1757 - A short, reliable report from the church of the Unitas Fratrum...
The castle or house where the Advocatia Fratrum has its archive, where their top officials live, where, customarily, the tri-annual Synodus generalis is held, and from which current business is executed is called the Vogtshof. From 1738 AD until 1747 AD this was located at the Marienborn Castle, then at the fort at Lindheim, both of which are in Wetterau, and later at the castle Zeyst, near Utrecht. In 1749, after the famous Parliament Act of the land of Great Britain, the Vogtshof was brought to the old residence of the Count of Lindsay on the Thames River, about one hour away from London. This was done because Great Britain is where the Unity had most thoroughly established itself, where it had its archive, and from which it could most easily oversee and care for its communities and its missions to the heathens. The Countess von Zinzendorf, whose soul had been awakened, was the actual house mother for the communities, institutions, settlements, and missions, a position to which she was rightfully elevated in 1722 by her lord. Due to this fact, the beloved Sachsen had already been a resting place for returning messengers and rotating workers for 30 years. Hence, most often, it was from this spot that what was best for the Brethren was done.
The Vogtshof is separated from the so-called pilgrims' house, also known as the disciples house, which serves as a hostel and retreat for the disciples of the Lord. The disciples house has a collateral council, which was the original name of the Ordinarii and Advocati Fratrum at that time. The council stems from a long tradition of Lord and Count estates, and has allied itself through espousal with various important estates which established inheritance Nexum[s] with the Church of the Brethren.
The Seniores Politici belong to the Vogtshofe. Such Magistrates the old Church of the Brethren selected from among the landed gentry (Herren Stande) and, with the laying on of hands, entrusted them with the direction of the external affairs of the Church. In the new Congregation, beginning in 1745 A.D., since then they have expanded considerably and become involved with many landed gentry and their Ministeriis, it became necessary to further implement middlemen for that purpose. They are supervisors over those matters, which do not have to do directly with the realm of souls, and they have to see, that everything is properly and faithfully done. They direct all the community courts at home and appoint the agents among the outsiders.
With full consent from the Prussian kings, this arrangement is also accepted by the Vogt and Syndicate of the church, who are now living heads of that same being. It is identified through this quality of all powers that contract with the Church of the Brethren. However, he* does not have the slightest inclination towards any of these arrangements, and it was only the unwillingness of the community to give in and the demands of day to day life that held him up. He is daily awaiting and working toward his freedom. Fifteen years ago, he threw down his name and title, and in the midst of the community he assumed an inconspicuous identity, within which he awaited his calling as much in Evangelical Christendom as among the heathen. He also attended the domestic and internal affairs of the Church of the Brethren, not as the one object of his calling, but as just one piece of it. He had arranged everything, so that he could be absent in the outer part. In tender beloved poverty and lowliness, unnamed and unknown, he could become like his Lord.
They are presented to the regional and local leaders, to whom settlements of the Brethren and communities are answerable, and their affairs are organized according to their proportions at the disposal of the authorities and the Brethren. They act with the power of a special Privilegii granted by the ecclesiastical court, or the Consistoriis, and with full power of the world council and its decrees. In certain lands that are ruled by law, when a conflict between their incumbency and the law is apparent, they are sent in to simplify their own commission. They are also sent to bring a number of rights and land experts and state accredited legal consultants into their council. This is done to maintain the freedom of belief for the Brethren, without coming into conflict with the regional constitution.
What a bishop is and what a bishops office is can be seen in the epistles of Timothy and Titus: they are inducted in the Synodo generali, where many candidates are nominated and heartily and unanimously selected. They are sanctified in their office, in the congregation of God, given the power to ordain priests, and the keys to bind and to absolve. Everything else that a high attendant or overseer should have is trusted to them, and they are kept in control by their Presbyterium: the collateral council of the elders, the priests, and the Diaconis.
Bishops who have been assigned to whole regions of the world are called Catholici by the Brethren; Lutherans would call it a general superintendent. They are introduced, one in the eastern and the other in the western region of the world, by the Ordinario Fratrum.
Of these, the Chor Episcopi from the (Greek) area have the responsibility, much as a Diocensani or a land Inspectores is supervisor of their province, to divinely direct the family of God in their region. A family of God is understood to be one, two, or even more house fathers with their children and domestics who, in this last sorrowful time have taken it upon themselves to serve the Lord in the event of an apostasy. They remain in their regions and homelands as long as they are able. When it is clear that it is no longer possible, they will be come pilgrims of the earth and will move to the communities of the Brethren. They will only receive an Episcopal order to do so when this is necessary, and never sooner.
Bishops who have been released from the responsibilities of their office due to age, disease, or other handicaps are called Emeriti, or, old bishops.
They are called honorable, beloved Brother by their people and do not receive a salary. If they cannot provide for themselves then their most basic necessities will be provided for. This amount will not surmount the needs of any other Ordinarius loci, a supervising preacher, Liturgus or pastor from the community, and his Diaconus, or, helper.
Like Lutheran or Reformed clergyman, they do not have any special vestments. If the community demands it, they wear black, but they do not wear collars. The bishops are not to be distinguished except that they wear their own hair and that they customarily, but not by rule, wear a violet cap to cover their head. At ordinations they wear a white robe with a red sash. However, because the Consecrator at each Evening Service wears the same, one cannot call this the Episcopal vestments.
The white choir robes have been worn in Lutheran lands for quite some time. The Moravian Brethren, who have never wanted to show off, found something respectable and comfortable about these robes. Because their teachers were in the habit of wearing ordinary clothing, they took up this manner of dress which was commonplace church attire near Bertholdsdorf. This was done in the most respectful way, and in that way which was most appropriate to the goal, in a celebratory meeting. Because they do not all wear black clothing, and because even fewer wear the pastoral robes, they bind their robes with a white or a red sash. This symbolizes Christ's appearance in a golden sash in Revelations 1:13. He had wrapped the community around him like a decoration. In his community, the justice of his blood is in the sash on his girth.
Those individuals who comprise the collateral council of the disciples house, the bishops and the Ordinarii of each settlement are called the Presbyteri, or, the Elders. They must have the years and the experience to organize the internal order of the community in choirs and classes, with the best for each individual in mind. One can have the most important office of all, and still not belong to this Collegio.
An Economy is the servant of God, who has had the way of the path of the Lord in sight since the beginning when the land where the economy was established was settled. The economy knows the ways of the Lord, and takes every opportunity to take a vote in the land, and when it is negative or decisive, then we accept the counsel and what is decided against is left undone. Such persons [Economy] are not put in place by people, does not need outer or clerical consecration, but they are recognized by their preparation by the Holy Spirit, and its evidence is in their soul and their power. The Economy's experience and its evidence is warmly recognized by the congregation and its workers.
The main role of the Economy is to protect the separation of the Brethren from the religion of the land, to stand against the encroachment of the common and bad places, and to ensure that the Diaspora* the children of God, who are connected in one soul to the Church of the Brethren do not cease and do not lose themselves in a visible body, which one calls the common places, or small villages. To this end, using all of its credit, an Oeconomus is created to provide for protection, teaching, and nourishing in the land where it is located. It is loved by everyone and recognized as righteous. The main goal is to forego upsetting the awakening souls in the Diaspora and to let them live quietly and still in their lands and towns, and let them honestly nurture themselves.
The ordinationes in the Church of the Brethren happen at the end of the Synodi, using the customary church litany, after specially enunciated intercessions for the office, and usually after a speech of Consecratoris presented by those in the office. A laying on of hands takes place, and prayers and blessings are directed towards those being ordained. The bishops are usually ordained by three of their peers. The Chor Episcopo can ordain a Catholicus together with a Chor-Episcopo. The Seniores politici are consecrated by the bishops, the Ordinarii from the Chor Episcopis, the Diaconi of a bishop and the Archi-Diaconi, who is always a minister.
However, they also have Diaconissas, of the female gender, who care for outer order and propriety, just as the Diaconi care for their own. These same are not only consecrated,
they are supported in their work by the oldest of their gender. This is because the apostle Paul declared the Jewish degradation of the female gender to be repealed.
Besides the ordinations, the Litany also provides for the acceptance of such persons who have set their minds to working for God in their community but who do not hold an office. The call of the Holy Ghost to workers minds (as the Church of England calls it), as well as their competence and loyalty is tested before the service they are offering is accepted in front of the congregation and sealed with a handshake. This is an announcement of what appears to be a self-initiating yet humble willingness and readiness to act at the slightest beck. Such persons were already called Aculuthi in the old Church of the Brethren, (from [Greek], to follow) and would have some similarities to the proponents in the Reformed Church and the candidates in the Lutheran Church. It is, however the acceptance which carefully distinguishes them.
The canon law of the church, which is demanded as a necessity in the Canonibus of all churches, is at this time not fully integrated into the Unity. The Ordinarius Fratrum holds to the short concept which the Redeemer gave in Matt. XVIII as the best rule for founding a church. They have been, however, since then, not to be changed. The established form for founding a canon rests on many different rules which are, in all cases, precedents. This is so that they will not apply anything out of insufficient notice of all circumstances of a case, either elusive or unjust, or without the Spirit. Under this law, every Ordinarius loci, with the help of his Presbyteri, observes his congregation,
lands, and affairs and enacts the order and canon which best fits the congregation. This order and canon is used as a force to better the community, but it has a second function which is to protect the community from misuse of the freedom of Christianity and the large amount of freedom of belief within that, as well as to protect them from the anger of those who are outsiders. Yet all this is done with caution, so that they do not do anything aggravating. To this end, they have decided from the beginning that all matters dealing only with the soul, whether one is naturally drawn towards good or whether one must be forced into doing good, he is not yet fully aware of his faults or of the value of the thing and this affects his actions. Nothing will be expected of him, which he does not already possess. Within the community, especially through the organization of the choirs, all that is possible to prevent one from straying is done. If, however, someone should stray in the matters that the worldly officials do not care about, he will fall, according to the circumstances and his own personal mindset, in a shallow or a deep hole, so that they will be able to guide him to wellness, honestly and thoroughly. Seducers will always be sent out of the community, following the guidelines of their litany: All seducers should be removed from your people! Bring all of the errant and seduced back into the fold! This is perhaps where the contradictory reports came from, which say that some of the laws ( of which none equal the harshness of the old Canonum) are harsh and sharp. In the case of seducers, this is not a lie. The manner of dealing with the errant and the seduced, which are not prohibited but conserved and healed, has caused those with the office of sheparding the souls to be accused of being too lax and mild, especially in certain towns where the officials did not know to deal with secular problems in this way.
As far as how the external church structure is different from others is concerned, that should be enough. In Vita communi, or in the secular life and house the society is pastoral and moral. They avoid all complications, choosing instead to live as simple, honest folk with the deed which is recognized in the hearts of all humans. They would like to be distinguished from others as rather remarkable due to this way of life.
In most of their congregations and settlements, established far from other cities and towns, they have a community court that is under the direction of the Senioris politici. The court is a sub-court established to ease the job of the Collegiis of the local lord. It is made up of the most acceptable and judicious residents of the community who arrange, judge, and, without process, reconcile all that pertains to secular life, handling, and advancement.
These same people, together with the artesian or guild masters, make sure that each artesian receives work, that everyone is doing something efficient, that no one is getting in the way of another, and that no one is endangering the entire handling system with prices that are too high or too low. The apprentices, after being tested for some time, are inducted into the community court at a monthly artisan conference. If they have learned their skill thoroughly, they will be absolved without rambling customs. The single members will live in their choir houses and will work there, when the artisans allow it. They will have the apprentices in their choir house to supervise.