An official of the predominantly black Christian Methodist Episcopal Church said originally skeptical members of his denomination now are expressing a willingness to learn more about a proposed reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church in Memphis.
"When the reconciliation first was proposed eight months ago by the leaders of the two denominations here in Western Tennessee, the blacks were mighty skeptical," the Rev. E. Lynn Brown said.
"Any kind of constructive religious movement with whites is viewed with considerable skepticism by the black brethren," he said. "By now, however, that initial skepticism is diminished and the average black people are really wanting to learn more about the reconciliation and what it really entails."
Brown, recently named general secretary of the CME board of publication services, said the leadership in both churches must now "explain this reconciliation idea in down-to-earth language to the men and women in the pews of all our churches.
"If we fail to do that," he warned, "we can lose the reconciliation and all the good work and leadership of our bishops will have gone for nothing. This is now the responsibility of the clergy and lay leaders to explain this idea . . . in layman's language."
Brown, pastor of Mount Pisgah CME Church in Memphis, siad the reconciliation drive would not have begun without the leadership of Catholic Bishop Carroll T. Dozier and CME Bishop John Madison Exum.
"The people on both sides had such great respect for these two leaders that the Catholic and CME clergy were willing to go along with their idea," he said.
At first, Brown explained, blacks feared reconciliation with the predominantly white Catholic church in Tennessee because of its size.
"We didn't want engulfment by the big, powerful Catholic Church," he said. "We did not want to be swallowed up. We need the black church as a forum to speak from.
"But when it was explained that this was not a plan to build a super church through a merger, the people were more at ease. What this reconciliation could eventually bring about is a unity in diversity, and that is what the people must be told," he said.
If and when unity comes, Brown said, political, civic and other area leaders should take notice. "We could exert an awesome force for good in government and in every other phase of life in this area. And it could spread from here to other areas. We could change a lot of things through this power of unity," he said.