Every four years, the Southern Province of the Moravian Church brings together more than 200 delegates to “do the business of the church.” In April, those delegates approved a broad variety of resolutions that affirmed new opportunities, approved administrative and ministerial changes and provided direction for the next four years.
The Provincial Synod has the supreme legislative power of the Province in all things not committed to the Unity Synod. Entrusted to the 200-plus delegates are key decisions about the governance and future direction of the church.
Throughout the four-day event, delegates presented, discussed and debated more than 25 distinct resolutions. While some resolutions weren’t passed or never made it to a full vote, those that were voted upon spanned a wide range of topics.
The 2014 Synod made a greater use of technology to ease the amount of paper used to conduct Synod. Resolutions were distributed digitally prior to Synod and presented onscreen. In addition, elections and resolution votes were handled via an electronic voting system that provided instant feedback and results on votes cast.
The resolutions passed will be used by the Provincial Elders’ Conference and provincial ministries to manage the church. Below is a summary of the significant resolutions passed. More information on these resolutions and their implications on congregational and agency work will be shared over the coming months.
Approval of Revised Constitution and Book of Order of the Southern Province
The Synod approved resolutions to adopt revisions to the Constitution and the Book of Order of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province. These Constitutional and Book of Order changes were the result of the Provincial Restructuring efforts approved at the 2010 Synod of the Southern Province. The revised Book of Order, which includes the revisions to the Constitution, too, will be posted to the Southern Province website once all revisions have been included and properly formatted.
Revision of Board of World Mission Constitution
Synod approved a number of revisions to the Board of World Mission’s Constitution that corrects wording, allows up to four Directors-at-Large with a specified term limit, permits Affiliate Membership to the Board of World Mission, and discontinues the Board’s role of providing a bishop to a Mission Province.
Adoption of a “Safe Sanctuary” Policy for congregations and agencies
Synod passed a resolution mandating that each congregation of the Southern Province and each board and agency shall develop, adopt and implement a “Safe Sanctuary” policy and procedures related to safety issues for the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults. The resolution also ensures guidelines will be provided for what is needed in developing those policies.
Study and Discernment Regarding Homosexuality
Synod passed a resolution that reaffirmed a resolution from 2010 to provide leadership, resources and a process for a conversation about homosexuality in the church that includes diverse viewpoints and opportunities for open and honest discussion, study and discernment. The process of dialogue and discernment should take into account similar efforts made, and decisions that have been or may be reached by sister provinces within the Unity, as well as any actions of the 2014 Unity Board and 2016 Unity Synod. The resolution further stipulates that this work, which was not completed during the last intersynodal period be completed prior to the Synod of 2018.
Synod passed a resolution urging all congregations to include active stewardship of the earth as part of their regular stewardship practices and to call upon the Board of Cooperative Ministries Environmental Task Force for educational materials and other resources to support them in this essential ministry.
Annual Pension Fund Report
Synod resolved that the Provincial Elders’ Conference in consultation with the Pension Committee provide an annual written report to congregations of the Province that includes information about the current balance and number of participants in the Pension Fund and the status of pension obligations.
John Hus Memorial Year 2015
Synod passed a resolution that designates 2015 as a year to honor the memory and teachings of John Hus; and outlined activities and opportunities to honor the legacy of Hus during 2015. It also resolved to encourage the Northern Province Synod, to be held in June, to adopt a similar resolution and that all Moravians be invited to reflect on John Hus’s witness and how his modern spiritual descendants can emulate his example of faithful devotion to Christ.
Synod passed a resolution that directs the Provincial Elders’ Conference or its representatives to engage in an informal, but intentional, dialogue with representatives of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity regarding ways the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province and the WFU School of Divinity can cooperate and collaborate together for their mutual benefit; and present a report at the 2018 Synod describing the progress of this dialogue and collaborative efforts with the WFU School of Divinity. The Moravian Theological Seminary will be invited to participate in these discussions.
New Provincial Share Methodology
Synod adopted a new methodology to determine congregational share for provincial support. This change was based on a share methodology used for budget years 2013 and 2014 that was implemented, monitored, and evaluated by the Provincial Support Services Board and declared a fair and equitable system by the PEC. The resolution passed moves provincial share from an expense-based budget to a new methodology that is income or revenue based. It provides a fair share for congregations while providing a more accurate projection of revenue for annual budgeting. More information on the provincial share methodology will be shared with congregations following Synod.
Spiritual Solidarity with Sisters and Brothers in Honduras
Synod resolved that the Southern Province, in solidarity with the people of Honduras, should raise awareness and engage in educational activities on how the sale and consumption of illegal drugs in North America deeply affect the people of Honduras and results in much violence. The resolution urges pastors and leaders of the church to give voice to the Honduran people’s plight and to hold Hondurans and global partners in prayer.
Synod resolved that the Southern Province’s Cornerstone Campaign be continued for the next inter-synodal period and that the PEC is authorized to establish policies and procedures; to use Cornerstone Campaign funds for such general financial support of new and emerging ministries; and encourage congregations to consider the Cornerstone Campaign in their budgeting process.
Liturgical and Sacramental Unity and Liberty
In order to cultivate creative expressions of worship according to need, Synod charged the Interprovincial Faith and Order Committee to develop guidelines for evaluating changes to liturgies, litanies, rites and sacraments, while maintaining official doctrines and our theology of the heart, so that we may continue to celebrate both the unity and variety of our liturgical life and that if agreeable to both provinces, the guidelines be subject to review by the clergy and bishops of the Northern and Southern provinces.
Unity Women’s Desk Fundraising Campaign
Synod resolved that the Provincial Support Service Board will conduct an assessment of a fundraising campaign for the Unity Women’s Desk, and upon approval of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Southern Province the Women’s Desk be authorized to establish and execute a fundraising campaign, encouraging the support of churches within the Province.
Establishment of Manna Ministries
Synod resolved that the Southern Province recognize the role and value of “Manna Ministries,” new and emerging ministries that do not otherwise fit into the existing models and categories of ministry; and that the Provincial Elders Conference determine how to develop guidelines for Manna Ministries that promote sustainability, offer accountability and foster collaboration and discernment.
The full details on these resolutions, including the “Whereas” statements and full “Resolveds” are available on the Southern Province website, www.mcsp.org. Photos by Mike Riess