Representatives of the Roman Catholic and the predominantly black Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Churches in western Tennessee have established a joint task force on reconciliation that could have significant racial as well as religious ramifications beyond the region.

The task force was set up following suggestions by Bishop Carroll Dozier of the Memphis Catholic Diocese and Bishop John Madison Exum, head of the CME's first district, based in Memphis, that real steps be taken toward reconciliation of black white Christians.

Bishop Exum called the action "the most significant step toward unity that I have seen in my entire 25 years with my church."

Bishop Dozier said, "I look on the setting up of this task force as the start of a real understanding of what the Gospel of reconciliation must mean for anyone who believes in the Gospel."

The task force was approved by the unanimous agreement of more than 100 Catholic priests and members of religious orders and by the ministers of the CME church in the Memphis area.

The Rev. Thomas Kirk, who heads the Catholic diocese's ecumenical commission, recalled the reconciliation services conducted by Bishop Dozier in Memphis and Jackson Tenn., last year, which drew praise and criticism from churchmen throughout the world.

"The great strength of our reconciliation effort her in the Catholic diocese, was the preparations we went through . . ." he said . . . "As a result, the reconciliation service was much, much more just symbolism. And that is what we want to accomplish here - something far more than a symbolic event."