ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 31, 2011
ELCA, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bishops Agree to Mission Statement
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church said it is time for the two churches to "come together as communities of faith and to know each other in order that we might be more effective as people of God."
The bishops made the declaration in a "Statement of Mission" affirmed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops when it met in March in Itasca, Ill. The Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church previously adopted the statement.
The mission statement will be presented to the ELCA Church Council in April for information and for possible "consideration of reception" on behalf of the ELCA.
The mission statement was developed by bishops of both churches through an "ecumenical discourse" that began in 2006, shortly after the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church's Hood Seminary moved next to the ELCA North Carolina Synod office in Salisbury. The Rev. Leonard H. Bolick, bishop of the ELCA North Carolina Synod, and the Rev. Dr. Albert J.D. Aymer, president of Hood Seminary, began talking about how the two churches could work together. Bolick and Senior Bishop George W.C. Walker Sr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church met, and their conversations were referred to the bishops of both churches. A national discourse was initiated with the goal of seeking cooperative and effective efforts in ministry.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said it has been "a blessing" to participate in the discourse with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church the past four years.
"The history and witness of this historic Black church has been one of leadership in the struggle for freedom and justice," Hanson said. "Their prophetic voice calls us to repentance and reconciliation confronting our power and privilege as a predominately White denomination."
In the discourse, leaders of the two churches discussed their shared commitment to theological education, responding to HIV and AIDS, and the vitality of congregations, Hanson said. Members of the two churches are encouraged to gather locally to share stories of faith "and develop new ways to serve our neighbors creating communities of hope," he said.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church "is about the ministry of reconcilers," said Bishop Kenneth Monroe of the church's South Atlantic Episcopal District. Monroe is currently secretary of the Board of Bishops and will soon serve as its president.
"I'm sure the ELCA is involved in a lot of good ministries," Monroe said. "There may be some things we can do together to enhance what we do and what the ELCA does. We're hopeful we can start some things."
A gathering of leaders and members of both churches is being planned for September in Salisbury, N.C. Monroe said at that gathering, he expects that leaders of the ELCA and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church will share theological perspectives and worship together. The two churches will also explore tangible ways of working together in ministry.
The Statement of Mission "is a way in which we can build on a trust relationship … then move into some very specific places where we're going to try to build a model for sharing ministry together," said the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, executive for interreligious and ecumenical relations.
Dr. Michael R. Trice, ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious relations, will work with Bolick and the Rev. Herman R.Yoos III, bishop of the ELCA South Carolina Synod, Columbia, to implement the two churches' collective work in the Carolinas. A similar effort will be planned for Chicago.
"This relationship is one of the most inspiring evolutions in my ecumenical labors in recent years," Trice said. "From African Methodist Episcopal Zion and ELCA bishops, the relationship required trust, commitment to the role of the church in the world today, and sincere mutual accompaniment toward greater unity."
Bolick said the mission statement provides an opportunity for a historic White church and a historic Black church to consider ways to be involved in ministry. It also opens up "new possibilities for sharing common mission activities" such as community development.
In the mission statement, the bishops of both churches said they are called to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
"This calling is shared in trust by all Christians who profess an abiding faith in our Risen Lord," the statement said. "The calling of these churches, and indeed of all Christians, is to be restorative agents of God's redeeming work in the world."
The mission statement said both churches are called to be about "the reconciling efforts of Christ's command" and to draw people to Christ so they might be transformed by Christ's word and ministry. It invites members of both churches to share stories of faith, and to be partners "as we share the witness of God's vision throughout the world."
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has more than 1 million members and is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. It is recognized for its devotion to religious, educational and social causes.
Information about the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is at http://www.amez.org/news/index.php on the Web.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
John Brooks, (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org