In April, more than 220 delegates from Southern Province congregations and agencies will gather in Black Mountain, N.C. for the 2014 Synod. With inspiration from the theme of “Jesus Still Lead On,” delegates will worship and work together to discern what God is calling us to in shared ministry for the coming years.
During this Synod, the structure approved in 2009 will be officially incorporated into the Book of Order. A proposed revision includes keeping the constitutional material and the major statements of organization in the Book of Order, while moving policies and procedures to a policy manual.
This will be the first Southern Province Synod to use electronic balloting, which should streamline the election process. In previous Synods, these elections consumed a great deal of time in plenary sessions, materials, and physical counting. The new process will enable more time for discernment and discussion. Synod business will include election of representatives to the various provincial leadership boards, educational institutions, and ministry groups. The election of the President of the Provincial Elders and Bishop will still use ecclesiastical balloting.
A key feature of every Synod is worship. The Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman will be the keynote speaker. The schedule includes opportunities to begin and end each day with a focus on worship and listening for the One who truly remains our Chief Elder.
Preparation for the 2014 Synod began in May 2013 with selection of delegates, who gathered last September at New Philadelphia Church in Winston-Salem for an orientation event (see the November issue of The Moravian for the full story). A wonderful opportunity to worship together marked the beginning and end of the day, which introduced the theme of “Jesus Still Lead On.” The business session provided a tutorial on electronic balloting and the process for approving the new Book of Order. Delegates met in pilgrimage groups and ended this period of the day combining into the eight characteristic groups.
Each delegate serves in a discernment group with 5-7 fellow delegates. Three of these “pilgrimage groups” form a team around one of the eight characteristics of congregational health, which are a major feature of the provincial structure approved by the 2009 Special Synod. These characteristics include: relationship with Jesus Christ, cooperation, mission, worship, leadership, stewardship, ministry, and growth. At the end of each session, the pilgrimage groups will combine to discuss common threads related to the previous session.
Pilgrimage and characteristic groups will move through the following four stage process:
1: Where Have We Been?—Groups consider shared stories and awareness of what delegates have experienced related to the assigned characteristic.
2: Where Are We Now?—Groups consider present trends and discern ideas and themes current in the congregations represented by a given pilgrimage group. The goal is to identify common threads and examine the current status of some of these trends. Again, the three pilgrimage groups gather for a characteristic group session to compare findings and arrive at a consensus picture of “where we are now.”
3: Where Is God Calling Us?—Each pilgrimage group will explore what Moravian life could be like in the future, especially as it relates to the assigned characteristic. What will the church look like in 2022? How might Moravians sustain congregational health? Groups are encouraged to present in a creative way their vision for the Moravian Church of the future.
4: What Do We Agree On for Our Future?—In the final session, each characteristic group will develop and deliver to the floor of Synod two or three specific goals or statements related to its characteristic theme. This might include programs, structures, and policies that support progress and growth and can help to create and sustain the vision outlined in stage 3. The focus is on common ground, which is distinctly different from “problem solving” approaches to organizational change. The focus will be on honoring differences, finding points of agreement and moving forward together in constructive action.
While synods have been using discernment models since 1998, this particular model may be the boldest attempt yet to ensure every delegate the opportunity to offer specific input toward collective goals and directives in the province.
As preparations continue, delegates are encouraged to observe regular times of prayer for the proceedings of Synod. March 2 has been designated as a prayer day when delegates across the province will be commissioned for their duties within their given congregations and fellowships. Join our delegates as we pray that the 2014 Synod of the Southern Province will be a grand experience as we ask that “Jesus Still Lead On.”
The Rev. Neil Routh is pastor of King Moravian Church (King, N.C.), a member of the Southern Province PEC, and a co-chair of the Synod Program Committee.