While the 2014 Synod may be six months away, Southern Province leaders and Synod delegates met in Winston-Salem to prepare for the upcoming event.
Delegates from across the province joined together at New Philadelphia Moravian Church on Saturday, Sept. 28 to review the purposes of Synod, the workings of the event and what it means to be a delegate to this important part of Moravian Church polity. The Southern Province Synod, whose theme is “Jesus Still Lead On,” is set for April 3-6, 2014 at the Blue Ridge Center in Black Rock, N.C.
The Provincial Synod
According to the Constitution of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province, the Provincial Synod has the supreme legislative power of the Province in all things not committed to the Unity Synod. (Unity Synod is the ruling body of the Unitas Fratrum, the worldwide Moravian Church).
Provincial Synods examine and oversee the affairs of the Province and its congregations. At Synods, the church legislates in regard to constitution, worship and congregational life of the Province; provides vision, direction and expectations for Provincial mission and ministry; elects the Provincial Elder’s Conference and its president; elects representatives to interprovincial agencies, boards and other agencies; elects bishops (when appropriate); elects delegates to Unity Synod; acts as the final court of appeal to hear and redress grievances; and more.
Discerning a vision
As part of the 2014 Synod, delegates will be working to discern a vision for the Province. Working in small teams called “Pilgrimage Groups,” delegates will focus on the Southern Province’s Characteristics for a Healthy Congregation. These include cooperation, growth, leadership, ministry, mission, relationship with Christ (both personally and corporately), stewardship and worship. Three groups will address each characteristic, for a total of 24 groups.
While at Synod, the groups will consider where and how the Chief Elder has been and is leading us, using the “lens” of the assigned characteristic. The groups will consider where the church has been, where it is now, where God is calling the church, and what we agree on for our future.
Following each one of these discerning sessions, the three groups assigned to each characteristic will come together in a Characteristic Group to share insights and agree on proposals to bring to the entire Synod related to the assigned characteristic.
Coming into the meeting, delegates did not know which area they would be focused on. Pilgrimage Groups were assigned characteristics to work on by lot during the September gathering.
The delegates to the 2014 Southern Province Synod were chosen from their congregations. However, a delegate is not a “representative” of the congregation; he or she is not someone who is instructed to vote a certain way on legislation and elections by the congregation or its leadership. Instead, delegates are called out of the congregation because of the character of their Christian living and the depth of maturity of their relationship with Christ and with their brothers and sisters in the congregation and Province.
Delegates are expected to pray before and during Synod for God’s leading and direction for the Province. In preparation for Synod, they are expected to understand the process of Synod, read and reflect on reports from boards and agencies of the church and become knowledgeable about nominees for various elected offices and boards.
Once at Synod, delegates are expected to take an active part in Synod itself, including worship, group sessions, elections and consideration of resolutions. As importantly, delegates will share and help implement the results of Synod throughout the Province.
The September 28 event was designed to provide this and more information to the delegates to Synod. Throughout the day, Provincial leaders discussed how Synod works and what delegates should expect for 2014.
As it is with Synod, worship was a key component of this meeting. At the open and close of the Pre-Synod Meeting, attendees gathered for worship, music and contemplation, with words from Southern Province pastors and bishops.
And the delegate Pilgrimage Groups had an opportunity to meet with their fellow delegates and discuss what they’ll be working on at Synod. The groups are mixed by location, lay/clergy and demographics to provide a good diversity of thought and knowledge.
In the months leading up to Synod, the Synod Planning Committee is distributing devotions for delegates and their congregations. These devotions provide prayer and insight in preparation for the work of Synod.
More to come
In future issues of The Moravian, we’ll share additional information about preparations for the 2014 Southern Province Synod, along with articles about the upcoming 2014 Northern Province Synod, scheduled for June 19-23, 2014 in Bethlehem, Pa.