Over the past two years, a team of representatives of the Moravian and United Methodist Churches have been gathering for a dialogue about the possibility of entering into a full communion agreement between our denominations. We held four extended face-to-face meetings, and did a lot of work in between to come to the point where we are today.
At our most recent gathering, held September 11ñ13, 2014 in Winston-Salem, N.C., we put together the final draft of a document indicating our strong conviction that an agreement of full communion is not only warranted, but in fact would be formalizing a relationship that has been in existence for many years.† This document will now be forwarded to the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church for consideration at 2018 Synods, and to the United Methodist Church and its next General Conference.
Prior to this latest meeting, the dialogue team has explored matters relating to our history, doctrine, church practice and daily life in our local congregations. As a result of these discussions the committee found no church-dividing issues, hence our recommendation to move forward with the process without delay.
To be in full communion with our United Methodist brothers and sisters means that we mutually recognize and value the diverse gifts present in each church; respect each other as part of the body of Christ in the world today; commit each church to cooperate in common ministries of evangelism, witness and service; recognize the validity of each other’s sacramental life and ministerial orders, allowing for the transfer of membership and the orderly exchange of clergy (subject to the regulations of church order and practice of each church); and commit each church to continue to work for the visible unity of the church, recognizing that this relationship of full communion is but a step toward the unity to which we are called.
The dialogue team has been co-chaired by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, of The United Methodist Church and the Rev. Gary Harke of the Moravian Church.
Other members of the team include Prof. Dr. Ulrike Schuler, and the Rev. Dr. Robert Williams representing The United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Dr. M. Lynnette Delbridge and the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler representing the Moravian Church (Northern and Southern Provinces). The committee received staff assistance from Dr. Glen Alton Messer, II from the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church.
Reflecting our desire to work in union with other Christian denominations, it is worth noting that the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church are already in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Episcopal Church, and are in a covenant partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler is a Moravian Bishop and pastor of Edgeboro Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pa.