In our January issue of the Moravian Magazine, we introduced a new regular feature, “Studying Moravian Doctrine.” Following the outline established by Jesus Still Lead On, An Introduction to Moravian Belief, we will cover different aspects of two central documents outlining Moravian doctrine and belief each month.
This month wraps up the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. Beginning with our January/February 2016 issue, we will begin our journey through the Ground of the Unity.
Thanks to Dr. Craig Atwood and the editors of Jesus Still Lead On (produced in 2005) for this material. If you are interested in obtaining the entirety of Jesus Still Lead On, please contact the IBOC or visit store.moravian.org. The full text of the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living and the Ground of the Unity are available as a free download from www.moravian.org. Printed copies are available from the IBOC.
We realize that all areas of Christian life and conduct cannot be covered in this statement of principles by which we live and bear our witness, and we call attention, therefore, to the Christian’s responsibility to follow Christ as Lord of all areas of life.
We make it a duty of the Board of Elders, which is charged with the spiritual welfare of the congregation, to see that this Moravian Covenant be adhered to and faithfully observed; and we will cooperate with the Board of Elders in its efforts to maintain the discipline of the congregation. As a redemptive community we will be much more concerned in aiding than censuring those who falter, being conscious of our own need for correction and forgiveness.
This is a catch-all statement to cover areas not specified in the Covenant, but it is consistent with the Moravian Church’s traditional teaching that all of life should be held in sacred trust. We do not believe that there is a difference between our secular life and our religious life, but all of our activities are part of our worship and service to the Lord. The final paragraph recalls the ancient tradition of our Church that our church leaders have the responsibility to see to the discipline of the congregation. At certain times in our history, and in some provinces of our Unity today, this practice of church discipline has been rigorously enforced. In the North American provinces today, elders tend to leave members of the congregation to follow their own conscience unless their behavior is affecting the life of the community.
Discipline should not be confused with punishment or judging others. In fact, discipline is a process that renders punishment unnecessary. Moreover, the Church’s concern is not to condemn but to help brothers and sisters. It is appropriate that the Covenant end with the final observation that in following this Covenant we are aware of our need for both correction and forgiveness. In the Moravian tradition, we are much more concerned about our own short-comings than the faults of others.
- What areas of the Christian life do you think the Covenant does not address?
- Are there areas of your life that you think the Church should leave alone?
- Does the Covenant present any challenges to you in your life?
- What do you think of the idea of the Elders being in charge of discipline? Are there any dangers in this? What are the benefits?
- How should the Elders perform this duty?
- How would you sum up the teaching of the Covenant?
- Do you think the Covenant is consistent with the teaching of Jesus? Why or why not? ■
From the December 2015 Moravian Magazine