1727 Moravian Church

I. Group Profile

  1. Name: The Moravian Church
  2. Founder: Count Nicholas Zinzendorf
  3. Date of Birth: May 26, 1700
  4. Birth Place: Dresden, Germany
  5. Year Founded: 1727
  6. Sacred or Revered Texts: The Bible
  7. Size of Group: According to the Directory and Statistics, Moravian Church Northern and Southern Provinces, 1998 , the number of Confirmed Communicants in both the Northern and Southern Provinces of North America in 1996 was 39,153. Worldwide,the Church reports 417,973 Confirmed Communicants. The greatest concentration of Moravians outside the U.S. is in Tanzania with four Provinces accounting for 43% of all Moravians in the world. Thereare also concentrations of Moravians in the Caribbean and Central America where they did missionary work in the 18th century (Directory, 75).

II. History:

    The Moravian Church was actually the renewal of the United Brethren which gives it a rich a history. The United Brethren Church was started by John Huss in the 1400's in Czechoslovakia, mainly in the areas of Bohemia and Moravia. He was upset with the corruption in the Catholic Church. In amovement which preceded the the Protestant Reformation this church became the first of the surviving Protestant Churches (Chester S. Davis, The Hidden Seed and Harvest ;http//www.moravian.org/history.htm).

    In 1457 the Moravians organized themselves into what was at first a reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church. Ten years later they broke away from Rome and began to ordain their own ministers. Persecution during the period of the Reformation ended the growth of the movement. An underground movement in Bohemia and Moravia was able to sustain the movement in this period. During times of persecution the Moravians began what was to become a trend of the movement by relocating to Germany in the beginning of the 18th century (Queen).

    The Moravians who escaped to Germany in 1722 established a village on the estate of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf. Zinzendorf became integral in combining the Unitas Fratrum with the Pietist movement. It was at this time in 1727 that the Moravian Church of today was founded as the Renewed Unitas Fratrum. In 1735, shortly after relocating in Germany, the Moravians began to settle in North America. The first settlers, led by Bishop August Spengenberg traveled to Georgia.The following year 25 more Moravians traveled to Savannah on the sameship as John and Charles Wesley. This was the beginning of a seriesof contacts with Moravians which John Wesley recorded as having an impact on his life (Schattschneider, 64).

    The Moravians had two reasons for relocating; the first was to secure land for a settlement in the event that religious peresecution should drive them from Europe. The second reason for settling in Georgia was to establish a mission to Native Americans.

    Early on the Moravians got caught in the middle of the war betweenthe British and the Spanish. Their consciencious objection made Georgia less than the secure new home land they had sought. This resulted in another relocation for the Moravians to Pennsylvaniawhere they established the communities of Nazareth and Bethlehem.

    In 1749 the Movarian Church was declared "An Ancient Protestant Episcopal Church" by the British Parliament. This status allowed them to settle in the British colonies. Rising persecution in Germany resulted in increasing numbersof Moravians taking advantage of the opportunity to settle in North America. Bishop Spangenberg surveyed land in North Carolina in 1752, and in 1776 Moravian settlers moved to North Carolina and established a permanent settlement in Salem. That settlement today is Winston- Salem, NC and is the headquarters of the Southern Province (Melton, 70).

 

III. Beliefs of the Group

    The Moravian Church exists because of three contributing factors: (1) the revival of Pietism in Germany, (2) the reemergence of an old church, and (3) Count Zinzendorf. Pietism preaches the saving power of the gospel instead of dogmatic principles. This leads one to a more personal faith and away from intellectualism. The positive effects of Pietism lead to Bible reading, prayer, outwardly speaking about one's faith, and a turn from worldly activities. Its weaknesses include subjectivity due to the deemphasis of intellectualism and an attitude of self-righteousness. The Pietist influence developed many traditions in the Moravian Church. The love feast, first celebrated in August, 1727 is unique to the Moravians. This ritual consists of a light meal, singing, and a talk which together comprise an informal service that centers on communion. The Litany is another characteristic found in this tradition. It is a prayer form developed for corporate or private devotions. The Pietist movement also started the idea of small groups of believers meeting together regularly to worship and encourage each other.

    The Daily Texts was created in the early settlement for daily devotions and prayer. It included a passage from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and a relevant hymn stanza for each day. Today this book is printed annually and continues to have an impact to both members and nonmembers of the Moravian Church.

    One of the most influential aspects of Moravian Pietism is its missions program (Melton, 70). From the beginning Zinzendorf set guidelines for the Moravian missionaries. The first being to live humbly among the people, the second to keep Christ as the central point of their lives, and the third to look for individual seekers as opposed to entire nations. The Moravians were not the first missionaries, but they were the first Protestant denomination to thoroughly give themselves to missions. The Moravian Church attracts many of its new members because of its commitment to evangelization (Weinlick).

    At the time of its conception, the Moravian Church believed moral reform to be more urgent than doctrinal reform and, therefore, is not known for the latter. It recognizes the same creeds as the other Protestant traditions, but was more concerned with "experiential Christianity than with doctrinal correctness." This tradition is also known for its Christocentricity and ecumenicity. Their worship today is similar to that of most Protestant churches. The Moravians have, however, maintained simplicity in many of their styles (Weinlick).

    Currently the Moravian Church in North America is divided into the Northern and Southern provinces. Winston-Salem, NC is the headquarters for the Southern Province and Bethlehem, PA is the headquarters for the Northern Province. There is a bishop and synod heading each province. Congregations today, though spread throughout the world, are still mainly found in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Though an old tradition and small in number it is still a very active group although it does not seem to be growing in membership (Melton).

 

SOURCE: Religious Movements
The information on this page was taken from the Religious Movements website & edited.  For the complete information click on the link above to Religious Movements.  We felt that this information is of such great importance that we made the decision to copy an edited format rather than chance losing it as a results of a broken link or a change of URL.

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