The full communion agreement, which still requires approval of the Moravian Provinces at their respective 2018 Synods, recognizes each other’s ministries and encourages witness and mission work together. Representatives from the UMC announced the approval at the Ecumenical Day celebration during General Conference in Portland, Ore. on May 17, 2016.
The full communion agreement is the result of several years of work by the Moravian-United Methodist Dialogue Team. The final draft of the agreement was completed in September 2014.
“At that time, we put together the final draft of a document indicating our strong conviction that an agreement of full communion is not only warranted, but in fact would be formalizing a relationship that has been in existence for many years,” said the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler, who was in Portland representing the Moravian Church in America for the Ecumenical Day celebration. “This just makes official what’s been reality for going on 200 some years.”
“You find out many things about yourself as well when you talk with a dialogue partner,” explained Dr. Glen Messer, a staff executive with the Council of Bishops’ Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, during a press conference on May 17. “You find out a lot about your similarities and your differences and have a real opportunity to grow in relationship with one another.”
New England Area Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who co-chaired the dialogue with the Rev. Gary Harke of the Moravian Church, also lauded the long-time connection between the two churches. “The Wesley brothers had a lot to learn from the Moravian brothers and sisters and I hope and pray that we will rekindle that spirit as we go forward,” he said.
Other members of the team include Prof. Dr. Ulrike Schuler and the Rev. Dr. Robert Williams representing The United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Dr. M. Lynnette Delbridge and the Rt. Rev. Giesler representing the Moravian Church (Northern and Southern Provinces). The committee received staff assistance from Dr. Messer.
To be in full communion with our United Methodist brothers and sisters means that we mutually recognize and value the diverse gifts present in each church; respect each other as part of the body of Christ in the world today; commit each church to cooperate in common ministries of evangelism, witness and service; recognize the validity of each other’s sacramental life and ministerial orders, allowing for the transfer of membership and the orderly exchange of clergy (subject to the regulations of church order and practice of each church); and commit each church to continue to work for the visible unity of the church, recognizing that this relationship of full communion is but a step toward the unity to which we are called.
The full communion agreement will be referred to the 2018 Synods of the Northern and Southern Provinces for approval. Once those approvals are reached, the agreement will be final.
Portions of this report were provided by United Methodist News Service.
Photo: Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar (left) of the Boston Episcopal Area welcomes the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler, representing the Moravian Church Northern & Southern Provinces, to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service (UMNS)