Updated The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori met with Moravian leaders and seminarians during a concurrent visit to the Diocese of Bethlehem. During a discussion and worship at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, she noted the possibilities for mission as the two churches move closer to full communion. The presiding bishop also preached during a liturgy that followed in the seminary chapel.
Episcopal News Service writes:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy to the Presiding Bishop for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and the Rev. David Bennett, president of the Moravian Church's Eastern District Executive Board talked for an hour with a group of about 50 Episcopalians, Moravians and seminary students of other denominations.
After a conversation that ranged from envisioning mission partnerships to how members of both churches could get to know each other, Jefferts Schori said, "We have only scratched the surface of the riches of this possibility."
The nature of a full communion relationship "will play out in different ways," Ferguson said. The possibilities range from specific outreach opportunities in the parts of the country where Moravians and Episcopalians are concentrated to other places where, he suggested, the partnership may center on sharing resources such as theological education.
...she learned that Moravians and Episcopalians were already working together at Trinity Episcopal Church's soup kitchen and at the diocese's New Bethany Ministries, which serves the poor, homeless, hungry and mentally ill.
In her sermon, Jefferts Schori discussed the challenges of pastoral ministry:
A significant portion of the responsibility of any pastor has to do with protecting the flock. As Jesus notes, the shepherd must guard against those who try to get in by ways other than the gate. Any human shepherd needs others to help with that work, because the shepherd is just one person, with a limited capacity and view. A growing number of shepherds and goatherds in this country use llamas as flock guardians. That exotic creature is so big that dogs and coyotes and rustlers all take a second look before they try to sneak in to harass the sheep.
Sometimes the local protector is even a member of the flock. My husband and I kept goats in Oregon for more than 20 years, and I still have vivid memories of an early summer morning when a wandering dog got into the pasture. The dog was kept at bay by a big wether who outweighed the other goats by a good 50 pounds. He protected the rest of the herd until the human goatherd got there, but he was mortally wounded in the process. That happens to more human shepherds as well.
We can do a lot of constructive work to equip congregations to protect themselves – particularly by modeling pastoral ministry on the character of the chief shepherd: one who lays his life down for others, one who exists to serve, one who knows all by name, and loves each member of the flock equally. We all have the ability to look out for each other – it’s part of the pastoral task that all God’s people share, for we are shepherd as well as sheep. Episcopalians talk about baptismal ministry as including the need to respect the dignity of every human being, and working for justice, freedom, and peace. When every member of the body of Christ is met with justice and dignity, it’s going to be a lot harder for predators to get into the pasture. When the sheep are working at finding the mind of Christ, the herd might even begin to turn the predators into vegetarians.
What do we do when we discover predators or crummy shepherds in the sheepfold? This seminary exists to train up good and faithful shepherds, well equipped to discern and forestall those threats. The reality is that we can’t protect everybody all the time. Life is dangerous, and that includes life in the church. We exercise prudence, do what we can, and we remember that ultimate salvation is not up to us. Our Elder Brother is looking over our shoulder, probably in the direction we’re missing right now, and he will walk with those who are injured through our lack of awareness or error. We live in hope that God redeems even the worst damage of predators.
While few Episcopalians know much about the Moravian Church, it may be that what Moravians know about the Episcopal Church may only come from the secular headlines, which could be a stumbling block for some Moravians when they gather to vote in their two provincial gatherings next summer.
The Rt. Rev. M. Blair Couch of Allentown, Pennsylvania, one of two female bishops in the Moravian Church, predicted that some Moravians will organize opposition "because of what they perceive the Episcopal Church to be." Couch, who attended an Episcopal Church House of Bishops meeting where she said she experienced "mission-, Christ-centered faith and beauty and worship and wonderful fellowship," promised "to do my part to say that [full communion] will be a blessing."
Ferguson, acknowledging differences in understanding human sexuality, said "the key question is whether these are church-dividing or not … can we live in diversity with one another the way we live internally [with difference] within our own communions?" He noted that the Episcopal Church has been in full communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for nearly nine years and that it was not until this past summer that the ELCA decided to allow partnered gay clergy.
Still, the Moravians bring a strong ethic of Christian unity, understanding Christ as "the Chief Elder" and the many points of common understanding between Episcopalians and Moravians that the final vote
According to the web-site of the Moravian Chruch, there are Moravian in two provinces in North American with congregations in 16 states, the District of Columbia, and in two Provinces of Canada. Also known as the Unitas Fratum, or Unity of Brethren, the church pre-dates was founded in Prague and pre-dates the German Reformation.