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Moravian Church.

1. The Moravian Ch. may be traced to the Bohemian* Brethren. At the beginning of the Luth. Reformation* the Brethren had ca. 400 chs. and ca. 200,000 mems. Relations were est. with Luths. and Ref. See also Bohemia, Lutheran Theology in.

2. In polity the Brethren were episc. Administration of the congs. was in the hands of elders. Communities were supervised and counseled by masters and matrons. One group in the community, regarded as the perfected, renounced private property, performed pastoral functions, and earned their living largely by the work of their hands; they were called priests, but there was no specially appointed priesthood till 1467, when a Waldensian apparently conferred on 3 of them orders which they regarded as being in the proper hist. succession. The name Brethren, already in unofficial use, was adopted. As a whole they called themselves Jednota Bratrska (Brüdergemeinschaft; later tr. Unitas fratrum, Lat.Unity of the Brethren”). They became active esp. in educ. and literature; their Czech Bible tr. (called Bible of Kralice [Ger. Kralitz] from the place of pub.) was completed 1593 and contains J. Blahoslav's* NT.

3. Moravians suffered severely during the Thirty* Years' War. Many fled to Hung., Saxony, Silesia, Poland, and elsewhere. See also Comenius, John Amos.

In 1722 two Hussite Bohemian families from Moravia found refuge on the estate of N L. v. Zinzendorf* in Saxony; in course of yrs. they were joined by hundreds of others from Moravia, Bohemia, and elsewhere. The settlement, founded on the slope of Mount Hut, was called Herrnhut. An assoc. was formed on basis of common religious ground; order and discipline were est. A Communion service August 13, 1727, helped unify the group; some regard it as the beginning of the Moravian Ch., See also Nitschmann, David.

4. The 1st Moravian miss. came to Pennsylvania 1734. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was settled 1740–41 by Moravians. Nearby Nazareth was bought by Moravians from G. Whitefield* 1740. At Bethlehem, Nazareth, and affiliated settlements there gradually arose, and prevailed ca. 1744–62, a system of life called Economy, Spartan in rigor and formed esp. to support miss. work, which included outreach to Indians. In 1749 the Brit. parliament recognized the Brethren as “an ancient Protestant Episcopal Church.” Lititz, Pennsylvania (named after an estate on which the Boh. Brethren found their 1st home 1456), was settled ca. 1740, laid out 1757, inc. 1759. Moravians came to North Carolina 1753 and founded Salem (now part of Winston-Salem) 1766. The exclusive community system was abandoned ca. the middle of the 19th c.

5. Doctrines of the Moravian Ch. are stated, e.g., in A. G. Spangenberg,* Idea fidei fratrum, oder kurzer Begrif der Christlichen Lehre in den evangelischen Brüdergemeinen. This statement was authorized, but not received as a pub. confession. In Luth. countries, Moravian doctrines were influenced by Lutheran* Confessions; in Eng. and Am., Ref. influence prevailed. Because Luth. and Ref. elements largely existed side by side, a strong and enduring tendency toward union developed. At first the Moravian Ch. was not free from fanaticism. The Trin. was thought of in a grossly offending way; the 1st person of the Godhead was called Papa, Grandfather, or Father-in-law; the 3d person was called Mama and the eternal Spouse of God the Father. Elimination of such things is largely due to Spangenberg. In gen. the doctrine of the Moravan Ch. represents Calvinistic Protestantism. The Bible is accepted as an adequate rule of faith and practice. The Apostles' Creed is regarded as formulating the prime arts. of faith found in the Bible. Foot washing was discontinued 1818. Infant Baptism is practiced. Adult bap. mems. are confirmed on application after receiving instruction. Nonbaptized applicants are received as mems. through Baptism, usually by sprinkling. Communion is open to communicant mems. of other chs.

6. Moravian ch. govt. is presb. Each cong. has its own council but gen. supervision rests with the provincial syn. comprised of an equal no. of lay and cleric representatives. The syn. deals with all matters of faith and practice. Moravians recognize 3 orders of ministry: deacons, presbyters, and bps. Only bps. may ordain. Moravians have an elaborate liturgy.

7. Moravians are very active in miss. work, holding that Moravian colonies should be as leaven. Early Moravians did not try to gain mems. for their group but often advised converts to join other Protestants. Miss. fields include W Indies, Greenland, Surinam, S. Afr., N. Am., Labrador, Nicaragua, Australia, Tanzania.

8. In the 1960s the Moravian Ch. had 5 provinces, each responsible for an area of miss. work: Eur. (HQ Herrnhut and Bad Boll), Czechoslovakia (HQ Prague), Brit. (HQ London), Am. N. (HQ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), Am. S. (HQ Winston-Salem, North Carolina).

9. In the US the Moravian Ch. is represented by the Moravian Ch. in Am. (Unitas Fratrum) with 2 provincial syns. The Unity of the Brethren (known as Ev. Unity of the Czech-Moravian Brethren in N. Am. till 1959) is mostly in Tex.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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