The 2014 Synod of the Moravian Church has captured the attention of our Provinces and beyond for many reasons. Certainly the decision by Synod regarding parameters of ordination and covenanted relationship following years of prayerful conversation and consideration loomed most central, but other issues were faced with courage through several societal issues to which the Church offered its voice.
As the Church and Society Committee had its plate quite full, the Stewardship Committee took head-on what people of faith have long discussed and written of, wondering, “What is the voice and the will of the Northern Province?” The Stewardship Committee spent significant time discussing and deliberating a number of issues, including guns, war, the environment and the fair treatment of workers, realizing these issues would also be seen from a variety of points of Christian understanding and required addressing by Synod.
The resolution that elicited the most discussion was one that stated “The 2014 Synod of the MCNP legislates that all Moravian Churches in all states of the Northern Province require that each building of the common area of the church campus be gun free, a requirement that all people, even those who have a legal concealed gun permit (other than law enforcement, military and security personnel) will not carry their weapon in any building on the church campus unless otherwise determined by the Church Board.”
This received much opinion and conversation with people of sincere faith expressing a variety of opinions. The final resolution was the result of suggestions and amendments, giving voice, especially in the United States, that although individuals have a constitutional right to have and own guns, guns will not be permitted in any common area of the church campus, those common areas as determined by the official Boards of the church.
So, as are alcohol, tobacco, gambling and guns legal, the Church has seen the wisdom in making its church campus generally free of each. Synod and the Church gave witness to what society may need to consider more deeply, a Christ-honoring way to live the freedoms we cherish.
On a similar point, Synod was invited to consider a resolution regarding what some feel is a state of permanent war. Each nation represented at Synod has actively been involved in a state of war since the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Delegates considered a way to respond to the evidences of violence in many areas of our world that claim the lives and fortunes of so many; young and old, soldier and civilian. They considered the words of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and voted that each congregation would be provided with resources to convey to all in “positions of elected and appointed leadership to prayerfully consider the biblical demands of all choices regarding armed conflict and war, consider the words of Jesus, and enter into armed conflict and war as an absolute last resort to resolve such conflict.” Synod asked delegates and churches to urge all governmental leaders to always strive for a secure and lasting peace using every tool at their disposal such as diplomacy and extensions of humanitarian aid.
Their work not done, the Stewardship Committee took to the floor two other pieces of legislation that at their very core are stewardship driven. Following the lead of the Southern Province Synod of 2014, resolutions were passed stating, “We will claim and affirm our stewardship of creation and all God has given us as an essential part of our discipleship with Jesus Christ.” Realizing that several attending Synod live in states or provinces where drilling for petrochemicals is actively taking place and vital to the economy of the state or province, it was determined that churches will be provided with resources helpful to communicate with elected and appointed legislators overseeing the extraction of these petrochemicals, encouraging that all such efforts be done in a “safe and clean manner, evidencing expressed care for air, water, and land for this and all future generations.”
Lastly, as consumers within our generally very wealthy societies, delegates recognized that we have a responsibility to be Christian stewards as we consider garment purchases. Following the deaths of over 1,100 persons who worked in the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in April of 2013 and other such tragedies, we must demand that those who make the items we purchase have safe working conditions, work reasonable length days, and receive a living wage that will allow all such workers to purchase the necessities of food, shelter, clothing and health care. This too was seen as a command by Jesus, caring for the least of these as Christ-honoring consumers.
You may be wondering if these points of consideration and approval at Synod are consistent with what we know to be biblical stewardship. Stewardship ministry is usually about the teaching and preaching and encouraging of people of faith regarding treasure, talent and time.
But, the “other stuff of stewardship” we discussed in committee and on the floor of Synod have captured me. I will forevermore consider these and other aspects of a civil, just and God-honoring society as part of biblical stewardship. I believe Jesus smiled as we did so. May Jesus continue to smile and bless as we live what we voted. ■
The Rev. Gary Marsh is director of Stewardship for the Northern Province.
From the July/August 2014 Moravian Magazine