Moravian Church Beliefs and Practices

Motto: 'In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.'

Moravian Church Beliefs
Navalis Saint John Celebrations.

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The Moravian Church originated more than 500 years ago in the ancient land of Bohemia and Moravia, known today as the Czech Republic. The roots of this remarkable group trace back to the ninth century and the influence of Eastern Orthodox missionaries, Cyril and Methodius. 

Moravian Church beliefs are solidly grounded in the Bible, a principle which caused it to split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1400s, under the teachings of Czech reformer Jan Hus (John Huss).

Scarred by extreme persecution, the Moravian story is similar to that of the early Christian church. Bibles were confiscated and burned, villages were destroyed, leaders were executed, and followers were forced to flee. Still, a humble remnant survived as the Moravians regrouped and revived. Though small in numbers today, they continue to spread the gospel message all around the world. 

The Moravian church's long history of hardship and near extinction helped form a deep sense of respect for the rights of other Christian denominations. They avoid disputes and aim to work in harmony with brothers and sisters of other faiths. The church is also known as Unitas Fratrum, a Latin term meaning Unity of Brethren. Their stand is reflected in a simple motto that speaks volumes: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials liberty; in all things, love."

Moravian Church Beliefs

Baptism: Infants, children, and adults are baptized in this church. Through baptism "the individual receives a pledge of the forgiveness of sin and admission into the covenant of God through the blood of Jesus Christ."

Communion: The Moravian Church does not try to explain the mystery of this sacrament of Christ's presence in the bread and wine. Believers engage in an act of covenant with Christ as Savior and with other believers.

Creeds: Moravian Church beliefs recognize the Apostles' Creed, Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed as important statements of Christian faith. They help set a Scriptural confession, mark the boundaries of heresy, and encourage believers to an obedient life.

Doctrine: The Unity of Brethren takes an unusual stand on doctrine: "Just as the Holy Scripture does not contain any doctrinal system, so the Unitas Fratrum also has not developed any of its own because it knows that the mystery of Jesus Christ, which is attested to in the Bible, cannot be comprehended completely by any human mind or expressed completely in any human statement," its Ground of the Unity document states. Moravian Church beliefs hold that all information needed for salvation is contained in the Bible.

Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the Trinity, who directs and unites Christians and forms them into a church. The Spirit calls each person individually to recognize their sin and accept redemption through Christ.

Jesus Christ: There is no salvation apart from Christ. He redeemed the whole of humanity by his death and resurrection and is present with us in the Word and the Sacrament.

Priesthood of All Believers: The Unitas Fratrum recognizes the priesthood of all believers but does ordain ministers and deacons, as well as consecrate presbyters and bishops.

Salvation: God's will for salvation is revealed completely and clearly in the Bible, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Trinity: God is Triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is the only source of life and salvation.

Unity: The Moravian Church takes a firm stand for unity in the church, recognizing Christ as the sole head of the church, who is leading his scattered children toward unity. Moravians cooperate with other Christian denominations in worthwhile charitable ventures and respect the differences among Christian churches. "We recognize the danger of self-righteousness and judging others without love," the Moravian Ground of the Unity says.

Moravian Church Practices

Sacraments: Moravian churches profess two sacraments: baptism and communion. Baptism is done by sprinkling and, for infants, implies responsibility for the infant, parents, and congregation. Youth and adults may be baptized at the time they make a profession of faith.

Communion is held several times during the year, with freedom given to individual churches as to how they present the elements of bread and wine. Praise and prayer are held during the communion service, as well as extending the right hand of fellowship at the beginning and close of the service. All baptized adult Christians may take communion.

Worship Service: Moravian Church worship services may use a lectionary or list of recommended Scripture readings for each Sunday of the church year. However, use of the lectionary is not mandatory.

Music plays an important part in Moravian services. The church has a long tradition of brass and woodwind instruments, but pianos, organs, and guitars are also used. Both traditional and new compositions are featured.

Services resemble those in mainline Protestant churches. Most Moravian churches offer a "come as you are" dress code.

Sources

  • Moravian Church in North America. http://www.moravian.org/.
  • The Ground of the Unity. https://www.moravian.org/2018/10/the-ground-of-the-unity/