British Province of the Moravian Church

Church family:Moravian churches
Based in:United Kingdom
Present in:

About membership

Statistics of church membership, number of churches, congregations, pastors, etc. are those given by the churches and organizations, unless otherwise indicated. WCC member churches have various ways of defining their membership: state churches in which virtually every citizen is baptized and thus counted as a member, churches which include in their membership persons who are baptized but not actively participating, churches in which only adult baptized or communicant members are counted, etc. No attempt has been made to classify the membership figures in such categories, because agreed upon indicators to so do not exist.

Member of:
 WCC (1949) 
Associate member of:
Periodicals:Moravian Messenger (monthly), Daily Watchwords (annual)

The Moravian Church came to Britain in the early 18th century and was recognized by act of parliament (Actum Fratrum Unitatis in Anglia, 1749) as an ancient Protestant Episcopal Church, descended from Unitas Fratrum. The Unitas Fratrum itself came into being in the 15th century in Bohemia as a result of the Hussite Reformation. The church in Britain took an active part in the evangelical revival in the 18th century. Overseas missionary work was started from Germany in 1732 and led to the establishment of the Moravian Church as a worldwide unity. The Moravian Church is one of the few churches to have an international legislative synod. The 19 individual provinces are autonomous as long as their church order does not run counter to the overarching Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum (COUF). This is determined by the Unity Synod which meets every seven years. The Moravian Church has an ordained ministry in which the traditional orders of bishop, presbyter and deacon are preserved. The bishop ordains and gives spiritual leadership but, as bishop, does not hold administrative office. The general oversight of the province is the responsibility of the provincial elders' conference, elected by the synod which, at present, meets every two years. Since 1970 the British province has ordained women into the ministry. Lay involvement is encouraged at every level of church life.

Moravians in Britain (as in Europe generally) did not feel called to set up a church in opposition to already existing churches as guardian of some special doctrine, but to work with existing churches. Moravian congregations were established only where there was evident need, and so the Moravian Church in this country has remained small. It is organized in five regional areas. A few of the congregations are in country villages but most are in urban areas. In recent years, the church has been strengthened by the coming of West Indian Moravians to England.

Up to the mid-20th century, the main emphasis of the church was on overseas missionary work. Even today, though the former mission fields have now become independent provinces of the world Moravian Church, the relationship with them and cooperation in mission remains an important concern. The Moravian Church in Britain maintains particular relations with Moravian churches in Tanzania, India and Jamaica. The Moravian Church is ecumenical in outlook and involved in a number of local ecumenical projects including shared congregations. Currently four of the congregations are joint units with the United Reformed Church. In 1998 a formal agreement was established between the Moravian Church of the British Province and the Church of England: the Fetter Lane Agreement, recognizing each other's church and ministry although stopping short of accepting interchangeability of ministry.

Since 2005 the British Province of the Moravian Church and the European Continental Province of the Moravian Church hold joint membership in the World Council of Churches, under the name "Moravian Church in Western Europe".

Last updated:01/01/06