had been living in northern Moravia as an illegal underground remnant surviving in Catholic setting of the Habsburg Empire for nearly 100 years, arrived at the Berthelsdorf estate of Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a nobleman who had been brought up in the traditions of Pietism. Out of a personal commitment to helping the poor and needy, he agreed to a request from their leader (Christian David, an itinerant carpenter) that they be allowed to settle on his lands in Upper Lusatia, which is in present-day Saxony in the eastern part of modern-day Germany.

The refugees established a new village called Herrnhut, about 2 miles (3 km) from Berthelsdorf. The town initially grew steadily, but major religious disagreements emerged and by 1727 the community was divided into factions. Count Zinzendorf worked to bring about unity in the town and the Brotherly Agreement was adopted by the community on 12 May 1727. This is considered the beginning of the renewal. Then, on 13 August 1727 the community underwent a dramatic transformation when the inhabitants of Herrnhut "learned to love one another", following an experience that they attributed to a visitation of the Holy Spirit, similar to that recorded in the Bible on the day of Pentecost.

Herrnhut grew rapidly following this transforming revival and became the centre of a major movement for Christian renewal and mission during the 18th century. The episcopal ordination of the Ancient Unitas Fratrum was transferred in 1735 to the Renewed Unitas Fratrum by the Unity's two surviving bishops, Daniel Ernst Jablonski and Christian Sitkovius. The carpenter David Nitschmann and, later, Count von Zinzendorf, were the first two bishops of the Renewed Unity. Moravian historians identify the main achievements of this period as:

  1. Setting up a watch of continuous prayer that ran uninterrupted, 24 hours a day, for 100 years.
  2. Originating the Daily Watchwords.
  3. Establishing more than 30 settlements internationally on the Herrnhut model, which emphasized prayer and worship, and a form of communal living in which simplicity of lifestyle and generosity with wealth were held to be important spiritual attributes. The purpose of these communities was to assist the members resident there in the sanctification of their lives, to provide a meeting place for Christians from different confessional backgrounds, to provide Christian training for their own children and the children of their friends and supporters and to provide support for the Moravian Mission work throughout the world. As a result, although personal property was held, divisions between social groups and extremes of wealth and poverty were largely eliminated.
  4. Being the first Protestant church body to begin missionary work; and
  5. Forming many hundreds of small renewal groups operating within the existing churches of Europe, known as "diaspora societies". These groups encouraged personal prayer and worship, Bible study, confession of sins and mutual accountability.

Missions[edit]

Portrait of a group of Moravian Church members with King George II of Great Britain, attributed to Johann Valentin Haidt, circa 1752-1754

Along with the Royal Danish Mission College, the Moravian missionaries were the first large-scale Protestant missionary movement. They sent out the first missionaries when there were only 300 inhabitants in Herrnhut. Within 30 years, the church sent hundreds of Christian missionaries to many parts of the world, including the Caribbean, North and South America (see Christian Munsee), the Arctic, Africa, and the Far East. They were the first to send lay people (rather than clergy) as missionaries, the first Protestant denomination to minister to slaves, and the first Protestant presence in many countries.

Owing to Zinzendorf's personal contacts with their royalty, the first Moravian missions were directed to the Dano-Norwegian Empire. While attending the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark, Zinzendorf was profoundly struck by two Inuit converts of Hans Egede's mission in Greenland and also by an African from the West Indies.[7] The first Moravian mission was established on the Caribbean island of St Thomas in 1732 by a potter named Johann Leonhard Dober and a carpenter named David Nitschmann,[8]:7 who later became the first bishop of the Renewed Unity in 1735. Matthaeus Stach and two others founded the first Moravian mission in Greenland in 1733 at Neu-Herrnhut on Baal's River, which became the nucleus of the modern capital Nuuk.

In 1772, John Ettwein and his group of some 200 Lenape and Mohican Christians traveled west along The Great Shamokin Path path from their village of Friedenshütten (Cabins of Peace) near modern Wyalusing on the North Branch Susquehanna River to their new village of Friedensstadt (City of Peace) on the Beaver River in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Moravians founded missions with Algonquian-speaking Mohican in the British colony of New York in British North America. For instance, they founded one in 1740 at the Mohican village of Shekomeko in present-day Dutchess County, New York. The converted Mohican people formed the first native Christian congregation in the present-day United States of America. Because of local hostility to the Mohican, the Moravian support of the Mohican led to rumors of their being secret Jesuits, trying to ally the Mohican with France in the on-going French and Indian Wars.

Although supporters defended their work, at the end of 1744, the colonial government based at Poughkeepsie expelled the Moravians from New York.[9]

In 1741, David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf led a small community to found a mission in the colony of Pennsylvania. The mission was established on Christmas Eve, and was named Bethlehem, after the Biblical town in Judea. There, they ministered to the Algonquian Lenape. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is today the sixth largest city in Pennsylvania. Later, colonies were also founded in North Carolina, where Moravians led by Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg purchased 98,985 acres (400.58 km2) from John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville. This large tract of land was named die Wachau, or Wachovia, after one of Zinzendorf's ancestral estates on the Danube River in Lower Austria. Other early settlements included Bethabara (1753), Bethania (1759) and Salem (now referred to as Old Salem in Winston-Salem North Carolina) (1766).

In 1801 the Moravians established a mission to the Cherokee Nation in present day Murray County Georgia that remained until the forced removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma, and remained active there through the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The mission was transferred to the Danish Lutheran Church and continues now as the Oaks Mission School in Oklahoma.

The start of far-flung missionary work necessitated the setting up of independently administered provinces. So, from c1732,[8]:7 the history of the church becomes the history of its provinces.

Eventually, the Moravian missions in Australia and Greenland were transferred to the local Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches respectively.

Present[edit]

Emmaus Moravian Church, founded in 1747, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, United States

The modern Unitas Fratrum (or Moravian Church) with about 825,000 members worldwide[citation needed], continues to draw on traditions established during the 18th-century renewal. In many places it observes the convention of the lovefeast, originally started in 1727. It uses older and traditional music in worship. Brass music, congregational singing and choral music continue to be very important in Moravian congregations. In addition, in some older congregations, Moravians are buried in a traditional God's Acre, a graveyard with only flat gravestones, signifying the equality of the dead before God and organized by gender, age and marital status rather than family.

Friedensthal Moravian Church Christiansted, St Croix, USVI founded in 1755

The Moravians continue their long tradition of missionary work, for example in the Caribbean, where the Jamaican Moravian Church has begun work in Cuba and in West Africa where the Moravian Church in Tanzania has missions in Zaire and Uganda. This is reflected in their broad global distribution. The Moravians in Germany, whose central settlement remains at Herrnhut, are highly active in education and social work. The American Moravian Church sponsors the Moravian College and Seminary. The largest concentration of Moravians today is in Tanzania.

The motto of the Moravian Church is: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love".[10]

Some Moravian scholars point to a different formula as a guide to constructive debate about faith. This formula was first advanced by Luke of Prague (1460–1528), one of the bishops of the ancient Unitas Fratrum. Luke taught that one must distinguish between things that are essential, ministerial or incidental to salvation. The essentials are God's work of creation, redemption and sanctification, as well as the response of the believer through faith, hope and love. Things ministerial are such items as the Bible, church, sacraments, doctrine and priesthood. These mediate the sacred and should thus be treated with respect, but they are not considered essential. Finally, incidentals include things such as vestments or names of services that may reasonably vary from place to place

Organization[edit]

Provinces[edit]

For its global work, the Church is organised into Unity Provinces, Mission Provinces and Mission Areas. This categorisation is based on the level of independence of the Province. Unity Province implies a total level of independence, Mission Province implies a partial level of supervision from a Unity Province, and Mission Area implies full supervision by a Unity Province. (The links below connect to articles about the history of the Church in specific provinces after 1732, where written.)

Unity Provinces[edit]

Mission Provinces[edit]

Mission Areas[edit]

Other areas with missions but that are not yet established as Provinces are:

Tanzania is divided into five provinces because of the size of country and the numbers of people in the church. "The Moravian Church in Tanzania" co-ordinates the work in the nation.

The lists above, except for some details given under 'Other areas', can be found in The Moravian Almanac.[11]

Each Province is governed by a synod, made up of representatives from each congregation plus ex officio members.

The Synod elects the Provincial Board (aka Provincial Elders' Conference or PEC[12]) to be responsible for the work of the Province and its international links between Synods.

Districts[edit]

Many, but not all, of the Provinces are divided into Districts.

Congregations[edit]

A Moravian church in Neudietendorf

Each congregation belongs to a district and has spiritual and financial responsibilities for work in its own area as well as provincially. The Congregation Council (all the members of a congregation) usually meets twice a year and annually elects the Joint Board of Elders and Trustees that acts as an executive.

In some provinces two or more congregations may be grouped into circuits, under the care of one minister.

Unity Synod[edit]

The Unity Synod meets every 7 years and is attended by delegates from the different Unity Provinces and affiliated Provinces..

Unity Board[edit]

The Unity Board is made up of one member from each Provincial Board, and acts as an executive committee between Unity Synods. It meets three times between Synods but much of its work is done by correspondence and postal voting.

The President of the Unity Board (who is elected by the Board for two years and not allowed to serve for more than two terms) works from his/her own Provincial office. The Unity Business Administrator is an officer appointed by the Unity Board to administer the day-to-day affairs of the Unity through the office of the Unity.

Orders of Ministry[edit]

Ordained ministry in the Moravian Church emphasizes the pastoral role. A candidate for ministry who has been approved by their home province and has completed the prescribed course of study (usually a Master of Divinity degree in the US and Europe) may be ordained a Deacon upon acceptance of a call. Deacons may serve in a pastoral office and administer sacraments. A deacon is normally supervised by a presbyter who serves as mentor. After several years of satisfactory service, the Deacon may be consecrated as a Presbyter. Presbyters function in the local congregation in the same manner as deacons, but may also serve to mentor deacons and may be assigned to other leadership roles in a particular province.

An Acolyte is a layperson who has received approval to assist the pastor in a specific local congregation. The acolyte may assist in the serving of Holy Communion but may not consecrate the elements.

The highest order of ministry is that of a Bishop. Bishops are elected by Provincial Synods usually through ecclesiastical ballot without nomination. In the Moravian Church, bishops do not have an administrative role but rather serve as spiritual leaders and pastors to the pastors. Bishops serve the worldwide Unity.[13] The Moravian Church is reputed to have received the Apostolic Succession through the Waldensian Church, but the historicity of this is disputed. In Berlin, 1735, the Renewed Unity, i.e. the Moravian Brethren in Herrnhut, received the historic episcopal ordination from the 2 surviving bishops of the Ancient Unity: Bishop John Amos Comenius' grandson Daniel Ernst Jablonski and Christian Sitkovius. This bishop's consecration continues today.

Beliefs[edit]

In her Book of Order[14][15] the several provinces of the Moravian Unity accept:

According to the Ground of the Unity[14][15] of 1957, fundamental beliefs include but are not limited to:

These tenets of classical Christianity are not unique to the Moravian Church. The emphasis in both the Ancient Unity and the Renewed Unity is on Christian living and the fellowship of believers as a true witness to a vibrant Christian Faith.

Spirit of the Moravian Church[edit]

An account of the ethos of the Moravian Church is given by one of its British bishops, Clarence H. Shawe.[16] In a lecture series delivered at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Shawe described the Spirit of the Moravian Church as having five characteristics: simplicity, happiness, unintrusiveness, fellowship, and the ideal of service.

Simplicity is a focus on the essentials of faith and a lack of interest in the niceties of doctrinal definition. Shawe quotes Zinzendorf's remark that The Apostles say: 'We believe we have salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ....' If I can only teach a person that catechism I have made him a divinity scholar for all time (Shawe, 1977, p. 9). From this simplicity flow secondary qualities of genuineness and practicality.

Happiness is the natural and spontaneous response to God's free and gracious gift of salvation. Again Shawe quotes Zinzendorf: There is a difference between a genuine Pietist and a genuine Moravian. The Pietist has his sin in the foreground and looks at the wounds of Jesus; the Moravian has the wounds in the forefront and looks from them upon his sin. The Pietist in his timidity is comforted by the wounds; the Moravian in his happiness is shamed by his sin (p. 13).

Unintrusiveness is based on the Moravian belief that God positively wills the existence of a variety of churches to cater for different spiritual needs. There is no need to win converts from other churches. The source of Christian unity is not legal form but everyone's heart-relationship with the Saviour.

Fellowship is based on this heart-relationship. Shawe says: The Moravian ideal has been to gather together kindred hearts.... Where there are 'Christian hearts in love united', there fellowship is possible in spite of differences of intellect and intelligence, of thought, opinion, taste and outlook. ... Fellowship [in Zinzendorf's time] meant not only a bridging of theological differences but also of social differences; the artisan and aristocrat were brought together as brothers and sat as equal members on the same committee (pp. 21,22).

The ideal of service entails happily having the attitude of a servant. This shows itself partly in faithful service in various roles within congregations but more importantly in service of the world "by the extension of the Kingdom of God". Historically, this has been evident in educational and especially missionary work. Shawe remarks that none could give themselves more freely to the spread of the gospel than those Moravian emigrants who, by settling in Herrnhut [i.e., on Zinzendorf's estate], had gained release from suppression and persecution. (p. 26).

Worship[edit]

Traditions[edit]

Former Traditions[edit]

Uniformed and other organizations[edit]

Prominent Moravians from c1400 to c1750[edit]

Ecumenical Relations[edit]

See also: Full communion

The Moravian Church provinces are members individually of the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation. Most provinces are also members of their national councils of churches, such as the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) in Germany and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US, the all African Council of Churches, the Caribbean Council of Churches, the Jamaica Council of Churches. The American Southern Province was instrumental in the founding the North Carolina Council of Churches. The British Province is of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (formerly the British Council of Churches) and has an interim Communion agreement with the Church of England. The two North American provinces are in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The Northern Province of the Moravian Church voted June 18, 2010 to enter into full communion with the Episcopal Church. The Moravian Church's Southern Province also voted to enter into full communion with the Episcopal Church during its synod in September 2010. Each province can independently enter into full communion relationships.[18] In the 1980s there were discussions in England by which an agreement was created that would have created full communion between the Moravians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and the Church of England. The Presbyterians and Methodists would have accepted the Historic Episcopate, but since the Moravians already had this, they would have changed nothing. This agreement fell through because the General Synod of the Church of England did not give approval.

One aspect of Moravian history and mission is the so-called "Diaspora" work in Germany and Eastern Europe, seeking to deepen and encourage the Christian life among members of the territorial churches, particularly in Poland and the Baltic states, but also throughout the German-speaking lands. Count Zinzendorf's ideal was a fellowship of all Christians, regardless of denominational names, and the Moravian Brethren sought in the Diaspora not to convert people to the Moravian Church but to awaken the hearts of believers and make them better members of the churches to which they already belonged. At first the object of suspicion, in the course of time the Moravian Diaspora workers became valued co-workers in eastern Europe. This Diaspora work suffered almost total destruction in World War II, but is still carried on within the territorial churches of Germany. With the independence of the Baltic republics of Estonia and Latvia, it was revealed that much of the Diaspora Work there had been kept alive in spite of domination by the former Soviet Union and had even borne fruit.

Historical Societies, etc.[edit]

Publications[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.unitasfratrum.org/ Unitas Fratrum
  2. ^ a b c Rican, Rudolf (1992). The History of the Unity of Brethren - A Protestant Hussite Church in Bohemia and Moravia. The Moravian Church in America. ISBN 1-878422-05-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Crews, C. Daniel (2008). Faith, Love, Hope - A History of the Unitas Fratrum. by Moravian Archives, Winston Salem, N.Carolina. ISBN 0-9719411-3-0. 
  4. ^ Náboženství a moderní česká společnost, David Václavík, Grada Publishing a.s., 2010, page 53
  5. ^ d'Elvert, Christian (1857). "Geschichte der Studien-, Schul- und Erziehungs- Anstalten in Mähren und Oesterreichisch Schlesien, insbesondere der olmützer Universität, in den neueren Zeiten". Gesellschaft zur Beförderung des Ackerbaues, der Natur- und Landeskunde 10. 
  6. ^ Josef V. Polišenský, The Thirty Years War, University of California Press, 1971.
  7. ^ Knight, C. The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volumes 15-16. p. 269. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  8. ^ a b Seedtime and Harvest: A Brief History of the Moravian Church in Jamaica 1754-1979, S. U. Hastings & B. L. MacLeavy, The Moravian Church Corporation, 1979.
  9. ^ Philip H. Smith, "Pine Plains", General History of Duchess County from 1609 to 1876, inclusive, Pawling, NY: 1877, accessed 3 Mar 2010
  10. ^ http://www.moravian.org/believe/
  11. ^ a b The Moravian Almanac is published annually (October) as a supplement to the devotional book Daily Watchwords. Most Provinces publish their own almanac with details of local congregations and the wider Provinces. Copies may be obtained from the Moravian Church House (office) of any province (for addresses see the provinces pages).
  12. ^ In Moravian usage, Elder is a title applicable to the members of any church board (conference) whether at provincial or congregational level. The term refers to responsible people who, commanding the respect of their fellow members, have been elected, at provincial level by the Synod, and at local level by the Congregation Council. A Board of Elders always acts collegially, not individually[7].
  13. ^ "Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum", 2009, Chapter XIII.
  14. ^ a b Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum, published by order of the Unity Synod.
  15. ^ a b The Ground of the Unity
  16. ^ Rt Revd C H Shawe, DD (1977), The Spirit of the Moravian Church, London, The Moravian Book Room.
  17. ^ a b Book of Order, The Moravian Church in Great Britain and Ireland, 2002.
  18. ^ Episcopal Life Online
  19. ^ Journal of Moravian History
  20. ^ Moravian Archives
  21. ^ Moravian Historical Society

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]