In the peaceful, comfortable setting at Oak Ridge Conference Center in Chaska, Minn., members of the Provincial Elders’ Conferences, North and South, met jointly to pray, study God’s word, share best practices and encourage and support one another. Thanks to funding from the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America, and in conjunction with the annual shareholders meeting of MMFA, all but three of us gathered for a day together.
“Where have you seen God at work in your province?” was the question that opened our time. The responses were abundant, as signs of hope continue to be evident, even in the midst of concerns and constraints.
We learned from one another in a variety of areas. Members from the Northern Province offered insights on what we had learned through the process and outcome of our four-year study of human sexuality. Members from the Southern Province offered their perspective and insights on what has gone well and processes they might have done differently in the area of restructure. In each case, the spirit of open sharing and honest conversation served to strengthen the wider church.
Matters of theological education always cause lively conversation. How do we prepare the best people to provide the most faithful leadership for our congregations? With only one accredited Moravian seminary in our two provinces, we discussed residency requirements, distance learning, a hybrid form of pedagogy and ways to foster community and spiritual formation that encourages lifelong colleagues in ministry. As technology changes, it is prudent to consider adaptations to our expectations of seminarians. A Task Force, comprised of PEC members and seminary faculty, has been meeting for over two years to explore these questions. In January 2015 this group will meet with the entire seminary faculty to continue this conversation.
Another topic of common interest to both PECs is assuring that our clergy get the best health care and pension at the most cost-effective price. While the plans in each province are very different, we continue to talk about ways that we might share the best of our respective plans and find economies of scale. Once again, we have asked our benefits staff to come together to search for ways to work together.
Finally, we received reports from our Interprovincial Agencies and updates from our ecumenical dialogue teams. The United Methodist-Moravian dialogue team has completed its work and submitted their final report, for action at our respective synods in 2018. We are grateful to Moravian team members, Gary Harke, Lynnette Delbridge and Chris Giesler for their work. We look to an implementation team that will explore ways we might begin to live into full communion now, by sharing ministries with our United Methodist siblings in our local areas.
One specific outcome of this meeting was a call for an Interprovincial Leadership Summit that will bring together PECs, agency heads, and staff to explore opportunities for ministry and witness across our provinces.
It has been our tradition to open our meeting to a representative from the Church Council of the ELCA; at the last minute, ELCA rep. Dr. Susan McArver was unable to join us due to a family medical emergency. Betsy Miller now serves as the Moravian representative to the ELCA Church Council after Chris Thore represented us for the past four years. ■
Submitted by The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, Northern Province PEC president and The Rev. David Guthrie, Southern Province PEC president.