Digital Collections Spotlight #41: Provincial Synods of the Moravian Church

Posted June 28, 2023 in Digital Access

Digital Collections Spotlight #41: Provincial Synods of the Moravian Church

As part of an ongoing series of posts, we’re highlighting different collections and items from the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem. Check out our earlier posts in this series here.

Last week, June 22-25, the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in North America held its Provincial Synod at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a short distance from the Archives. As we will preserve the records of this event, as well as already holding the records of past synods, we thought it was a good opportunity to share a few photographs taken at earlier synods that can be found in our digitized collection.

1941 Provincial Synod, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania | PhotOVR 033, Moravian Archives Bethlehem

A synod is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary[1] as “an ecclesiastical governing or advisory council” and while the specifics vary between denominations in the Moravian Church they play a central role in the governing and operations of the church, as well as its congregations and organizations. In the Northern Province there is a provincial synod held every four years, while each of the three districts that comprise the province hold their own synods every four years, typically at the midpoint between provincial synods so that there is either a provincial or district synod every two years. However, as with so many things in recent years, COVID-19 impacted this timing and this will be the first Northern Province Provincial Synod since 2018. There are also wider-scale Unity Synods, which bring together Moravian Church representatives from around the world; these are held every seven years and lead to resolutions that impact the Moravian Church as a whole.

1920 Provincial Synod, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania | PhotOVR 003, Moravian Archives Bethlehem

This year’s provincial synod had the theme of “For the Healing of the World,” and delegates discussed and voted on a range of proposals that had been presented. Of particular interest to the archives is that the section of the Book of Order that pertains to us was changed so that materials we hold will be available to researchers 50 years after their creation, rather than the previous 75 years. Elections for a variety of church offices were also held, notably including the appointment of two new bishops, Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman and Rev. Dr. Michael Johnson, and a new president of the Provincial Elders Conference, Rev. David E. Bennett. Highlights of the Synod are available through the Northern Province’s social media and website, which can be found here.

Further Reading:

“Governance of the Moravian Church” The Moravian Church. Accessed 6/16/2023. Available here.

“Northern Province prepares for 2023 Synod” Accessed 6/15/2023. Available here.

[1] “Synod.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2023.

Top image: 1898 Provincial Synod, Lititz, Pennsylvania | PhotOVR 0112, Moravian Archives Bethlehem