Inter-relations between Anglicans and Moravians (1909)

Inter-relations between Anglicans and Moravians
By the Rt. Rev. Ethelbert Talbot, Bishop of Bethlehem and Central Pennsylvania.

IN REPLY to your kind request I gladly give you such information in regard to our Moravian brethren and the Lambeth resolutions as I possess. The story is not without interest to all Churchmen who desire the unity of God’s people. It should be remembered that there have been a number of our Bishops, both in England and America, who have believed in the validity of the Moravian episcopate; but our Church has never formally pronounced any judgment upon the subject. Our attitude, however, has plainly indicated that there has been doubt in our minds as to the great point at issue.

At the British Provincial Synod of the Unitas Fratrum held in England in 1904, a resolution was passed asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to take such steps as, in his judgment, might be deemed wise, to bring the Moravians and the Anglican Communion into closer alliance. This resolution was based on the well-known fact that, as a Christian body, holding the historic Episcopate in great reverence, and having through men eventful history tenaciously preserved the succession of Bishops, they felt that such alliance should exist between the two historical bodies. It was in response to this overture on their part that a committee of Bishops was appointed at the Lambeth Conference to consider the relation of the Church to the Moravians. It was our privilege to have before us during the sessions of that committee. Bishop Hassé, the president of the British Provincial Synod, now residing in London. As he had presided over the Synod of 1904 he was deeply interested in our deliberations. The resolutions finally passed unanimously by the Lambeth Conference on the subject will soon be considered by the General Synod of the Moravians, which holds its decennial meeting in Herrnhut, Germany, in a few months.

It happened that on the day following the adjournment of the Lambeth Conference, the British Provincial Synod of the Moravians met in Ducinfield, England. His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, requested me to attend the Synod and take with me such other Bishops as I could secure. Bishop Hamilton Bayne, an English Bishop, was good enough to meet me there. The Archbishop sent by my hands a letter to the Synod conveying his fraternal greetings and the expression of his hope and prayer that the outcome of the deliberations between the Unitas and ourselves might be all that could be desired. On arriving I was met at the station by Bishop Hassé and was most kindly received by the Synod. After reading the Archbishop’s letter, I was requested to follow it with such remarks as I cared to make, and my English brother followed me in a speech breathing a most gracious and kindly spirit. There were present three or four Moravian Bishops, all of whom spoke. Before this Synod adjourned the printed resolutions of the Lambeth Conference were forwarded to them by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and were duly considered and referred to the General Synod to meet in Germany.

Since my return home I have learned that my speech was taken down in full by a stenographer and had appeared in the Moravian papers. I have been invited to address the faculty and students of the Moravian Theological Seminary here, and also to tell the story, of the Lambeth resolutions to the large congregation in their venerable church at Bethlehem. Only a few days ago I met in conference several of the delegates to the General Synod in Germany, with other Moravian divines, and we considered somewhat in detail the various points suggested by the Lambeth resolutions.

It is difficult to predict what will be the fate of our resolutions at the General Synod. I should say that the English and American delegates are likely to vote for their acceptance, possibly with some slight modifications. As those living in Germany are not brought in contact with the Anglican Communion they may be somewhat indifferent to the whole subject.

I have assumed that your readers are familiar with the Lambeth resolutions, as they have appeared in the Church papers and have been otherwise more or less widely distributed. They provide that, for the sake of unity and as a particular expression of brotherly affection, any official request from the Unitas Fratrum for the participation of Anglican Bishops in the consecration of Bishops of the Unitas should be accepted, provided that first “such Anglican Bishops should be not less than three in number and should participate both in the saying of prayers of consecration and in the laying on of hands, and that the rite itself is judged to be sufficient by the Church of our communion to which the invited Bishops belong. And secondly that the synods of the Unitas (a) are able to give sufficient assurance of doctrinal agreement with ourselves in all essentials, as we believe that they will be willing to do; and (b) are willing to explain its position as that of a religious community or missionary body in close alliance with the Anglican Communion; and (c) are willing to accord a due recognition to the position of our Bishops within Anglican dioceses and jurisdictions; and (d) are willing to adopt a rule as to the administration of Confirmation more akin to our own.”

There are other matters of detail suggested in the resolutions.

It is not proposed by us to interfere with the autonomy of the Moravian body. They will continue to do their work in their own way after inter-communion has been established. While not a large body, it is one whose record in the mission field is beyond all praise. They are said to be more numerous abroad than at home.

A most beautiful spirit has characterized them in all their relations with us here and elsewhere; and one cannot but hope that whatever doubts exist in any mind as to their historical episcopate may be removed by some such plan as is now proposed. It is a plan which passes no judgment upon their claims, but proposes, under certain necessary safeguards of faith and order, to bestow upon them fully that which is inexpressibly dear to ourselves.

The Living Church (Milwaukee), January 23, 1909, p. 403.

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Filed under Episcopal Church history, Pennsylvania German

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