Healthy congregations….care and nurture of clergy…lay leadership…local and global missions…stewardship…identity, purpose and organization…ministry to youth and young adults.
These are just some of the wide-ranging topics delegates tackled at the 2014 Synod of the Moravian Church Northern Province, held June 19-23 at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa.
Over the course of four-and-a-half days, Synod delegates brought more than 70 reports to the floor of Synod for discussion, debate and approval. These reports represent the legislative work of Synod, which helps direct the Province and the Provincial Elders’ Conference for the coming four years.
Most of delegates’ working time during the first several days was spent in one of a dozen different committees. Each of these committees was tasked with addressing a different aspect of church life and with bringing actionable legislation to the floor of Synod.
By Saturday, the Synod began addressing that legislation as a body. Rick Santee, Northern Province Chancellor and Chairman of the Synod, guided the process along with vice chairman Graham Kerslake from the Canadian District. Each report was introduced, discussed (sometimes at length) and ultimately approved or rejected. Deliberation on the reports and resolutions continued through Monday evening.
Many of the items brought to the floor of Synod confirmed the acceptance of status reports from the many provincial and interprovincial agencies that work with and for the Northern Province. In accepting the reports, Synod delegates expressed their gratitude for the service and efforts of these agencies and provided an important affirmation of the work being done on behalf of the province, its congregations and members.
Delegates completed significant legislation in several key areas. This Synod took the next steps in the Identity, Purpose and Organization (IPO) initiative begun in 2010 to examine the structure of the Province. Synod directed the Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC) to develop and implement a process of Holy Conversations across the Northern Province to engage congregations in listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit in considering the IPO Report. This effort will begin later this year and run through November 2015. Synod also charged the PEC to encourage “adaptive change experiments” related to identity, connectivity, leadership and call and congregations in context, and set up the possibility of a special Synod in 2016 to address and implement IPO initiatives.
Through resolutions brought by the Care and Nurture of Clergy, Spiritual Formation, Healthy Congregations and Finance Committees, synod also took action to address salary, pension, health care and spiritual formation for clergy and specified efforts to better define healthy congregations and common ministries funding. Additional resolutions seeking to shore up benefit and pension funds while educating congregations about the Provinces’ benefits programs were also passed.
Groups working on Lay Leadership, Ministry to Older Adults, Ministry to Youth and Young Adults, Spiritual Formation and Local and Global Missions brought resolutions that seek to expand access to faith resources, explore emerging ministries and introduce or enhance opportunities for spiritual formation, growth and fellowship both inside and outside of the church.
The Stewardship Committee brought a broad range of resolutions addressing pastor compensation and a number of social issues including gun violence, peace, ethical purchases and environmental stewardship. (For more on these, see the article by Gary Marsh on page 28.)
The Northern Province Synod also acted on several pieces of legislation that were originally discussed at the 2014 Southern Province Synod in April. These included solidarity with brothers and sisters in Honduras; work of the Unity Women’s Desk; commemoration of the 600th anniversary of John Hus’ martyrdom in 2015 and approval of the Board of World Mission’s constitution changes.
In resolutions from the Church and Society Committee, the 2014 Synod approved the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors in the Moravian Church Northern Province and affirmed a commitment to be inclusive of the differing views regarding the topic and the right of clergy and members of the Province to freely speak, write and express their perspectives.
And Synod addressed a broad range of financial issues, including the passage of the 2015 budget for the Province, affirmation and continuation of the income-based Common Ministries Funding Methodology implemented in 2012 and encouragement for congregations to explore electronic giving and faith gifts.
The Synod concluded Monday evening with a humorous and heartfelt “First Partial and Final Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Thankfulness,” expressing gratitude for the work of all those involved with planning and running Synod.
Complete resolutions passed by the 2014 Northern Province Synod.
From the July/August 2014 Moravian Magazine