This article examines how Moravians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries interpreted the (Bohemian) Unity of the Brethren and the relationship of that church to the Moravian Church, founded in Herrnhut, Germany, in the eighteenth century. Zinzendorf and his contemporaries used the Unity of the Brethren to legitimate the discipline, ministerial orders, and ecumenical endeavors of the Moravian Church. After a brief look at German-Moravian historiography in the nineteenth century, particularly the development of the myth of the “Hidden Seed,” we will examine in detail how Moravians in England and North America used the concept of the Ancient Unity to create an American Moravian Church independent of German control. Church historians like Edmund de Schweinitz tried to look past Herrnhut to claim the identity of the Bohemian Brethren as the true identity of the Unitas Fratrum. Ironically, English and American Moravians adopted very little of the doctrine and practice of the Unity of the Brethren even as they claimed the history of that church. In fact, by the time of de Schweinitz the Moravians had abandoned controversial aspects of the church that most clearly connected the Bohemian Brethren to the renewed church, such as pacifism and the refusal to swear oaths.

You do not currently have access to this content.