Starting in Alabama, a professor from the Divinity School will kick off a five-year series of talks between Baptists and Methodists.

Curtis Freeman, director of the Baptist House of Studies, was announced the chair of the Baptist delegation Friday. As chair, Freeman will lead an international dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and World Methodist Council. The dialogue is intended to promote a greater understanding and appreciation between the two organizations, provide mutual gift exchanges for the "enrichment" of the churches, increase participation in a common witness and mission in the world and identify barriers to create fuller fellowships.

“Our Lord prayed that his followers might be one so that the world might believe,” Freeman said in a Divinity School press release. “This means that ecumenical conversation is integral to God's mission in the world. It is important that the global families of Baptists and Methodists are taking this step.”

The talks will explore the theme "Faith Active in Love: Sung and Preached, Confessed and Remembered, Lived and Learned" and will end 2018. The World Methodist Council and Baptist World Alliance agreed to begin the international dialogue after years of negotiation and a meeting in London, England.