More Than a Church
The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed. At every level of the Connection and in every local church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church shall engage in carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society, out of which the AME Church evolved: that is, to seek out and save the lost, and serve the needy.
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. When officials at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although most wanted to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church, Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodist. In 1794 Bethel AMEC was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel’s independence from interfering white Methodists, Allen, a former Delaware slave, successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an independent institution. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities encountered racism and desired religious autonomy, Allen called them to meet in Philadelphia to form a new Wesleyan denomination, the AMEC.
The geographical spread of the AMEC prior to the Civil War was mainly restricted to the Northeast and Midwest. Major congregations were established in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and other large Blacksmith’s Shop cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, and, for a few years, South Carolina, became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s with churches in Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, and other places in California. Moreover, Bishop Morris Brown established the Canada Annual Conference.
The most significant era of denominational development occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oftentimes, with the permission of Union army officials, AME clergy moved into the states of the collapsing Confederacy to pull newly freed slaves into their denomination. “I Seek My Brethren,” the title of an often-repeated sermon that Theophilus G. Steward preached in South Carolina, became a clarion call to evangelize fellow blacks in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and many other parts of the south. Hence, in 1880 AME membership reached 400,000 because of its rapid spread below the Mason-Dixon line. When Bishop Henry M. Turner pushed African Methodism across the Atlantic into Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1891 and into South Africa in 1896, the AMEC now laid claim to adherents on two continents.
While the AMEC is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written important works which demonstrate the distinctive theology and praxis which have defined this Wesleyan body. Bishop Benjamin W. Arnett, in an address to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, reminded the audience of the presence of blacks in the formation of Christianity. Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner wrote in 1895 in The Color of Solomon – What? that biblical scholars wrongly portrayed the son of David as a white man. In the post civil rights era theologians James H. Cone, Cecil W. Cone, and Jacqueline Grant who came out of the AMEC tradition critiqued Euro-centric Christianity and African American churches for their shortcomings in fully impacting the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.
Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has membership in twenty Episcopal Districts in thirty-nine countries on five continents. The work of the Church is administered by twenty-one active bishops, and nine General Officers who manage the departments of the Church.
Dennis C. Dickerson,
Retired General Officer
Retrieved from www.ame-church.com
The AME Church’s Voter Alert Initiative Releases their 2020 Toolkit
The General Board in session June 2020, with concurrence by the Council of Bishops, declared that the African Methodist Episcopal Church would kick off the 2020 voter mobilization season with renewed vigor. Within days, the Connectional Lay Organization collaborated with the Social Action Commission to invite all AME components/organizations to partner along with key national groups. The goal is to increase the voter turnout in the communities where many of our churches provide ministry and service.
Working together is always our preference, so we offer to you this opportunity to join the combined efforts of churches across the US who will use the AME V-Alert Toolkit to organize, register, educate and mobilize for the election – November 3, 2020.
Along with the updated AME V-Alert 2020 Toolkit, our website (www.ame-valert.org) will include the AAMLC VESSELS tools, The Freedom Sunday Toolkit, The NAACP Civic Engagement Guide and links to numerous resources for rapid response to grassroots issues. Combined, these resources prepare you to engage effectively to make a difference.
We want to acknowledge our partners/collaborators/resources here:
African American Ministers Leadership Council – Vessels Vote Initiative (www.pfaw.org/VESSELS)
NAACP Legal Defense Fund (www.naacpldf.org)
The Freedom Sunday Coalition (http://theblackchurchreport.com/votingtoolkit/)
Component organizations of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
We welcome partnership with all stakeholders who seek liberty and justice for all. Contact us at email and visit our official website: www.ame-valert.org
The AME V-ALERT Team and Mrs. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director, AME Social Action Commission