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Day 1

Interchangeability of Ministry between Church of Ireland and Moravian Church progresses

A motion calling on General Synod to recognise that conditions now exist for the implementation of arrangements providing for interchangeability of ministry with the Moravian Church was proposed at Synod this afternoon (Wednesday May 4).

Proposed by Bishop Michael Burrows, the motion follows from a resolution of Synod in 2015 and is in accordance with an agreement made between representatives of the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Province of GB and Ireland and endorsed by the House of Bishops in November 2021.
The text of the agreement is available in the Motions Booklet on the General Synod website here.

Proposing the motion, Bishop Michael Burrows said that in 2015 after a series of conversations with the Moravian Church it was the view of the General Synod that the relationship between the two churches should move forward.

He said that the Moravian Church in Ireland was part of one province and was a historic church. The Moravians existed in Dublin and were visible in Belfast and Grace Hill in County Antrim. A great deal of progress had been made in putting place the building blocks of the relationship, piggybacking on the work of the Church of England. More progress had been made in the United States, he added.

He said there were anomalies to be addressed but receptive ecumenism was about ‘bearable anomalies’. There were differences between Anglican and Episcopal experiences. He also pointed out that the Moravian Church was not diocesan.

He said the main issue was that while the Moravian Church in Britain and Ireland was a single province and the Church of Ireland felt that as Anglicans they had a courtesy to the Church of England not to join in consecrations until they were sure they knew what the Church of Ireland was doing. The Church of England has now indicated that it is content that Church of Ireland Bishops can participate in consecrations of Bishops, even in England, as long as they alert the local Church of England bishop, he reported.

Bishop Burrows said the bishops did not believe legislation was needed. There was a more complex process involved in the Covenant with the Methodist Church in Ireland which required legislation, in particular the converging equivalence of the consecration of Bishops and Methodist Presidents.

Seconding the motion, Archbishop John McDowell endorsed what the Bishop of Tuam had said. He added that the process had involved dialogue of immense mutual respect.

Speaking to the motion, Bishop Sarah Groves of the Moravian Church said she was delighted to be at this place at this time. She spoke of Moravian Bishops who are elected by their province at synod by their body of presbyters. She added that a bishop is a bishop for life and worked for life. They could operate anywhere in the Moravian Church.

She said they were delighted to be invited to visit Bishop Burrows and formal talks began in 2012. She explained that the Moravian Church saw bishops as a focus of unity within the church. She said that the same proposal would be going to the Moravian Synod in July.

Dean Nigel Dunne (Cork, Cloyne and Ross) welcomed the progress. He said that the journey with the Methodist Church was legislated for because they wanted to make a clear statement on what the relationship would look like. He urged legislation to underpin the work with the Moravian Church as he said it would give a legal base from which to develop future work, legislated for with enthusiasm by the houses of Synod.

Canon Helene Steed (Down) recalled the meeting of 2015 and said she was delighted they had moved this far. She hoped it would be an opportunity to widen ecumenical discussion. She said it was not just about bishops and clergy but about everyone.

George Woodman (Connor) said he had been to a remote village in Moravia where there was a Moravian folk museum where there was a map of all Moravian churches, including Grace Hill. He welcomed the interchange at a time when the world was becoming more fragmented.

Bishop Andrew Forster (Derry and Raphoe) recalled preaching in the Moravian Church in Belfast. He said the agreement was a modest but hugely significant step. “We are to be part of the answer to our Lord’s prayer that we be one. Today is about celebrating our relationships. This agreement leaves space for the relationship to grow,” he stated.  

Archdeacon Barry Forde (Connor) said that it was important to look at what happened after the agreement and encouraged Synod find ways of deepening the relationship.

In response, Bishop Burrows said that legislation may be required in the future.

The motion was passed by Synod.

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