Leaders Develop Leaders

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Take a look around the church. Who is leading? From where I sit within the provincial organization, nearly everyone in a significant position within an agency or institution share one common life experience… they went to camp. For those of us in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, that means Laurel Ridge. In fact, many of us actually worked on the M-Staff, where as summer staffers we played guitar, guarded swimmers, led activities, and cleaned lots of bathrooms. If not M-Staff, many leaders once served as counselors or visited Laurel Ridge as a camper. Others served on the Regional Youth Council (RYC), a youth organization made up of representatives from each congregation.

Above: Ruth Cole Burcaw and Butch Sawtelle at Laurel Ridge, during their time on staff (circa 1987). Butch has gone on to provide leadership in his local congregation, on the Mission Society board, and at Laurel Ridge. Ruth serves in provincial leadership.

I know that my own Moravian leadership journey began with my service on RYC, where I served as president while in high school. I worked on M-Staff during my college years in the summers of 1985, 1986, and 1987. And while there were several intermittent years where I focused on raising my family, I never left the church. I served in leadership in a variety of ways in my local congregations. In my early 40s, I became more involved at the provincial level and was elected to the Board of Christian Education, one of the predecessor boards to the agency I currently serve as Executive Director–the Board of Cooperative Ministries.

Why am I a leader in the Moravian Church? Is it because I’m a preacher’s daughter who grew up with the church hard-wired into my DNA? Is it because I’m a somewhat ambitious, overachieving first-born child? Or is it my natural bossiness, my “take-charge” personality? Or that my parents raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to and worked hard to accomplish? Circumstance, birth order, personality, nurture. Surely these all play a role, but ultimately, I believe I am where I am today for two primary reasons: 1) my leadership capability emerged from my lived experience as a young Moravian, and 2) I had mentors who believed in me and encouraged me to use my giftedness so I might strive to become all that God created me to be.

“Transformative leaders create the atmosphere, context, and support that enable and stimulate people to generate the needed transformational change. When the possibilities and giftedness of people are nurtured and when they are invited to be part of the vision and solutions to the challenges facing the organization, it is then and only then that the culture of the organization begins to adjust and adapt.” -Gary Nelson

Let’s be honest: the Moravian Church is small. If we count our brothers and sisters around the world, we are talking about just over a million people. Put us up next to the Catholics (70 million in the US alone), the Southern Baptists (15 million), or even our newest ecumenical partners, the Methodists (12 million), and the less than 40,000 members in North America seem rather insignificant. Do the math. Given our small numbers, our capacity to produce transformative leaders is also small.

But I’m hopeful. Our church is full of Jesus-loving, faith-living, justice-seeking men and women who model the way for our young adults and children. When I think about the amazing Moravians who inspired and encouraged me throughout my life, including a few who are now pastors, professors, and even bishops, I know that we absolutely can empower and build a new generation of Moravian leaders.

Above: Butch’s daughter, Kathleen Sawtelle, is part of the 2018 Laurel Ridge M-Staff (her brother Michael is facilities director there). Ruth’s son, Jake Burcaw, is interning at camp and is believed to be Laurel Ridge’s first 3rd generation staffer. Jake’s grandfather, the late Hal Cole, was one of the first staffers (M-Boys) to work at Laurel Ridge, cutting trails with Bishop George Higgins. He served as a Moravian pastor for over 40 years.

If we desire future generations to carry on and reimagine our Moravian heritage in the coming years, we must work intentionally to develop the Moravian leaders who will emerge from our congregations and our unique programs and ministries.

Who are the emerging leaders in your congregation? Who can you support, encourage, and mentor?

What you do and say matters – be a mentor to someone in your church or at camp. Encourage them. Listen. Invite them to participate, to lead. Create opportunities. Affirm their innovation and their call. Provide them with a lived experience that they can use for the rest of their life to follow Jesus in serving the world.


Ruth Cole Burcaw is the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province and a member of Unity Moravian Church. She’s pictured above with her father, the Rev. Dr. Hal Cole.

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Q&A about BCM 2017 Changes

You can read the full announcement here. We know there are questions, so we have taken a stab at answering a few below:

Why Doug’s position? Weren’t there other places you could cut?
In order to answer that, it helps to go back to the beginning of this process. Given our “high-touch” ministry work, our staff costs (salaries, insurance, taxes, etc.) for nearly five staff people and contract labor equal about 60% of our budget. So we knew that any major decrease in income would logically hit this area the hardest, but that it would also require cuts in many parts of our ministry budget.

Earlier in 2016, we were informed of impending 2017 budget constraints which could amount to a $40,000 to $80,000 deficit for BCM. BCM’s Executive Committee engaged a group of current and former BCM members and program participants to consider the likely 2017 budget constraints. This group met, examined the current budget, and explored a variety of options, including but not limited, to:

  • Cutting expenses.
  • Increasing income through other sources (limited due to current provincial fundraising restrictions).
  • Re-imagining staffing configurations.
  • Transforming/evolving BCM’s vision and reconfiguring around that.

The group presented the Executive Committee with some recommendations about ways to address these looming financial challenges. This group strongly suggested BCM’s ministry must flow from its priorities, which need to be realigned in light of both the recent BCM planning retreat outcomes and the dynamic, shifting landscape of church.

Parallel to that conversation, the Provincial Elders Conference (PEC) has long been considering ministry priorities, as is their mandate from Synod. Brother David Guthrie shared at BCM’s July meeting a memo from PEC outlining a shift in BCM ministry priorities, which needs to occur prior to the 2018 Synod.  Specifically, BCM is asked to focus on congregational development, leadership development, and emerging ministry efforts.

In late summer, BCM learned that the decline in our 2017 income would be approximately 16%, or roughly $64,000. After much discussion and consideration, the Executive Committee proposed the following actions in order to address the 2017 budget deficit while also working to meet PEC’s recent directive:

  • Reimagine the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries position so that ministry work is carried out primarily by volunteers, contract employees, dual call, or teams of individuals. A percentage of the funds currently designated for this full-time position would be redirected towards continuing youth, college age, and young adult ministry as well as emerging ministry.
  • Reduce elements of BCM’s program and administrative budgets.

So, after a thorough analysis of all our options, this is where we landed. It has been many months, many conversations, and a lot of prayer that has led us to this place. We didn’t get here easily.

Why didn’t you just pull money from your endowments or invested funds?
We don’t believe that is a sustainable option. BCM’s primary income source (approximately 80%) comes from congregational provincial share funds. The rest of BCM’s income comes from interest or planned disbursements from invested and designated funds, and Resource Center profits. The Executive Committee considered whether money could be used from BCM’s various funds to cover the budget shortfall, but determined that using these funds for operations would not be sustainable over any significant period of time. They believe these funds are best used either for their intended purpose (many are restricted to certain ministries), to infuse various ministries with needed resources, or to cover emergency situations.

Could you not try and raise that money through direct fundraising?
The Southern Province has used a “unified budget” approach for many years, which provides funding for its various agencies through church income and other sources. Direct fundraising requires approval by the Provincial Support Service Board, and while there may be changes in the future, direct fundraising is not currently a viable option.

What happens now? How are we going to make sure we’re still focusing our efforts on youth, who are so important to the church?
The Executive Committee already met with some of the youth and young adults who have leadership roles with the Regional Youth Council and the Young Adult Ministry Team. We explained our situation and listened to them share their frustrations, questions, and suggestions. We took lots of notes.

We’re now devising a plan of action to reimagine existing programs with new staff configuration and with greater input from those we serve. We’ll be talking more about that in the coming months.

Doug has already begun working to ensure a smooth transition of youth, college, and young adult ministries to interim and/or other volunteers or staff. He and Aaron Linville recently shared the news with the rest of the Regional Youth Council and they’ll be working to make sure that all voices are heard during the transition.

Additionally, BCM members will be conversing with college age Moravians to discover how they might want to see this ministry continue. In many ways, this provides everyone (churches, members, clergy, the province) opportunities to deepen and strengthen their relationships with young Moravians.

Our young adult leaders are confident they can provide for themselves, with staff support from the BCM coming from remaining staff.

What about next year? How will you continue your ministries with few resources?

That’s a good question and one we have been talking about for quite some time. We know that we are facing an adaptive challenge, one that will require all of us, not just provincial staff, to solve. The upcoming Synod of 2018 will provide the opportunity for us to make some bold choices about the future of our church and our ministries.

Despite the challenges facing the church, we are hopeful that working together, we can become a church that shares the faith, love, and hope of Christ in the world. We will need to be creative and persistent and faithful. We commit to creating and continuing conversations about BCM’s long-term sustainability as well as being part of the solution and not the problem.

What will happen with emerging ministries?

BCM is beginning conversations with PEC regarding the definition and implementation of emerging ministries. We’ll soon develop a working group to further explore ministry plans. We have set aside funds for the 2017 budget to provide both program and limited staff support in this area, but these plans are still emerging themselves!

Will Doug be open to call to a congregation?

Of course! Like all those who are ordained, Doug is open and eligible to receive a call. PEC actively considers all pastors for call and Doug is no exception. Doug is first and foremost a servant of God, willing to trust that God will reveal a new way for him to serve within the Moravian Church.

What are you going to do to recognize Doug’s work?
Doug has been with us since December of 2012 and we want to be sure we celebrate his time with us. We are currently consulting with those he serves most often and will let folks know of any plans as soon as they are made. In the meantime, we will take every chance we can to affirm Doug’s important ministry and to celebrate the many ways he’s made a difference in all our lives. We encourage you to do the same!



An Announcement from BCM

September 19, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Since 2009, the Board of Cooperative Ministries, or BCM, has been engaging and supporting our Southern Province Moravian congregations in their ministries. We provide hands-on ministry support for children & families, youth, college age, young adults, clergy, lay leaders, older adults, and more – both provincially and in congregations and RCCs. It takes a lot of people, creativity, dedication and money to do this important work. Our four and half-person staff and 25-member volunteer board strive to be good stewards of the money given to us by churches through their provincial share contributions.

Nearly 80% of BCM’s income comes from church support, part of what you put in the offering plate on Sunday, and for that we are very grateful. And yet the world and the church continue to change. One consequence of this change is that, this year, income is down significantly. We must reimagine and realign ways we do ministry.

After months of study, conversation, discernment, and prayer, the BCM approved a budget acknowledging these new realities. In the next year, we’ll provide Regional Youth Council, college age, and young adult ministry support, but we’ll be doing it without a full-time staff person.

Beginning in January 2017, the Rev. Doug Rights will no longer serve as Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries for BCM. We are sad to see him go, but glad that he will continue to share his many, amazing gifts with the Moravian Church and that he will continue to be a significant advocate for our youth.

As we say goodbye to Doug, it is our priority to make sure these ministries do not end. We are developing plans for the youth and young adults in our province to have the leadership they need. We’ve answered some of the most common questions about this change in another post.

Please stay tuned for details about how we will celebrate Doug’s years of ministry with BCM as well as our plans for providing ministry during challenging times. We ask for your prayers and your continued support, and may God continue to bless all of us as together we grow in faith, love and hope, following Jesus in serving the world.

-The Board of Cooperative Ministries

Don Britt (Covenant, appointed by PEC)
Malissa Bumgarner (New Hope, representing the Yadkin View RCC)
Elaine Cockerham (Trinity, representing the Salem Creek RCC)
Rachel Desmarais, Vice Chair (Trinity, appointed by PEC)*
Peggy Dodson (Home, appointed by PEC)
Heidi Everhart (Friedberg, appointed by PEC)
Carol Foltz, Chair (Moravia, appointed by PEC)*
John Foltz (Trinity, appointed by PEC)
Marsha Fowler (Konnoak Hills, representing the South Branch RCC)
David Guthrie, At-Large PEC Rep (serving ex-officio, President of PEC)*
LeaAnn Haynes (Friedland, representing the South Wachovia RCC)
Criss Hiatt (Kernersville, representing the Sunrise RCC)
Rhonda Hiatt (Mt. Bethel, representing the Mount Ararat RCC)
Hazel Hooker (New Hope – FL, appointed by PEC)
Tanya Kimel (Friedberg, representing the Salisbury Road RCC)
Aaron Linville, At-Large RCC Rep (Rural Hall, representing the North Branch RCC)*
Cat Long (Bethabara, representing the Pilot Mountain RCC)
Sabrina Maksi (Christ, appointed by PEC)
Michael Terry, Secretary (Rural Hall, appointed by PEC)*
Shanda Trogdon (Moravia, representing the Dan Springs RCC)
Joyce Vance (Peace, appointed as PEC representative)
Leibia Willis (First – GA, appointed by PEC)
Alfred Yorks (Suriname Fellowship, representing the Florida District RCC)

Ruth Cole Burcaw, Executive Director*
Beth Hayes, Director of Congregational Resources and Ministry
Doug Rights, Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries
Heather Stevenson, Administrative Assistant

*members of BCM’s Executive Committee

Vacant – Petersbrook RCC Representative
Vacant – Youth Representative (appointed by PEC on recommendation of RYC)

Questions? Visit our Q&A post.

Moravians and the Responsibility of Citizenship


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flag-bible“I’m just not going to vote.” “There are just no good choices out there.”

I hear these sentiments often during this tumultuous campaign season. When we are overwhelmed with the negativity, frightening rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and mean-spirited debates, it seems easiest to check out of the process all together. And yet, I am aware that this year, more than ever, my Christianity, and in particular, my Moravian Christianity, will inform my responsibilities as a citizen.

It’s especially appropriate that Moravians are in the process of observing the August 13th spiritual renewal, where our ancestors of the 18th century felt the uniting presence of the Holy Spirit after months of sharp and divisive arguments. Earlier that year (1727), they adopted a covenant guiding their lives together and as individual Christians living in the world, named “The Brotherly Agreement.” Today, we call this document the Covenant for Christian Livingand in the section entitledThe Witness of a Christian Citizen,” it lays out clear guidelines for how we as Christian Moravians are to engage as citizens:

  1. Recognition of Civil Authority: We will be subject to the civil authorities as the powers ordained of God, in accordance with the admonitions of Scripture (Rom. 13:1) (I Peter 2:13-14) and will in nowise evade the taxes and other obligations which are lawfully required of us (Rom. 13:7).
  2. Responsibilities: Considering it a special privilege to live in a democratic society, we will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of our citizenship, among which are intelligent and well-informed voting, a willingness to assume public office, guiding the decisions of government by the expression of our opinions, and supporting good government by our personal efforts.
  3. A Higher Loyalty: Through giving our loyalty to the state of which we are citizens, we do recognize a higher loyalty to God and conscience.  (Acts 5:29)
  4. Peacemakers: For the sake of the peace, which we have with God, we earnestly desire to live peaceably with all people and to seek the peace of the places where we dwell.

Pay special attention to #2. “Intelligent and well-informed voting?” polling stationHow are we supposed to do that as we wade through our news feeds and contrasting media reports?

Know what you believe. The election provides an opportunity for us to revisit our convictions. What are our own, personal non-negotiables? How can we balance our passionate opinions with a search for truth and fact-based learning? What do we want for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our world? How do our prioritized convictions align with our faith? Our citizenship? If we want to live like Jesus and build others up in faith, love, and hope, how does that inform our voting?

Do your homework. Use reliable sources. Contrary to what you might find on social media or television, there are still many out there, for example:

  • Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan website dedicated to “reducing the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The website analyzes and reports the accuracy of claims or statements made by influencers in politics. This includes the monitoring of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
  • Votesmart.org is another nonpartisan resource for voters, offering lots of information on candidates and elected officials in addition to different political issues and systemic concerns. Find detailed descriptions of politicians and candidates such as their biography, legislation history, top campaign contributors, and stances on the issues, as well as voter registration and polling schedule information. Their VoteEasy research tool lets you see which candidates match most closely to your own stances on various issues.
  • MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization, runs a website which explains to voters the influence money has in the political system. The website has information about campaign contributions and who has donated to political candidates on a federal, state, and local level.
  • Preview your ballot by visiting your county’s Board of Elections website. (NC voters – this page shows you registration information and leads you to sample ballots for upcoming elections.) Once you know who all the candidates are, you can begin specific candidate research.
  • Visit political party websites for the latest campaign statements and to check candidates’ stances on the issues, on the national, state, and even local level. For example, NC voters can visit the NC Republican party, the NC Democratic party, and even NC Green and Libertarian parties’ websites. These sites often contain hard-to-find info on local candidates or at least, links to local information.

Cultivate civility. The root of civility is “civil,” which most often means “polite and courteous.” But, civil also means “of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns.” What are your neighbors’ concerns? Why do they feel the way they do about a certain candidate or issue? Take the time to LISTEN. Hear their stories without thinking of your next sentence. Remember Proverbs 18:15 – “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Knowledge comes to us in many ways, especially if our ears and heart are both open.

We do not live in a perfect world. But we do follow a risen Lord! This gives us hope for ourselves, our neighbors, and this imperfect world. Consider the Ground of the Unity, our doctrinal statement adopted by the Unity Synod of the Unitas Fratrum in 1995, which provides some wisdom for us as we contemplate worldly issues:

Jesus Christ maintains in love and faithfulness His commitment to this fallen world.  Therefore we must remain concerned for this world.  We may not withdraw from it through indifference, pride or fear.  Together with the universal Christian Church, the Unitas Fratrum challenges humanity with the message of the love of God, striving to promote the peace of the world and seeking to attain what is best for all.  For the sake of this world, the Unitas Fratrum hopes for and looks to the day when the victory of Christ will be manifest over sin and death and the new world will appear.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 


Time to Be Bold – Part Two

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In my last post, I declare that it’s time to be bold again, and I end with the question:

“How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?”

How indeed. I told you to stay tuned, then I hit the publish button and took a deep breath, because here’s the thing, folks: I have no idea.

Okay, that’s not quite true. As someone who has spent my life helping others do what they do better, and who feels a deep sense of call to my beloved Moravian Church, I have plenty of ideas. And, if you know me at all, you know I am certainly not shy about sharing my opinions. But they are just that. Mine. It is not up to me to tell you how we go about being the church in the future. This is not an individual activity, and no one individual, regardless of his or her dedication, brilliance, charisma, or position, has all the answers.

So let me tell you what I DO know:

  • The river has moved, people. Consider the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras, built to withstand river-that-moveddeadly hurricanes. When Hurricane Mitch came along in 1998, it dumped 75 inches of rain in less than four days and destroyed 150 bridges, but it could not destroy the Choluteca. But take a closer look at that photo. The bridge survived the storm, but the storm moved the river! Similarly, the institutional church is strong and has weathered many storms over the centuries, but the river has moved. While the temptation is great to try and redirect the massive river back under that bridge, the work set before us is to build a new bridge.
  • The Church is facing an adaptive challenge. There are two types of challenges that leaders in any field have to address:
    • Technical challenges are situations we’ve encountered numerous times and require quick fixes, problem solving, or consultation with experts. Examples of this include going to a mechanic when your car breaks down or visiting the dentist to fix a broken tooth.
    • Adaptive challenges are situations that present new dilemmas and uncharted territory. Adaptive challenges require not the predefined answers of experts, but the hard work of discernment by those most affected by the problem. Examples include solving world hunger or reforming public education.

There is no road map for the journey we are on. We’ll have to learn new ways of thinking and doing, use our imaginations, and discern solutions with each other, the ones most affected by these uncertain, complex times.

  • With great challenge comes great possibility. We know the river has moved and we know that

    Count Zinzendorf ‘s bold vision of of the Renewed Moravian Church, as captured by 18th century artist John Valentine Haidt in the painting “First Fruits.”

    what we face is a complex, adaptive challenge. But our history as Moravians proves that we can rise to the occasion. While persecution, exile, and the sorry state of the human condition immobilized and frightened many of their day, our early Moravian brothers and sisters discovered opportunity and even beauty in those constraints. These bold followers of Jesus blazed forward, undeterred, as they expressed spirituality in community, welcomed women into ministry, embraced diversity, and sacrificed nearly everything for their mission. Over the years, though, we modern-day Moravians have grown slowly complacent in our comfortable sanctuaries. We are keepers of our great heritage, but what about the boldness? How do we take the constraints we face today, such as declining membership, shrinking resources, or competing values, and create opportunities to share faith, love, and hope with the world? Settling in and doing what we’ve always done will not solve the challenges we face. Now is the time to demonstrate creativity, openness, flexibility, and yes, boldness.

  • Transformative leadership is required. Transformative leaders focus on motivation and formation, and they do it out of a deep sense of call. I’m not just talking about clergy. We all must be transformative as we encourage one another. Transformative leaders create environments that enable people to survive and thrive through change. When we nurture the giftedness and possibilities of people and invite them to be part of the solutions we seek, it is only then that our organizational culture begins to adjust and adapt. Interested in knowing more about what transformative leadership looks like? Consider being part of the next Moravian Leadership experience. We need you!
  • We have to do this together. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us how we are to live as the community that is the church. We are to live with each other like Christ – being relational, forgiving, patient, loving, and gentle. And before we can do that, we have to know we are holy, chosen, and dearly beloved by God (3:12).

We must love each other, even when we disagree about many things. As I write this, the PCUSA is holding its 222nd General Assembly (similar to our Synod) in Portland, Oregon. Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian minister and author, reflected on Facebook about his experience there:

“One of the most difficult, but essential and transformational, aspects of meetings like General Assembly is when friends and colleagues passionately disagree with one another, the vote is taken, and we choose to remain friends and colleagues. While some might see this as a lack of integrity, selling out or even, “dining with the devil,” I see this as the living expression of mutual forbearance, the body faithfully discerning the will of God, and ultimately, why I choose to claim my seat at the table that Christ has prepared.”

Let’s continue to sit together at Christ’s table even as we face forces that would tear us apart.

  • We have to know WHY we’re doing it. We get so overwhelmed by life and its accompanying challenges it is very easy to forget why we are here, in this place, together. Christ and Him crucified remain our confession of faith. What else can we do but respond to this gift of grace with our faith in God, our love for God and our neighbor, and our hope in this life and the next?

During the 2012 Moses Lectures at Moravian Theological Seminary, Peter Vogt, co-pastor of the Moravian Congregation of Herrnhut (yes, THAT Herrnhut) reminded us that “we . . . are called to live as a community that is faithful to the message of God’s love, as given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He concludes by saying that

“our concern about the identity of what it means to be Moravian should not be guided by the fear of loss…or by the focus on preserving our historical heritage, but rather by the desire to become what God is calling us to be.”

Indeed. Let’s embrace these beautiful constraints we face as a Church today and, together, determine what God is calling us to be, then do it and be it. Amen.



Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2002. Print.

McFayden, Kenneth J. Strategic Leadership for a Change: Facing Our Losses, Finding Our Future. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2009. Print.

Morgan, Adam, and Mark Barden. A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Print. (View more on this idea here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfVJpEnh7wCJJoO5tS3EYZg)

Nelson, Gary V. Rev. Dr., and Peter M. Dickens. Leading in DisOrienting Times Navigating Church and Organizational Change. Ashland: Christian Board Of Pub Tcp, 2015. Print.

Vogt, Peter. “How Moravian Are the Moravians? The Paradox of Moravian Identity.” The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church. Volume 19, Issue 3 (Winter 2013-14): 3-20. Moravian Theological Seminary. Center for Moravian Studies. Web. 24 June 2016. https://issuu.com/moravianseminary/docs/hinge_19.3 .


Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Below, Ruth and her family celebrate daughter Jessy’s graduation from Appalachian State University in May 2015. 

jess grad 


It’s Time to Be Bold Again

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Let’s face it: we are anxious. Nervous, tense, uptight, some perhaps even scared, frightened, terrified. Life is not the same. We seem busier, more disconnected from each other, less safe, less secure financially, and more uncertain. The world is polarized – pro this, anti that, with very little room for compromise. Violence, intolerance, and xenophobia seem to be on the rise as well.wsquote

Even worse, a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute describes “mainline Protestants” as less optimistic, less hopeful. “Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are markedly more pessimistic than other groups,” the report notes, “with majorities believing that America’s best days are behind us (60% and 55%, respectively).”

It all sounds so grim. Where is Jesus in all this? How did we, the Easter people, become gripped by fear, rather than inspired by hope? We appear to have hunkered down in our beautiful buildings and left the real world behind. Now the world has found us and is beating at our door. Will we answer the call? Can the church today help us build each other up in faith, love, and hope? This should be a frequent topic of conversation among Moravians.

On November 7, 2015, Moravians got together at Clemmons Moravian Church to talk about making bold choices for Christ. We heard from some pretty sharp folks, including Brother Thomas Fudge, preeminent Hus scholar and Professor of Medieval History at the University of New England in Australia. Dr. Fudge was a visiting professor during the fall of 2015 at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he taught a class about heretics and delivered the Moses Lectures. He helped us understand what it means to be a Hussite 600 years after the death of Jan Hus. Brother Craig Atwood spoke about the ways our Moravian ancestors made bold choices for Christ through the generations, from Gregory the Patriarch in 1457 to Comenius to Zinzendorf until our settlement in what is now Winston-Salem, NC. Brother Sam Gray reminded us that, in many ways, our Moravian brothers and sisters around the world are making bold choices for Christ every day, making tremendous sacrifices to live out their faith in places like Cuba, Peru, Honduras, Albania, and Nicaragua, to name a few. (Visit The Board of Cooperative Ministries YouTube channel to view these inspiring, thought-provoking presentations.)

Our history speaks for itself. The courageous witness of Jan Hus, who gave his life so that the truth would prevail, has inspired Moravians for hundreds of years. Gregory the Patriarch and the early “Unitas Fratrum” (or “Unity of the Brethren”) broke from the established state church in 1457, when it was illegal and even life-threatening to start such a radical movement. Our spiritual ancestors went back to the basics of following the way of Christ from the New Testament, believing that many in the church had lost the true spirit of Christianity. According to the Ancient Unity, the New Testament tells us clearly what is essential: faith, love, and hope.

bonhoefferBishop John Amos Comenius helped keep alive the faith of his church in its darkest hour, and provided inspiration that led to its subsequent revival as the Moravian Church during the Zinzendorf era. The renewed Moravian Church of the 18th century followed Zinzendorf’s bold assertion that “there can be no Christianity without community.” For the refugees in Herrnhut, this profound experience of Christian community developed into a passion for living each day for Christ, regardless of occupation or station, and led our brothers and sisters to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those most marginalized throughout the world.

And so the wisdom of the Scriptures and the faithful example of the Ancient Unity and the Renewed Church provide a way to understand our Christian experience today. God creates; God redeems; God blesses. And we respond in faith, in love, and in hope.

The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, Professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary and the Director of Center for Moravian Studies, spoke to the European Synod in Bad Boll, Germany, on May 24, 2016. European Moravians are feeling much the same as their North American counterparts – challenges abound at every turn. You may read Brother Craig’s complete address (and it is worth the read), but this passage stood out in particular:

I believe that in our world today, what we need is hope. And in our churches: we need hope. We need to hold on the hope that is within us. Yes, we experience conflicts in our congregations. Yes, we are facing financial difficulties. Yes, we may be facing the decline or even death of our traditional church life. But these things should not rob us of our hope and courage. Our church has died before. Our church has faced worse challenges than these. We have thrived when we have been the most radical and courageous, when we have embraced the teachings of Jesus most passionately, when we have looked into the future with courage and hope because we know that we belong to Christ and that Christ has called us to love his world with the same passion that he loves the world.

We do have much about which to be hopeful. Certainly, our rich history provides example after example of Moravians acting with boldness and courage in the face of much adversity. We know that our past can inform our future, but how do we bridge that gap between knowing and doing? How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?

Stay Tuned.

(Update 7/5/2016 – Part Two of this post is now available.)

Ruth - Horizontal

Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM).

There is a Leadership Shortage . . .

There is a leadership shortage . . . will you help us fill it? MLN Logo for print use

“But I’m not a leader,” you say, “I could never get up in front of people and tell them what to do. That’s just not me.”

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you have a calming presence in the midst of dysfunction, turmoil, or conflict?
  3. Do you find yourself asking for clarification in board or committee meetings?
  4. Do you discourage scapegoating, gossip, or bad behavior among church members?
  5. Are you persistent? When you set a goal, do you see it through to fruition?
  6. Do you consider the feelings of others when making a decision?
  7. Can you separate unhelpful emotional responses from facts?
  8. Do you try to look at things from someone else’s perspective when you encounter conflict or misunderstanding?
  9. When confronting bad behavior, are you willing to address the behavior rather than the personality?
  10. Can you put aside your personal feelings and emotions for the good of the group?
  11. Are you willing to “stay in the space” and be present with others even when things get tense and uncomfortable?
  12. Do you try to appreciate and even embrace diversity in all its forms?
  13. Do you have a good sense of who you are and what you believe? Or are you still trying actively to discover and live out your purpose?
  14. Do you believe in the people with whom you “do church?”
  15. Are you willing to do the right thing, even if it’s not the most expedient, convenient, or non-controversial thing?
  16. Do you have a good sense of where you end and others begin?
  17. Do you have ideas about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?
  18. Are you willing to hear the ideas of others about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?

Did you answer “yes” to any of them? If so, guess what? Yep, you’re already a leader. Did you answer “yes” to a few of these and “I wish!” to a few more? If so, the Moravian Leadership Network is for emerging leaders like you and already established leaders as well!

How important are leaders in the church or any organization, for that matter?

According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge“Leadership makes a significant difference in levels of engagement and commitment and is perhaps the most important asset in every organization, yet recent research points to a shortage of leaders. It is a serious global concern. The shortage, however, is not because of the lack of potential talent. The people are out there, the eagerness is out there, and the capability is out there. The shortage results from prevailing myths—myths about talent, strengths, position, self-reliance, and effort—that inhibit the vast majority of leaders from shining and organizations from realizing the full benefits of the talent they already have.”

Leadership Graphic

Moravian leaders should shine and we should be realizing the full benefits of our significant existing talent. Leaders are a lot like Christians, in that we are always becoming better ones! It’s a process, isn’t it? Though we are a small denomination, we are blessed in that we have a tremendous resource designed to help us grow into our best selves, as Christians and as leaders. The Moravian Leadership Network (MLN), a program of the Board of Cooperative Ministries, joins and strengthens leaders in the Moravian Church, Southern Province through experiential, group-oriented learning. We hope to broaden and deepen the pool of Moravian leaders, people who will dedicate themselves to accomplishing worthwhile goals with a sense of vision, excitement and common good, creating a future of greater possibilities.

Each year, a diverse group of Moravians from various congregations meets four times for meaningful face-to-face sessions. To date, 40 participants from over 20 different congregations have completed the program, which emphasizes spiritual leadership, personal development, relationship-building, conflict and change management, and Moravian history, polity/structure, and theology. Participants envision the Moravian Church’s dynamic future and make valuable connections with others who will journey alongside them.

The church of the 21st century will fulfill its mission with committed members who are grounded in their faith, understand congregational life, and join together with others to provide the leadership we need. Visit http://bit.ly/MLN2016 for more information and to apply for a future class.  The application period for the Class of 2017 begins May 1 and goes through July 2016.

We hope that you will participate in or encourage others in your faith community to participate in an upcoming MLN program.  May the God of hope and love encourage and strengthen all of us to pursue and practice a faith that will shape our leadership for the sake of God’s kingdom, here on earth as it is in heaven.


Kouzes & Posner have a new book out soon. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader describes five things you can do to increase your leadership quotient:

  1. Believe in Yourself.  Believing in oneself is the essential first step in developing leadership competencies. The best leaders are learners, and they can’t achieve mastery until and unless they truly decide that inside them there is a person who can make and difference and learn to be a better leader than they are right now.
  2. Aspire to Excel. To become an exemplary leader, people have to determine what they care most about and why they want to lead. Leaders with values-based motivations are the most likely to excel. They also must have a clear image of the kind of leader they want to be in the future—and the legacy they want to leave for others.
  3. Challenge Yourself. Challenging oneself is critical to learning leadership. Leaders have to seek new experiences and test themselves. There will be inevitable setbacks and failures along the way that require curiosity, grit, courage, and resilience in order to persist in learning and becoming the best.
  4. Engage Support. One can’t lead alone, and one can’t learn alone.It is essential to get support and coaching on the path to achieving excellence. Whether it’s family, managers at work, or professional coaches, leaders need the advice, feedback, care, and support of others.
  5. Practice Deliberately. No one gets better at anything without continuous practice. Exemplary leaders spend more time practicing than ordinary leaders. Simply being in the role of a leader is insufficient. To achieve mastery, leaders must set improvement goals, participate in designed learning experiences, ask for feedback, and get coaching. They also put in the time every day and make learning leadership a daily habit.



Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). She also directs, with a dedicated planning team, the Moravian Leadership Network program for the Southern Province.