[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The remarks from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori were delivered June 19 to the Moravian Church in North America Northern Province Synod meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Travel difficulties prevent the presiding bishop from delivering her remarks in person as intended. Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church’s public affairs officer, read out Jefferts Schori’s remarks.
Moravian Northern Province Greeting 19 June 2014
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
I greet you on behalf of The Episcopal Church which is located in 17 nations: Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Micronesia (includes Saipan as well as Guam), Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States (including Puerto Rico), Venezuela, Virgin Islands (including British VI). Places where we overlap with this Moravian province and others in the Unitas Fratrum. Like you, we are part of a global fellowship of provinces, the Anglican Communion. Episcopalians and Moravians are still just beginning to explore what it means to be in full communion with one another. We celebrate the fact that there is now one partnership in North Carolina, and one beginning in central Pennsylvania. I hope and pray that we will continue to grow into a living “covenant in heart and hand.”
As a Church, we’re a product of the English Reformation, with significant influence by the Continental reformers and your own forebears. Anglicanism grew out of the early Christian witness in Britain, from as early as the 2nd century, having come with Roman soldiers. Alban is recognized as the first martyr in Britain, and I will take you with me in prayer to the celebration of his feast at St. Alban’s Cathedral in England on Saturday. Christianity took root and indigenized, and when Augustine of Canterbury was sent to Britain with some other monks by Gregory the Great in the 6th century, he was reminded to bless the good he found there and work with the rest.
That’s probably a helpful frame for a gift Anglicans and Moravians share – a comfort with diversity and a willingness to look for the presence of God at work in a wide range of theological positions, liturgical practices, and contexts. We claim catholic, reformed, and liberal strands within Anglicanism, and at our best we believe that each has important gifts to offer the larger tradition. We prize unity over uniformity, even though working that out is frequently messy. Your own willingness to affirm the confessional documents of a range of Christian bodies, finding truth in each, is a constructive parallel.
We take worship and the practice of holiness with deep seriousness as well as an eagerness to find beauty and truth in all we do. We are increasingly remembering that our part in God’s mission requires us to turn outward into God’s larger creation, human and otherwise, to seek and produce beauty and truth in incarnate social form – as justice and peace.
We also govern ourselves synodically, with lay persons, priests, deacons, and bishops working together to discern the movement of the Spirit as we make decisions on behalf of the whole Church.
We’ve been working for many years on fuller inclusion of all God’s people – beginning with Native Americans and slaves in the colonial years on this continent. We have never done this work quickly or easily, but it has been inexorable, as the Church has affirmed the full dignity and equality of people of color, women, children, and now gay and lesbian persons. We have struggled amid fear and trembling, but we have discovered God’s guiding spirit in the midst of it, and renewed life and joy when the hard decisions have been made. You are in our prayers as you wrestle here.
As we seek to grow into the one body of Christ, we are discovering new gifts and possibilities for God’s mission in all our communion partners. We give thanks for your partnership and your willingness to teach us about the truth you know, and we promise you the same. I ask your prayers for us.
May God continue to richly bless the Moravian Church, your ministry, and the work and world we share. We give thanks for you, and pray that together we can witness more fully to our friendship in Christ.