In its fifth meeting in the triennium, the Moravian-Episcopal dialogue continued its discussion on how the three-fold ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons functions in each church. The Moravian Church, part of the worldwide community known as the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren), traces an episcopal succession to 1467 and has maintained the three-fold ministry. Moravians history goes back to the pre-Reformation faith of Jan Hus and their first missionaries to America came to Georgia in 1735.
The dialogue received reports from the semi-autonomous Northern and Southern Provincial Synods of the Moravian Church in America which met last summer and approved a resolution on Interim Eucharistic Sharing with the Episcopal Church. In response, the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations of the Episcopal Church approved a similar resolution and will take it to the General Convention next summer.
The dialogue participants also focused on areas of cooperation and joint witness where the two churches are already engaged. Next February a major meeting in North Carolina will bring together Episcopalians, Lutherans and Moravians to look at ways to facilitate joint mission and witness in the future and take stock of what is already happening. Future meetings will look at how the two churches develop and implement their global mission strategies. Bishop Gary Gloster of North Carolina, Episcopal co-chair of the dialogue, is coordinating areas of joint social witness.
The major focus for the dialogue in coming months, leading up to the General Convention, will be to disseminate information about the Moravian Church to Episcopalians. A comprehensive resource packet, for example, is being assembled for bishops and deputies.
'The dialogue is heading towards a second phase,' said Dr. Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy for the Episcopal Church's office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. 'We have done a lot of the introductory theological work in the last three years and now look forward to a period of Interim Eucharistic Sharing as we begin to live into a new relationship. It's an exciting time, especially for these two churches that express themselves largely in terms of how we worship. We have so much to learn from one another.'