NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Two historically black Methodist denominations are moving forward with a proposal to merge.
Representatives from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion and the Christian Methodist Episcopal churches have formed study groups to review the potential impact of a merger on issues ranging from clergy standards to worship.
If the top legislative bodies of each denomination approve the merger, a Christian Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with more than 2 million members could be created by 2004. The plan of union must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the annual conferences of the two denominations.
Black congregations upset by segregation in the 18th and 19th centuries created the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion and the Christian Methodist Episcopal churches have tried to merge several times since the early 1900s, to expand their reach and strengthen their work.
All three black denominations also are exploring a possible union with the predominantly white, 8.4 million-member United Methodist Church. However, those talks aren't as far along, said Mary Love, administrative secretary of the Commission Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union.
Last year, the United Methodist Church sought forgiveness for racism during the annual meeting of the denomination's General Conference.
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