On Reformation Day, three regional Protestant churches in Germany approved steps toward a 2012 merger.
Delegates from the North Elbian Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg and the Pomeranian Evangelical Church approved a draft constitution and a church law that provides for the merger.
The new 2.4-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church of Northern Germany (Nordkirche, for short) will bring together churches formerly separated by the Berlin Wall.
In merger talks since 2007, the seat of the new church's bishop will be in Schwerin, in eastern Germany.
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