CHURCH LIFE IN THE UNITAS FRATRUM
#655. The importance of the family in the life of the Congregation cannot be overemphasized. The family is a "natural Choir" within the Congregation, and a Christian home is the "natural school" where the foundations of the Christian life are laid among young people.
#656. It is therefore a duty and a privilege among all members of the Church to uphold the highest ideals of Christian marriage and family life, and to avoid anything that would bring dishonor upon it.
#657. The Unitas Fratrum regards it as a sacred obligation to hold an ideal of Christian marriage as pure as it is given by our Lord in his teaching, viz, that Christian marriage is an indissoluble union and requires the lifelong loyalty of the man and the woman towards each other in thought and deed.
#658. It is therefore urged that the young people in our churches be instructed, not merely immediately before marriage but from years of adolescence, in the meaning and obligation of the true Christian marriage.
#659. The Unitas Fratrum, honoring the example and injunction of our Lord, acknowledges the responsibility of dealing compassionately and redemptively with human frailty and sin in every area of life, including failure in the marriage state.
#660. Therefore in every case where action is taken in regard to divorced persons, the Unitas Fratrum urges upon its pastors and congregations the need to make every effort to avoid both a rigid legalism and an irresponsible abuse in the discharge of this sacred responsibility.
SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION
#661. From the beginning, the Moravian Church has recognized the importance of education, not only for equipping the minds, but also for building the character of young people. It has therefore in the course of its development established schools and colleges wherever this lay in its power.
#662. The nature and scope of these schools has changed considerably over the years, and today they serve the needs of a community far beyond • the confines of the Moravian Church. In this respect they have a special task to fullfil and a distinctive role to play in the modem world.
#663. While aiming to maintain the highest standards possible, our schools must also foster Christian ideals. This is true in a special sense of the boarding schools which provide a home for the children entrusted to them. In its schools therefore, the Church has an opportunity to minister not only to the children who come from Moravian Congregations, but also to those from other backgrounds as well, particularly those who have not had the experience of Christian life at home.
#664. In many areas the Sunday School has become an important arm of the Church in supplementing religious instruction provided by the home, or the week-day school. The Congregations are urged to recognize the importance of this and other Christian organizations which seek to strengthen the commitment of young people to Christ.
RELATION TO THE CIVIL AUTHORITIES
#665. The Moravian Church recognizes as important the insights contained in the Bible concerning the relationship of individuals as also of the Church to the civil authorities. It is a duty and a privilege of the individual Christian to make intercession for the civil authorities and to take a full and active share in the civil life of his/her country, and as far as possible to ensure that Christian principles govern the life of the community and country.
We will, therefore, observe the orders of the civil authorities, as long as they do not require us to deny the will of God.
#666. In obedience to the command of Christ it is the solemn obligation of the Church to work for the continuance and keeping of world peace. The Moravian Church, through its international character, is placed in a particularly favorable position to use its influence to this end. Its constant aim should be to encourage and help to establish world peace in the name of Jesus Christ who Himself is the source of true peace and reconciliation.
Resolutions of Unity Synod are binding on all Provinces of the Moravian Church though some resolutions only relate to the relevant intersynodal period
POLICY ON SERVING OUR COMMUNITIES
Resolution 11: Measured Community Impact
Whereas many issues that face the Church throughout the world are intimately connected with the social and communal manifestations of the Gospel outside the walls of our congregations;
Whereas issues of physical and psychological hardship due to poverty, continual threat of natural disasters, gender inequality, violence, economic distress, etc. affect members of churches and the societies in which we live;
Whereas the call to social justice and service is clearly stated in scripture (Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 25:37-40, James 2:14-17);
Whereas we know that the mandate of scripture is being understood and acted upon in many areas throughout the church in a variety of social and community ministries; and
Whereas the reports to Unity Synod from the Provinces have included information about the evangelical and clerical work of the Provinces;
It was resolved that:
a) The entire Unity seeks more ways to effectively engage their cultures and societies in tangible mission that addresses the many issues of disparity, hardship, and distress that come from the experiences of life in the community;
b) The Unity Board also engage in reporting issues that directly connect with the various social ministries of local congregations, Provinces, and Unity Undertakings in order to elevate that work which was so closely intertwined with the work of Christ in his earthly ministry to those who suffered disease, poverty, oppression, destitution, etc;
c) During the inter-synodal period Provinces be encouraged and directed to maintain and include additional measurable evidence of community impact in their reporting to Unity Synod.
STEWARDSHIP OF CREATION
Resolution 9: Our Stewardship of Creation
That the original Proposal 16 be taken back to Provinces as it stands:
- We believe that God
created and continues to create the whole universe;
sustains and nurtures creation;
through Christ, wills to redeem the whole of creation from its bondage to decay;
entrusts creation to our care, calling us to be stewards of it;
calls us to be partners in God’s ongoing creative, renewing and redeeming activity;
commands us to act justly and in righteousness not only towards our fellow human beings, but to all creation;
requires us to care for creation so that future generations, whom God also loves, can enjoy it and benefit from it.
- We affirm that Christian mission includes caring for God’s earth and of all creation.
- We know that human activity has contributed to the degradation of the earth in its land, seas and atmosphere, and that this is contrary to the will of God. We believe that this degradation limits the attainment of the fullness of life that God wills for all creation, and is a sin for which we should seek forgiveness. We recognise that urgent response is now required in the face of the catastrophic consequences of climate change caused by this environmental damage and the disproportionate suffering this brings to the poorest in the world, including brothers and sisters within our Moravian Unity.
- We challenge and encourage our congregations and members to care for the earth by following sustainable practice in their lifestyles. This will include conservation and careful consideration of how we use resources in church life and at home; active involvement in community initiatives aimed at sustaining and renewing the environment; and taking action on global environmental issues
POLICY ON HIV/Aids (2009)
Resolution 10: Coordination of Provincial Efforts to address HIV/AIDS
Whereas the Unity Synod of 2002 has, through resolutions #887 and #906 (COUF) addressed issues relating to HIV/AIDS;
Whereas the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS continues to spread with over 33 million people estimated to be living with HIV: (2008 report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, UNAIDS);
Whereas despite increased global efforts to stem the spread of HIV, whole societies, especially in southern Africa, continue to be affected by HIV and AIDS, and the diseases impact on economic instability, and breakdown of family structure, with women and children being especially vulnerable to poverty and infection via rampant sexual violence;
Whereas people living with HIV/AIDS experience significant stigma that impacts all areas of their lives;
Whereas the majority of persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS struggle to acquire needed treatments, adequate testing, and sufficient resources and economic stability for their families; and
Whereas Jesus of Nazareth modelled compassion for the suffering, restoration to community for the marginalized and sharing of resources;
Therefore it was resolved that Synod mandates Provinces to increase efforts for the stemming of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
POLICY ON HIV/AIDS - 2002
Whereas, previous Unity Synods have addressed the HIV/AIDS issue; and
Whereas, HIV/AIDS has become pandemic
Be it resolved: that Unity Synod reaffirms (number)876 of the 1995 COUF.
Be it further resolved: that the Unity Board, all Provinces and Agencies, as a matter of urgency, draw on all resources available/including prioritization by Unity Board, to address problems related to HIV/AIDS.
To this effect. Unity Board shall initiate and see to implementation of:
• Education and training programs including women's skills training and care-giving for persons living with HIV/AIDS;
• Encouragement of pastors to draw the attention of their congregations to HIV/AIDS issues;
• Job-creating initiatives primarily for persons living with HIV/AIDS;
• Provisions for AIDS orphans, including the provisions of housing, food, clothing and education in a loving Christian environment;
• Use of available vacant facilities as hospice homes, counseling centers, education and support services;
• Collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGO's) for HIV/AIDS information and the distribution of materials and medication related to HIV prevention and treatment, thereby prioritizing pregnant women.
Unity Board shall monitor and report annually to the provinces on ongoing developments and achievements to the effect of the above.
#887. AIDS – 1988
Whereas AIDS has become the major plague of the last decades of the twentieth century, and
Whereas there is no known cure, and
Whereas there is great fear, much of it born of ignorance, and
Whereas it is important to face moral questions raised by the disease, and
Whereas the Church is called to be a healing community, and the people of God can be the family that embraces and sustains those who are sick with Aids-related conditions and their friends and relatives, and
Whereas AIDS is no respecter of sex, race, nationality, nor social class, therefore be it
Resolved (1) that the moral questions be addressed, and be it further
Resolved (2) that this Unity Synod recommends to the Provinces a program of pastoral care, education for prevention, and a social ministry along lines suggested by the World Council of Churches Hearing on Aids at Geneva, January, 1987, and be it
Further Resolved (3) that the Unity Board or President of the Unity Board procure material from the World Council of Churches and/or other sources for distribution throughout the Unity. (1988, #841)
POLICY ON #908. HOMOSEXUALITY - 2002
In the light of the rising division on the issue of homosexuality experienced within and between the various provinces,
Be it resolved (1) that Unity Synod should speak to the issue of homosexuality as it relates to the ministry of the church; and
Whereas the unity of the church is an important operational principle when considered in the context of theological integrity; and
Whereas the church is not of one mind on the issue of homosexuality at this time, and that honest differences of opinion exist within the Unity based upon our varied understanding of the Scripture; therefore
Be it resolved (2) that the church should not make a hasty decision at this time, but urges the Provinces towards further, in-depth examination of the subject of homosexuality and the church. Until this in-depth examination is finished, the Synod places a moratorium on additional changes by the Provinces in this matter; and
Be it further resolved (3) that this issue does not rise to the doctrinal equivalent of the New Testament confession, "Jesus is Lord," but it is a biblical, theological and pastoral issue on which the church must dialogue. The Unity Board shall mandate the Standing Committee on Theology to develop discussion material that will guide the Provinces; and
Be it further resolved (4) that all official documents and reports submitted to this Synod on the issue of homosexuality shall be considered by the Standing Committee on Theology; and
Be it resolved (5) that Synod call upon all Moravians to be ministers of the grace, truth, forgiveness, mercy, and love of God to homosexuals even as we are called so to minister to all people; and
Be it resolved (6) that the church must continue to do theology in an attempt to discern the will of God.
Violence against Women - 2009
Resolution 8: Advocacy
Whereas violence against women in the Unity continues unabated and has a negative impact on women, children and family life in the Unity;
Whereas because it is contrary to the Unity’s understanding of our call as Christians, it is desirable that there be policies regarding the recognition of the problem and the adoption of ways to address it; and
Whereas it is acknowledged that in some Provinces in the Unity there is work being done to address this issue;
It was resolved that the Unity include the topic of violence against women in the inter-synodal calendar and that Provinces seek ways to address the issue and implement a plan of action.
POLICY ON JUSTICE FOR WOMEN - 2002
Whereas, the interpretation of Scripture requires a broad knowledge of many complex issues; and
Whereas, in some societies cultural traditions inhibit equal treatment of females resulting in injustices against women, for example,
1. Educational opportunities being denied, interrupted or terminated by early marriage for economic reasons.
2. Being subjected to child labor.
3. Being denied control of the results of their labor.
Be it resolved: that the training for Church service in the Unitas Fratrum include Biblical gender issues in order to avoid gender stereotyping and oppression of women.
Be it further resolved: that Unity Synod of 2002 recommends that all Provinces develop and implement policies, including a focus on family life and values, which provide an environment for the well-being and equal moral and spiritual development of all persons.
Be it further resolved, that Unity Synod 2002 reaffirms COUF number 909-910
#909. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN - 1981
Whereas violence against women and children in all its manifestations,
is on the increase globally; and
Whereas violence in all its manifestations affects congregations and communities; and
Whereas the volume of such violence in movies and on television contributes to this increase: and
Whereas there is a dire lack of services for victims of such violence; and
Whereas the Women in Mission Consultation of the Moravian Church held at Kernersville, N.C. on June 15-17 1995, has urged Unity Synod to become active in this matter,
i Therefore be it resolved that:
Provinces and at all levels of church life, women be represented similarly;
that all Provinces of the Unity make every effort to encourage their own Provincial Boards and congregational boards to accord women the same opportunity with full access to lay or ordained, part- or full-time, Christian ministry, as is provided to men.
Be it further resolved,
that in the report of each Province to Unity Synod 2002, a progress report on this matter be included.
POLICY ON MISSION AND PATERNALISM -20022
Whereas, the World Mission Conference 2001 considered the issue of mission and paternalism and asked the Unity Synod to discuss this issue
Be it resolved that: Unity Synod endorse the text from the Mission Conference set out below:
Affirming the dignity and worth of every person
Unity relationships and New World Witness begin with the affirmation of the infinite worth and value to God of every person from every ethno-linguistic group, Church and Province. Every human bears the divine image of the God who loves the whole world and who has affirmed, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his desire that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Within our Unity we are brothers and sisters who share 'One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and father of all...' (Ephesians 4:4-6). Thus, our lives and futures are intertwined as we work out the meaning and purpose of our salvation in Christ. We walk the same road together. Our sharing is mutual, an expression of the variety of gifts God has given us to enrich Christ's body. In New World Witness we recognize also that the saving purposes of God obligate us to one another so that God may be glorified in the breaking down of human barriers and the reconciliation of the world to himself in Christ.
God provides to his people everywhere resources of various kinds. Individual Christians, as well as congregations and Provinces, are responsible to God for the resources God puts at their disposal. All resources - human, material, financial, environmental- are to be cultivated and managed to the glory of God and in such a way as to enable the Church to serve fully and effectively.
Prayer and intercession deserve special mention as a guiding principle in Unity relationships and New World Witness. Consistent and vital prayer invites the wisdom and power of God into our relationships and witness.
Be it further resolved: that Unity Synod commends this text to all Provinces, Affiliated Provinces, and Mission Organizations and asks them to consider it and to act upon it.
POLICY ON JUSTICE AND PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 2002
Unity Synod of the Moravian Church
Bethlehem PA USA
August 19, 2002
The Embassy of the State of Israel Washington, D.C.
The Representation of the Palestinian Authority Washington, D.C
Meeting in Bethlehem, USA as Unity Synod, the governing body of the worldwide Moravian Church, representing delegates from five continents and various countries, we express our profound sorrow at the dreadful situation in the Middle East, where there is no justice and peace, but ongoing, escalating violence instead.
The worldwide Moravian Church runs the rehabilitation center "Star Mountain" a few miles north of the city of Ramallah for disabled children. With this direct relationship to Palestine and its people, we follow with deep concern the developments in that region.
At this synod, led by our Christian faith, we have been praying for justice and peace between Israel and Palestine, in the belief and hope that Christians, Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis are called to live together in peace and fellowship.
We urge the Israeli Government to withdraw from the Occupied Territories in compliance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions; to put an end to all military action in the said territories and the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure.
We urge the Palestinian Authorities to do everything within its power to prevent and to condemn suicide bombings by militant groups.
We urge both sides to end violence and enter into negotiations as soon as possible in order to achieve justice and peace for all people in that area, by working towards a viable two state solution, which guarantees the principles of pluralism, good governance, and respect for human rights.
We on our side will continue to pray for that goal, and we shall encourage our churches and congregations to strengthen the existing bonds with the people in Palestine and Israel by exploring various expressions of solidarity with the people in that area.
Mr. Abel Thomas Abel President of Unity Synod
Cape Town, South Africa
POLICY #933. BANNING OF NUCLEAR TESTS - 1995
Whereas we believe in God's intention to have His creation saved until '^ the end of all ages
Whereas any tests of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world are, therefore, to be considered as opposed to God's plan
Whereas it should be the aim of mankind to ban and dismantle all kinds of nuclear weapons
Be it resolved that Unity Synod write an open letter to the Presidents of the French Republic, and the People's Republic of China demanding from them the cancellation of all nuclear tests.
AN OPEN LETTER to THE PRESIDENT of FRANCE and the PRESIDENT of THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
We, the delegates at Unity Synod of the world-wide Moravian Church meeting at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from August 13 - 25, 1995 are deeply concerned about the plans of your Government to continue nuclear testing.
In these days we are especially troubled by the memories of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago.
Nuclear tests cause much destruction of the environment and endanger the lives of those exposed to the testing. As Christians, we are convinced that any tests, any development and storage of nuclear weapons are completely opposed to God's intention to have His creation saved until the end of all ages.
Therefore we urge you to immediately stop all testing and developing of nuclear weapons and nuclear military facilities in your country.
POLICY ON POVERTY - 2002
Whereas, poverty remains a critical concern across the world, contributing to the
HIV/AIDS pandemic and other societal problems
Be it resolved (1): that Unity Synod reaffirm the 1995 Unity Synod statement on unequal distribution of world resources (COUF (number) 879), and
Be it further resolved (2): that the Unitas Fratrum shall become more vocal about issues that deal with the relief of poverty, and
Be it further resolved (3): that the Unitas Fratrum worldwide pray for all people in authority in the public and private sectors and inspire them towards effective governance with honesty, accountability, transparency and ethical principles, and
Be it further resolved (4): that the Unitas Fratrum support calls for debt cancellation by institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and debt relief in general for developing nations
Be it further resolved (5): that the Unitas Fratrum support programs aimed at sustainable development and the empowerment of people affected negatively by social and economic conditions; and
Whereas tithing is an essential part in contributing to the work of the church
Be it resolved (6): that members are encouraged to tithe to enable the spreading of the Gospel and the work of social ministry to alleviate poverty.
#890. WORLD'S RESOURCES - 1974
Unity Synod adopted the following Statement on the unequal distribution of the world's resources, with particular reference to the developing nations and people of the world.
While this statement respects the sovereign right of each nation to make provision for its own people and ensure their material well-being, it is felt that certain ethical judgements must be made in the light of the church's own responsibility towards the world, and its obligation towards the poor as set forth in our Lord's teaching in Matthew 25: 31 ff.
There is acute hunger and poverty among many of the people of the world. We are conscious of the frustrations and strivings of the developing nations of the world as they seek to improve the lot of their people in the face of stiff world competition, the discriminatory fixing of prices and the fluctuations of the world market.
We are conscious of the rise of multi-national corporations which many times embody no ethical principles, as states are obliged to do, but solely the profit motive. The multi-national corporations have often grown large and powerful on the weaknesses of others and with reference to the developing countries, sometimes with complete disregard for the developing nations' own interests. On the other hand we commend those corporations who by their actions have shown a concern for people in developing countries.
We observe also the tendency of the developing nations to be somewhat unconcerned for one another's problems. For example, the sudden steep increase in the price of crude oil has brought untold hardship to the poorer nations of the world, and we would urge a more humane and considerate attitude on the part of those who possess such important resources.
Above all, the church stands by the principle of the developed nations assisting the under-developed nations to initiate a plan to improve their economics, so that they, the developing nations, will be able to alleviate their people's needs, give their people security, feed their people's aspira tions and give them a hope for a brighter future. This may be achieved through governmental action and/or through voluntary organizations existing in developed nations (See Para. 705, "Church Order" 1967.)
We are aware of the corporate responsibility of a nation for its own shortcomings and inaction. However, it has to be borne in mind that countries are made up of individual people. In this respect, each man and woman bears a personal responsibility for the actions of their government. Further, there is each man's and woman's personal responsibility toward the starving, poor or developing nations of the world, and the starving, poor or developing individuals of the world, either at home or in a foreign country.
We as the world-wide Moravian Church, pledge ourselves to serve our fellow men and women by means of educational, social, medical and economic programs and to look for new opportunities in these areas in the context of the continuation of our main work of communicating the Gospel through preaching and teaching (Para. 700, 701 in "Church Order" 1967). We regard it to be a special opportunity for the Unity to attempt projects even on a small scale to render specific services to developing nations as one means of our being faithful to our calling and a manifestation of the coming Kingdom of Christ.
As a church, we are called by our Lord to bring the whole Gospel to the whole person. In the Gospel, not only the individual, but also society and even humanity as a whole is looked at in the light of the coming Kingdom of God. This means that we, as members of the church, and also as congregations and Provinces of the Moravian Church as a whole join in the efforts for peace and social and economic justice. (1974, # 790e)