The following description of the Moravian Orders of Ordained Ministry is taken from the Book of Order of the Moravian Church, Southern Province:
Ordination in General
The constituted orders of the ordained ministry in the Moravian Church are Deacon, Presbyter, and Bishop. Those who are ordained are authorized to administer the Sacraments in the Moravian Church.
Only the Provincial Elders’ Conference or the Synod has the authority to commission ordination and consecration. In extending such a commission they are guided by careful consideration of the qualifications of the candidate. The Provincial Elders’ Conference commissions the Bishop who is to officiate.
The Book of Order of the Moravian Church, Southern Province, outlines the meaning of ordination and delineates the three orders of the Moravian ministry: Deacon, Presbyter and Bishop:
The ordained minister remains a servant of Christ and the Church as a whole, not merely to the congregation to which he/she is called. Even as Jesus Christ came not to be ministered unto but to minister, so his servants should be willing to minister wherever the Church calls them under the leading of the Holy Spirit. The ordination of Deacons and the consecration of Presbyters and Bishops are matters of function and not of status.
Orders of the Ministry
- The ordination of a Deacon admits him/her to the first order of the ministry and carries with it the privilege of serving under call and administering the Sacraments according to the rules and regulations of the Church.
- A candidate for ordination shall meet with the Provincial Elders’ Conference. The approval of the Provincial Elders’ Conference is required before the candidate’s name can be submitted to any congregational board for a call or plans made for ordination.
- A call must be extended and accepted before ordination shall take place.
- The candidate may choose the ordaining bishop and the place for the service with the approval of the Provincial Elders’ Conference.
- The Provincial Elders’ Conference shall commission the Bishop to represent the Church in the act of ordination.
- Ordination as a Deacon begins a period of ministry during which time the newly-ordained minister is placed under the counsel of a Presbyter who lives nearby, or someone appointed for this purpose by the Provincial Elders’ Conference or other administrative board under whose jurisdiction he/she is serving. The role of such a counselor shall be clearly defined by the Provincial Elders’ Conference.
- The Provincial Boards shall also have the authority to accept as Deacons theologically trained and qualified persons who are not employed full time by the Church but are willing to serve the Church while they earn their living in other types of employment.
- After a period of time, normally from three to five years, a Deacon may be consecrated as a Presbyter. Such a service of consecration shall represent on the part of the Church an act of spiritual encouragement and affirmation of the individual’s witness in the ministry and approval of service rendered since ordination. For the individual Deacon it shall be an occasion of earnest heart-searching and renewed commitment to the ordained ministry of Christ and His Body, the Church.
- The Provincial Elders’ Conference, after consultation with the Deacon’s designated counselor and the local church boards or other administrative board being served by the Deacon, approaches the Deacon concerning his/her readiness to accept consecration as a Presbyter.
- The consecration of a Presbyter is an act of approval of the entire Moravian Unity. The candidate may choose the consecrating Bishop and the place for the service with the approval of the Provincial Elders’ Conference.
- The Renewed Unity received the episcopacy as an inheritance from the Ancient Unitas Fratrum. Today we regard the episcopacy in the Renewed Unity in a different way from that in the Ancient Unitas Fratrum. Formerly, a Bishop had a church-government and administrative function. In our day, this function is not necessarily linked to the episcopal office. A Bishop in the Moravian Church is consecrated to a special priestly-pastoral ministry in the name of and for the whole Unity. A Bishop is a living symbol of the continuity of the church’s ministry, although the Unity does not place emphasis on any mechanical transmission of the apostolic succession. The office and function of a Bishop is valid throughout the Unity as a whole. Wherever possible at least one Bishop should be resident in every Province.
A Bishop primarily has spiritual responsibility in the Church. The Synod of the province may add administrative responsibility by electing the bishop a member of the Provincial Board. All Provincial and District Boards shall consult a Bishop(s) in all matters concerning the work of the Province or District, which fall within his/her sphere of responsibility. A Bishop has a special duty of intercession for the Unity and also for the Church of Christ as a whole. A Bishop is a pastor to pastors. Bishops in active service should be enabled to visit congregations for the deepening of their spiritual life. The opinion of a Bishop(s) shall customarily be sought and given due consideration and weight in matters of doctrine and practice. A Bishop represents the Church in the act of ordination. A Bishop alone has the right to ordain or to consecrate to the various orders of the ministry, but only when he/she is commissioned to do so by the Provincial Board or synod of a Unity Province. A Bishop, however, has the right to decline a commission to ordain should he/she wish to do so. In exceptional cases, the ordination of a Deacon may be performed by a Presbyter in the name of and by commission of a Bishop. A Bishop(s) should share in the decisions regarding the training of candidates for the ministry and should maintain a special pastoral relationship with such candidates throughout their training.
A Bishop is not appointed by any Provincial Board, but shall be elected from among the Presbyters either by a Unity Board, a Provincial Synod, or in a Provincial Election ordered by the Synod under regulations contained in its constitution. The election of a Bishop in an affiliated Province shall be carried out under the regulations laid down by the Synod of the Province to which it is related. On the occasion of the consecration of a Bishop, at least two Bishops of the Unity should officiate.
Book of Order of the Moravian Church, Southern Province