Something is in the wind and that phrase is not one that I use lightly. I’m referring to the rather important September 17-18 summit between the ELCA, a predominantly White church body, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a predominantly Black church body.
It is a significant meeting given the fact that the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was in response to people of African Descent not being welcomed in the mainline Methodist church.
A noteworthy meeting
In my judgment this historic meeting is tantamount to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. In that bold act Luther sought to liberate the gospel and the church from the idolatries of legalism and traditionalism.
In his remarks to this summer’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly, George Walker, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, focused on the future. Much like Luther who stepped boldly away from the past, we turn our sights ahead to sharing, ministry and mission work. It is a bold step for our two church bodies to make together.
I am hopeful, as should be the whole church, that in this summit we will build a foundation of trust, providing a place for us to move toward a deeper understanding of who we are and whose we are.
The community of believers
I am presently serving at Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Each Sunday I stand before that community and see the amazing people who sit in our pews, the working poor sitting shoulder to shoulder with people from the middle- and upper-middle class.
There are young people sitting next to seniors, people from suburban communities sitting next to city dwellers, people who are homeless sitting next to people who have a home to return to, people of various nationalities all sitting together.
I believe that this congregation looks like what God has in mind for the church. It is a congregation diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, economics, age and gender.
Each day we are blessed by each other, by the gifts that we all have to share. We are not a perfect community by any means, but because of the awesome love of God, we are committed to being a congregation that is open to all.
I am hopeful that this summit will set the foundation of such a community made up of members from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the ELCA — that we will see and understand the gifts each of us has to share.
I am hopeful that through the love of Jesus we will join with other Christians in prayer and action to express and preserve the unity given to us by the Spirit of God.