The Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America voted last week to enter into a covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
With the Northern Province of the church having taken a similar vote in June, the PC(USA) is now in covenant relationship with all North American Moravians except those in Alaska, which is a separate province.
"In covenant relationship, each church maintains its own autonomy and individual polity," said the Rev. Robina Winbush, associate stated clerk and director of the Office of the General Assembly's Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relations here. "However, in covenant relationship we seek to open possibilities for greater witness and mission together."
The 2008 PC(USA) General Assembly approved covenant relationship with the Moravians and the presbyteries ratified the relationship the following year.
The Moravians trace their roots to the Reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church in 1415. Within fifty years of Hus's death, a contingent of his followers had become independently organized as the Bohemian Brethren or Unity of the Brethren in what is now the Czech Republic.
The church, which emphasizes Christian unity, spiritual renewal and global missionary activity, first came to the U.S. in 1735. The church currently numbers 825,000 members worldwide. Like the PC(USA), the Moravian Church in America is in full communion — a more formal tie but with basically the same agreements as covenant relationship — with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is also in full communion with the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church.
The Northern Province of the Moravian Church in America is based in Bethlehem, Pa. The Southern Province is headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C.
According to Winbush, "covenant relationship will be established and a service of worship celebrating and formally entering into Covenant Relationship will be held by 2011."
In other business, the Southern Province elected the Rev. David Guthrie as its new president. In June, the Northern Province elected the Rev. Elizabeth Miller as its president.