Using documents from North American Synods, statements from the Moravian Interprovincial Faith and Order Commission, the Ground of the Unity and the Covenant for Christian Living to lead our thinking, Bishop Burkette led the day-and-a-half session with humor and insight.
“A conclusion that I came to is that it is in Scripture that we find the base of our beliefs. From the Ancient Unity until the present age this appears to be truth,” says Mallie Graham, a member of Home Moravian Church and the chair of the Lay Seminary committee. “But we were also reminded that Scripture is interpreted in many ways and that no one interpretation is the only prescribed way.”
“This year the topic caught my attention so I decided to attend because I wanted to know more about the trends in modern Moravian theology,” said Carole C. Martin of Raleigh Moravian Church in Raleigh, N.C. “The discussions challenged me to think deeper about some of the belief we take at face value; professing, but never really thinking about.
“As Christians living in the 21st century, we deal with people who will question our beliefs so we need to know what we as Moravians believe and why,” continued Carol. “To be effective Christians in the 21st century, we must not be afraid to question and be open to discussions with others’ belief systems. We must think critically, pray, study the scriptures diligently, and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit so that the love of Jesus can be shared with others.”
During his teaching, Brother Burkette continued that in our Moravian Church we often talk about the essentials and nonessentials of our Faith. The essentials we find in scripture to be our belief in the Grace of God, the saving worth of Jesus Christ and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
A second category was added, that is ministerial which would be the ministry of the church pointing us toward salvation through Jesus Christ. And then the nonessentials or incidentals which are those things like traditions of Lovefeast and the coffee and the bun, decorations, etc, all the things that help us to feel comfortable in our worship experience and church life.
Don Frey of the Home Church congregation writes, “My understanding of Moravian theology has been from reading Moravian history. So, I was eager to learn about recent developments, and discovered that they have reaffirmed the best insights of the older theology. Our speaker noted the recent return to speaking of essentials, ministerial and incidentals, instead of just essentials and non-essentials. The ancient Unity talked this way, and it provides a way to avoid sharp either/or polarizations.
“There was a lengthy discussion on what was deemed essential, and what was ministerial, especially in regard to the role of scriptures. (Note: the word ministerial dates back to the Ancient Unity.) We are all attached to the biblical record, and it is a great comfort to us, both in our studies at church and in our homes. The Bible is our guide.”
“I pondered the Bible being ministerial. Clearly Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Word made Flesh—manifest. I thought of being marooned on a desert island. What book would I want, and if I could only have one? Clearly, I would want a Bible.”
Grounded in Scripture
More than 40 Southern Province Moravians attended this Lay Seminary, hosted at Fries Memorial Church in Winston-Salem. Throughout the day and a half presentation, Bishop Burkette injected his perspective and insights to help explain the theological underpinnings of recent Moravian resolutions and the work of the Faith and Order Commission. At the same time, he used those same documents to clarify a view of current Moravian theology.
“It is interesting that respondents and I centered our comments on theology being grounded in the scriptures through the ages,” said Faye Gardner, Oak Grove Moravian. “Also, that throughout our history our scholars have longed for the Lord’s leading through the Holy Spirit to “fine tune” our theology. I believe that this Lay Seminary, limited to only three sessions—about seven hours—confirmed our continual seeking truth, truth that will bring us into a closer relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ.”
New name, expanded program
The Lay Seminary has served our Southern Province with varied educational opportunities for more than 50 Years. As this article goes to press Lay Seminary is getting a new name and expanded program. You will now want to look forward to The Comenius Learning Series (CLS). The next event sponsored under this umbrella is the CLS Summer Conference: “Comenius for a Complicated World,” July 5 – 7 at Laurel Ridge. Featured speakers are the Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood and Dr. Diane Lipsett. For more information, contact the Board of Cooperative Ministries, 336.722.8126.
Mallie Graham, Chair of the Lay Seminary, Member of Home Church, Winston-Salem. “I guess this is my last article about Lay Seminary,” says Mallie. “I have enjoyed the work that the committee has done. Rick Sides and I worked very closely over the last few years for some very interesting topics. New learning experiences are on the way through the Comenius Learning Series!” Photo above: Bishop Wayne Burkette leads the Fall 2012 Lay Seminary at Fries Memorial Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
From the April 2013 Moravian Magazine