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Lutheran, AME Zion churches to meet

SALISBURY— Two Christian denominations will meet in Salisbury later this month to further what organizers say could be a first-of-its-kind agreement between historically black and historically white churches.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will gather for a covenant worship service Sept. 16 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Salisbury. The two denominations will then sponsor a daylong summit on Sept. 17 at Hood Theological Seminary, centering on how the two denominations can further work together.
The summit is rooted in a relationship that began five years ago among Dr. Albert Aymer, president of Hood, Bishop Leonard Bolick of the N.C. Lutheran Synod, and AME Zion Senior Bishop George Walker after the seminary relocated to a campus next to the synod’s headquarters in Salisbury.
“We became friends and we asked the question, how can we work together?” Bolick says.
Their relationship ultimately led to a bilateral discourse between the two denominations. “This simply means,” Bolick says, “that the conversation is continuing at the national level.”
“This is the first time, we believe, in the history of our nation, that there’s been an agreement between a historically white church and a historically black church,” he notes.
It’s fitting to hold the service at St. John’s, because the N.C. Synod was formed in 1803 in part by this congregation. The worship service includes bishops from both denominations participating, including Bishop Mark Hanson, the ELCA’s presiding bishop, and Bishop George Walker, his AME Zion counterpart. The service begins at 6 p.m. and the public is invited.
The Saturday summit, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Hood, features four bishops from each denomination who will speak on these topics: who we are, what we believe, what makes us unique and where we go from here. The public is invited.
“The goal is to work together, but that’s going to occur much more at the grassroots, at the level of local churches,” Bolick says. “We’re going to be talking to each other and trust the Holy Spirit to guide those relationships. These agreements are based on relationships. It’s been wonderful to see.”
Kenneth Monroe, bishop of AME Zion’s South Atlantic Episcopal District, agrees.
“As we embark upon an opportunity to develop a relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, I am very moved by the spirit of cooperation and excitement that has been displayed by the leadership of the AME Zion Church as well as the Lutherans,” Monroe says. “For the past year, we have been in conversation about the ministry of each denomination and how we could learn from each other and perhaps find ways to work together.
“I am very excited about the summit to be held at Hood Theological Seminary as we seek to discover more about our leadership, our history and our doctrines. I am sure we will be able to leave Hood Seminary with a better understanding of who we are and where we can go together as a people of God.”
Contact Melanie Bookout at 704-633-4861 or at mbookout@nclutheran.org to register for the service and summit.
The AME Zion Church (www.amez.org) has more than 1 million members worldwide, with headquarters in Charlotte. The ELCA (www.elca.org) has approximately 10,000 congregations, over 200 of which are in the North Carolina Synod (www.nclutheran.org), with headquarters in Chicago.

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