John M. Becker

Moravian Church Body Votes to Affirm Gay Relationships, Clergy

Filed By John M. Becker | June 24, 2014 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Christianity, clergy, gay marriage, marriage equality, Moravian Church, relationship recognition, same-sex marriage

moravian-church-seal.jpgBy an overwhelming margin, representatives of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church voted Sunday to ordain gay and lesbian clergy and create a formal ritual for solemnizing same-sex relationships.

The Eaton, Pennsylvania Express-Times reports:

In a 181-62 decision, the 2014 synod delegates approved the proposal Sunday at its Bethlehem headquarters. Provisions will be revised in the Book of Order of the Moravian Church to reflect the changes as the province will allow for the ordination of every individual "whether single, married or in covenanted relationships."

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller, president of the Provincial Elders' Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province, said in a prepared statement that "many differing opinions were expressed during the debate," but the decision was made after "much prayer and consideration."

"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," Miller said in the statement... The decision will not force congregations to nominate gay and lesbian pastors, as the decision lies with the individual congregations' Boards of Elders and Trustees, according to the statement.

The Northern Province's Book of Order will be revised to reflect the changes.

More details, after the jump.

east-side-moravian-church-green-bay.jpgThe Moravian Church in the Northern Province is part of the worldwide Moravian Church Unity and the largest of the Moravian Church's three provinces in North America. It has 23,000 members in twelve U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces (California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Alberta, and Ontario). The Northern Province affirmed gays and lesbians as full members back in 1974, becoming one of the first Christian churches to do so.

The Moravian Church, which was founded in 1457 in the Czech Republic, is considered to be the world's oldest Protestant denomination. According to Religion News Service, the worldwide Moravian Church consists of 21 provinces with more than one million members, half of whom live in Africa. Moravianism in North America dates back to 1735, when the church's first missionaries arrived from Saxony, Germany and settled among German immigrants in Pennsylvania.

Asked by The Bilerico Project whether the new ritual solemnizing same-sex relationships will be a marriage ritual and use marital language, Rev. Dr. Miller said that synod delegates approved a "rite for solemnizing a covenanted relationship." She added that the synod is "still putting together a statement" on the matter of how that rite relates to marriage in order to advise clergy on how to proceed, and that the statement will be posted on the Northern Province's website when it's finished.

Congratulations to the Moravian Church on this step forward!

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