Unity Mission Conference

Yesterday was a full day. The conference began with the expansive breakfast buffet. I saw my friend Emmanuel from Milami Theological College in Tanzania and gave him some things to take back to friends there. I also brought a suitcase full of academic books from the faculty of MTS for the library of TEKU. It is much cheaper to bring them as checked luggage than to ship them directly. After breakfast was worship with songs in many languages. Bishop Gray led the music and Bishop Abraham gave the sermon.

We have Moravians from 36 different nations here. That is simply amazing. English is the official language of the conference but there is translation provided for those who speak Spanish. It is still amazing to me that I know so many people here from so many different lands.

The keynote address by ……. Was very good and very challenging. He is a missiologist from South Africa with an impressive pedigree. We had a nice long chat later in the day about missions in an era of religious pluralism. We were behind schedule because there was a lengthy response. So we did not have much time in our small groups, but I did meet a young college student from Alaska. She is a Moravian from the Bethel area who is in school in Fairbanks. Like me, this is her first time to South Africa.

My address was immediately after lunch, which is always hard because people are ready for a siesta. I gave Karel August a flashdrive with the presentation on it and he had copies printed for the audience. Only after the lecture did I realize that I had given him the long and uncorrected version. O well, now everyone knows that I make mistakes and change my mind about things! I had to speak slower than usual because of the simultaneous translation, but there was still ample time for questions. I discussed the differences between Moravian missions in the 18th century and the 19th century and acknowledged some of the negative aspects of the mission, such as the church’s involvement with slavery. Jørgen Boytler told the audience that it was the first time in a gathering of the Moravian Unity that these things had been talked about.

Part of my talk was on the important role that women played in the Moravian Church and Moravian mission in the time of Zinzendorf and how this was suppressed after his death. That generated a lot of discussion from the women in provinces outside of the US and Europe. I even told them about the adoration of the Holy Spirit as Mother and how that was suppressed.

My intention was not to blame people for the decisions they made because they were goodhearted people trying to do the best they could in their context. But we need to be honest about the past and not romanticize. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we do not see them. But my main purpose in looking at this history was to give us courage to make decisions and take the risks that we are called to take in our age.

I had dinner with Rev. Angelica Regalado, one of my former students, and Adriana Craver who will take my classes online as part of her studies at Wake Forest. A young man named David from South Africa ate with us. Part of what I love about my job is being with students and gaining energy from their enthusiasm and ambition. We talked about the immigration and refugee crisis in America and what the Moravians can do to help. And we talked about Salem College because Angelica and Adriana are both alumnae and I used to teach there.

The evening address was by Jindrich Halama, one of the Moravian Church’s finest scholars. He is also a pastor in the Czech Province. He is an ethicist rather than a historian and his talk moved quickly from missions in the old Moravian Church, the so-called Ancient Unity, toward what it was like for the Moravians living under communism.

After the talk I met up with Br. Boytler and the Albanian delegation for some of their national beverage and very honest conversation among friends. Among them was one of my current students, Dena Fortuzzi, who is an amazing person. She will be the first Moravian to be ordained in Albania. I promised to attend the ceremony when the time comes. For now though we are working on her plan of study through distance learning. I talked to several people who wish to study at MTS through distance learning, including a pastor from England who wants to study Moravian history on his sabbatical.

It was after midnight when I went to bed after a challenging and beautiful day.

 

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