Every four years in the Northern and Southern Province there is a gathering of representatives from all the congregations of that province, and they come together to discern the Spirit’s leading in the direction and governance of the church.
The 2014 Synod of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in North America ends today. It has been held under the theme of “Jesus Still Lead On.”
While there are times that it may seem the Moravian Church forgets that our seal has the words “Our Lamb Has Conquered, Let Us Follow Him“, it has been a spirit filled event here, and sometimes not in the way we always expect.
The office of Bishop in the Moravian Church is conferred when a Synod passes a resolution to elect a Bishop, and then an individual receives at least 2/3 of the vote of those present. This is truly a spiritual process, as the use of ecclesiastical ballot means that there are no nominations, but people just pray and write the name they feel led to write on their ballot from among those eligible (Presbyters in the Moravian Church.)
A bit on Bishops from the Moravian Church Wikipedia article:
The highest order of ministry is that of a Bishop. Bishops are elected by Provincial Synods usually through ecclesiastical ballot without nomination. In the Moravian Church, bishops do not have an administrative role but rather serve as spiritual leaders and pastors to the pastors. Bishops serve the worldwide Unity.
At this Synod there was a resolution cast to elect a Bishop, but after 10 ballots, two candidates were deadlocked with about 45-49% of the vote apiece. This led the Synod to consider if God was saying to do one of three things: 1. Continue until one bishop is elected; 2. Consider if the Synod was being led to elect them both; 3. Consider if the Synod was being led to wait, and not elect any Bishops at this time. Much conversation came up on what the group felt they were learning form the stalemate in the vote, and if it was the same as drawing the “wait” piece of paper from “the lot”.
A bit on the lot:
The lot is no longer a practice of the Moravian Church, but was used in the 18th and 19th centuries to help make decisions when no clear course of action presented itself. The church at that time believed that the choosing of a lot (a slip of paper indicating yes, no, or wait) after prayer indicated the will of Christ.
To watch a church group discern together, and to see those say they personally very badly wanted to elect a Bishop for they felt a drastic need for greater pastoral care, say that “not my will but the Lord’s” was truly amazing. Conversation began to emerge to see if the Lord was saying, that “yes, there is a need for pastoral care, but what can you do about it?”. After much discernment, it was decided to “wait”, and not elect a bishop at this time.
If that wasn’t powerful enough, the two individuals who had been deadlocked in the vote came to the microphone for the first time this Synod and spoke passionately about how being a Bishop is “one way to serve, but not the ultimate way to serve lifted above any other” and that the conversation that was had can help to guide the church as a whole to take on its responsibility to care for one another.
One of the hardest things for me to do is wait. To wait when God asks us to, when we want to move forward can really be a blessing when further down the road we are able to look back and see, yes, God was right, I see now why I was supposed to wait. Still… it is not easy, but if we have confidence in Christ, we must be bold enough to listen, and to say “let us follow” because we truly desire that our hearts say “Jesus Still Lead On.”