Biblical Equality In The Moravian Church -- By: Peter Vogt

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 15:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: Biblical Equality In The Moravian Church
Author: Peter Vogt

Biblical Equality In The Moravian Church

Women shared pastoral responsibilities in the community founded by Count Zinzendorf in the eighteenth-century.

Peter Vogt

Born in Germany, Peter Vogt studied at Moravian College and Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University School of Theology, where he recently completed his Th.D. in Systematic Theology and Church History. Peter has published essays and articles on ecclesiology and Moravian history. He is a member of the Moravian Church in Germany and is currently pursuing further pastoral training toward ordination. He lives in Kittery Point, Maine.

Although numerically small, the Moravian church is relatively well known for its influence on the conversion of John Wesley and for its pioneering mission work. The Moravian vision of forming a truly Christian community and the ingenious leadership of Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (1700-60) resulted in a communal life that was highly original and in many respects ahead of its time.1

While Moravian contributions to theology, missions, education, and music have received ample attention, one aspect in the life of the eighteenth-century Moravian Church has gone almost unnoticed, even among modern Moravians: the fact that women shared many of the pastoral responsibilities within the church, wrote spiritual autobiographies, received ordination, and even engaged in preaching.2 The example and role of the Moravian Sisters’ ministry deserves a wider audience, as does the way Zinzendorf and the Moravians dealt with biblical passages prohibiting the preaching of women.

Moravian History

The story of the eighteenth-century Moravian Church begins in 1722 when Protestant exiles came from Moravia to Zinzendorf’s estate in Saxony. These spiritual descendants of the persecuted Unity of Bohemian Brethren subsequently established a small village called Herrnhut—“The Lord’s Watch.” Zinzendorf was a Lutheran pietist who harbored high aspirations for a life fully devoted to Christ. He regarded the appearance of the Moravian settlers as an opportunity to organize a truly Christian community of regenerate souls. In the following years, additional immigrants and other spiritually minded people of varying confessional backgrounds from all over Germany were attracted to this germinating Pietist colony.

A spiritual revival in 1727 unified the residents of Herrnhut as a Gemeine (“congregation” or “fellowship”) determined to pattern itself after the church of the apostolic age.3 Through a r...

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