Moravian Church

   The Moravian Church traces its history to John Hus (1373-1415), who tried to reform the church in Bohemia and Moravia a century before Martin Luther, and was burned at the stake for heresy. Hus's followers were known as the Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren) for two centuries. In 1620, the Habsburg rulers decided to destroy the remaining Hussite community and won a significant victory at the Battle of White Mountain on November 8 of that year. Many Hussites fled to Poland, but the largest group eventually settled in the 1720s on the German lands of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-60), where they founded the town of Herrnhut.
   At Herrnhut, Zinzendorf helped reorganize the community, which in 1727 accepted a new rule for ordering their common life. In 1735, they were able to secure episcopal orders from Daniel Ernest Jablonski (1660-1741), who received them from the Polish Moravians. Two years later, Zinzendorf was consecrated; in 1745, the Church of England recognized the Moravian orders as legitimately apostolic.
   At Herrnhut, the Moravians became aware of the new Pietism movement centered on Halle, and found in it a spiritual resonance. The Moravians' pietism was later transmitted to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
   Moravians played a disproportionate role in creating the global Protestant missionary effort. In 1731, they encountered a slave named Anthony, who informed them of the deplorable living conditions of Africans in the Caribbean and their need for Christian nurture. A year later, John Leonhard Dober (1706-60) and David Nitschmann (1676-1758) left to begin work on St. Thomas. Missionaries were later sent to Greenland (1733), the British American colonies (1836), and South Africa (1737), and still later to Labrador, South America, and Egypt. The Moravians were decades ahead of other churches in promoting the missionary enterprise.
   Following Zinzendorf's death, the Moravians formed a General Synod as the highest authority in the church. As the church grew, it established semiautonomous provinces, the first in 1857: Europe, England, northern United States, and southern United States. Over the next century, additional provinces were established in Jamaica,Ireland, southern Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, and the eastern Caribbean. Each of these now exists as an autonomous body, and each is a member of the World Council of Churches. The European Continental Province has its headquarters in the Netherlands. There are approximately half a million Moravians worldwide.
   Further reading:
   ■ J. Taylor Hamilton and Kenneth G. Hamilton, History of the Moravian Church: The Renewed Unitas Fratrum, 1722-1957 (Bethlehem, Pa.: Interprovincial Board of Christian Education, 1967)
   ■ Edwin A. Sawyer, All about the Moravians (Bethlehem, Pa./Winston-Salem, N.C.: Moravian Church in America, 1990)
   ■ John R. Weinlick, Count Zinzendorf: The Story of His Life and Leadership in the Renewed Moravian Church (New York: Abingdon Press, 1956); , The Moravian Church through the Ages (Bethlehem, Pa./Winston-Salem, N.C.: Moravian Church in America, 1996).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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