It would have been easy to overlook amid the news about the Presbyterian Church (USA), but there was another cliff-jumping this weekend. The Northern Province of the Moravian Church, my former denomination and the oldest of all Protestant churches, also voted to take the plunge:
The 2014 Synod of the Moravian Church, Northern Province has approved a proposal to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals, whether single, married or in covenanted relationships.
By a vote of 181-62, synod delegates approved the proposal, which also includes provisions to revise the Book of Order of the Moravian Church Northern Province to reflect this change, and a call to create a rite for solemnizing covenanted relationships for use in the Northern Province.
“Moravians understand that God’s call to us is to welcome all people, because God’s embrace is far larger than our capacity to imagine,” said the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller, president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province. “The 2014 Synod responded to God’s leading to receive the gifts of gay and lesbian individuals who wish to serve as ordained servants in the Moravian Church Northern Province.”
“This decision came following much prayer and consideration and many differing opinions were expressed during debate,” said Miller. “We know that there are Moravians who deeply love God, who honor the authority of Scripture and love the Moravian Church who do not agree with this resolution. It is my prayer that as Moravians, in relationship with one another, we can continue to walk together in love, even as we acknowledge our differences.”
It’s amazing how similar the language is among gay advocates regardless of denomination. I’m sure (because I know the way Moravians think) that Dr. Miller thinks she is somehow being very “Moravian” in talking about “welcoming all people” and “acknowledging our differences” and “walking together in love.” In fact, she’s completely interchangeable with Gradye Parsons of the PCUSA, Katherine Jefforts-Schori of the Episcopal Church, Mark Hanson of the ELCA, or any other mainline leader.
There have already been some defections from the Moravian Church over The Issue, defections that the denomination can ill afford because it is so small (fewer than 50,000 members in North America). Moravians do, however, on the whole have an almost infinite capacity for papering over differences and ignoring heresy, the very concept of which is felt to be somehow “unMoravian,” because it suggests that there are some theological affirmations worth fighting about. I remember being gob-smacked twenty years ago when a writer asserted in the denominational magazine that Moravians (whose motto is “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love”) have only one essential, Christ–which meant, presumably, that an Ebionite Oneness Pentecostal would have been perfectly suited for ordination. I didn’t think that a widespread opinion then. Now, maybe so.
In any case, whether the Northern Province faces any clergy or membership losses, the pity is that a historically important Christian movement has now officially begun the process of forfeiting any claim on that name.