Southern Province consecrates its first woman bishop

On Sunday, June 10, 2018, Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem was filled with people, all gathered to see and take part in the consecration of Carol Foltz as a bishop for the Southern Province. As the Rt. Rev. Lane Sapp said in his sermon, “This is a historic day. In this sacred space Sister Carol, one day shy of 40 years ago on June 11, 1978, was ordained the first female to serve as a deacon in our province. And today, you become the first female to be consecrated to the office of bishop in the Moravian Church Southern Province.”

It was a joy to see how many people came out for Carol’s consecration. Not only were the lower sanctuary floor pews filled to capacity, but there was no room left in the upper loft sanctuary pews. According to Bishop Lane, “Sunday afternoons at three o’clock are the hardest times to preach. Especially when it’s warm in the sanctuary.” But despite the heat, many had arrived to see this historic moment.

The service included a warm greeting from the Unity Board, delivered by the Rev. Dr. Cortroy Jarvis, sharing prayers of wisdom and strength to Carol in the continuance of her service. The service continued with the Liturgy for Consecration, led by the Rt. Rev. Blair Couch, and special anthems sung by the choir, anthems so beautiful and quietly intense that several “Amens” were voiced once the music had faded.

Bishop Sapp then stood and delivered a powerful sermon on the duties and responsibilities of bishops, pointing out that pastors have a challenging job to bring comfort and reassurance to God’s people in today’s troubled world, and that they and their families are under a lot of personal stress. Recollecting a conversation he had with a congregation member, Bishop Sapp said that when he needs a listening ear and advice only a pastor can give, he turns to his bishop friends. In the Moravian Church, bishops are the pastors for the pastors.

Episcopal, Moravian and ELCA bishops bless Carol during her consecration as bishop of the Moravian Unity.

In addition to explaining the duties of bishops, Bishop Sapp gave Carol a few pieces of advice to guide her in her ministry one of which was to take time to be alone. Throughout his ministry, Jesus would take time to pray and contemplate in solitude before embarking on his next step in his journey, and Bishop Sapp urged Carol to do the same. “Following the example of Jesus, your life must be undergirded by solitude and prayer,” he said. “A disciplined prayer life will undergird the life of anyone who would serve in this ministry.”

Following the sermon, Carol then knelt before Bishop Couch and Bishop Sapp, joined by Anne Hodges-Copple, VI Bishop Suffragen of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and Herman Yoos, Bishop of the South Carolina Synod of the ELCA, to receive the laying on of hands and blessing. Bishop Sapp delivered the blessing, asking God to “Make her a wise pastor, a patient teacher and a faithful witness” and to “grant that in all things she may serve without reproach, that your people may be renewed and that your name may be glorified in the church.” As the blessing came to a close, the bishops rose and greeted Carol Foltz as a new bishop with the right hand of fellowship.

Once all the bishops had welcomed Carol as a new bishop, Bishop Couch faced Carol to give her a few words of encouragement and blessing. She commented that Carol had chosen the theme for the service to be Christ as the Great Shepherd and that it struck her “that in your passion for training dogs, you exhibit many qualities of a shepherd yourself.” Bishop Couch then prayed, “May each interaction with all God’s creatures remind you of the abundance of Christ’s shepherding in your life.”

Newly-consecrated bishop Carol Foltz delivers the benediction at her service in June.

Carol then took her place behind the pulpit as a soprano sung a solo version of “The Lord is My Shepherd” before leading the gathered congregation in the Festal Doxology as a call and response reading. She then gave the final benediction, which was followed by the whole congregation singing, “Lift High the Cross.”

With her consecration, the Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz is now the 367th bishop consecrated since the beginning of the Moravian Church and the 305th bishop consecrated in the Renewed Moravian Church. She was elected along with the now Rt. Rev. Tom Shelton during the 2018 Synod of the Moravian Church Southern Province’s sessions on Saturday, April 21.

Anna French, IBOC intern, wrote this article; photos by Andrew David Cox. We will share Bishop Shelton’s service in our next issue.