By now you have seen the Moravian Ministries Foundation’s new ads in The Moravian, and hopefully you read our story that appeared earlier this year. I also hope you received and read the letter we wrote to each of you recently. Now the Foundation wants to share more important information about our hopes, dreams and work.
Last year we began a process of reexamination, reevaluation and renewal. Sometimes organizations need to step back, reflect, and learn. We also wanted to prepare for our 15th Anniversary. We just knew the time was right to do this.
Our process continues to be enlightened and inspired by Katherine Carté Engel, PhD, a Religious Studies faculty member at Southern Methodist University. Kate is not Moravian, but she knows our history from her research and study of early American Protestant churches, and in particular, the Moravian Church. In fact, Kate has published papers on this topic and a book titled Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America. Not only is her work highly regarded, but has won her national awards and accolades.
What did she say about the Moravians that drew so much attention?
To begin, her research came from reading correspondence, reports, and official documents housed in the Moravian Archives. What they tell us, with Kate’s insights, is that the early Moravian Church in America was unique in its view of the intersection of money, profit, the economy, and ministry.
Kate shares that the early Moravian Church in America — clergy and lay leaders — embraced the notion that using and promoting profits earned by individuals were good things, so long as they furthered the ministries the Moravian Church was called to do. How the individual conducted his or her business affairs was also important; the buyer, whether s/he was Moravian or not, was treated with respect and never exploited. The profits were expected to be well-earned.
The early Moravian Church was organized around this model and helped early Moravians be leaders in mission work throughout the Americas. Put in contemporary English — Moravians literally invested where they believed!
Jumping a few centuries ahead, we now hear of churches and the works of the Moravian Church struggling because finances are tight. We lived through a stressful financial period which affected all of us. The reality is, like the rest of America, the Moravians are in the early stages of the greatest wealth transfer to ever take place and there appears to be great capacity to support more ministry than we might believe. Therefore the question before of all of us is: How can we motivate and encourage Moravians to Invest Where They Believe, just as the early Church did?
In America, experts have projected that over the next few decades over $41 trillion — yes, trillion — in assets (cash, real estate, life insurance polices, personal investments, etc.) will pass from one generation to the next through bequests and the like. In a recent study of Moravians, the data are also compelling; it found the 17,500 Moravian households in the USA owning between $8 billion and $12 billion in assets, with a large portion passing from one generation to the next during the next 25 years.
Some may ask: How can this be? It is easy to grasp. Think about the value of your home or farm. Think about what you might have in CDs, investments, life insurance and commercial annuities, in retirement plans, and the value of other items like family jewelry, art, antiques etc. It all begins to add up and the averages are between $450,000 and $700,000 per Moravian household.
Then I put my Foundation hat on and ask: Gee, if every Moravian set aside just 10 percent of what they own in the form of a bequest to their Church or favorite ministry, how much good and essential works could be performed? It would make what the early Moravians did pale by comparison.
People often say there is more to Church than money. This is, of course, true. We are a Christ-centered faith community. However, when you read the Gospels, Jesus talks about money and its use a great deal. He saw it, just as the early Moravians did, as a means towards an end – supporting the manifestations of our faith. For example, money enables us to educate men and women who are called to serve the Church as pastors…it enables West Side Moravian Church in Bethlehem to operate a safe homeless shelter for women…it enables the retirement communities to care for frail elders who have exhausted their savings, with dignity…it enables the Board of World Mission to bring the Gospel to people in far away lands…it enables church groups, from across both Provinces, to go to Staten Island and New Jersey to aid in the recovery effort after Sandy…it enables the pastor at First Church in Dover, Ohio to help someone who needs assistance with a paying for utilities or for food from the church’s Pastoral Care Fund…it enables King Moravian Church to have a wonderful new organ and strengthen its vibrant Moravian Music program…and so much more.
In closing, I am asking you to consider these questions: Which ministry or ministries does the Church offer that are important to me? Then: How much more good work could this do if I left 10% of my estate for perpetual support?
Invest Where You Believe; it’s important and very Moravian.
Paul D. McLaughlin is president of the Moravian Ministries Foundation. Find out more at www.mmfa.info.
From the June/July 2013 Moravian Magazine