African Methodist Episcopal Church

 

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a unique history in that it is the first major religious denomination in the Western World that had its origin over sociological rather than theological beliefs and differences, and the first African-American organized and incorporated denomination in the US.  The AME church is also the church that sponsored the first independent historical black college, Wilberforce University.  The church was born in protest against slavery – against dehumanization of African people, brought to the American continent as free labor.  This fit well with the Methodist church’s philosophy since its founder John Wesley had once called the slave-trade “that execrable sum of all villainies.” 

The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) that Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1878.  When officials at Saint George MEC 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 Saint 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 Methodists.  In 1794, Bethel AME 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 AME.

While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and laymen 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? those biblical scholars wrongly portrayed the son of David as a white man.  In the post civil rights era theologians James H. Cone, Cecil W. Con, and Jacqueline Grant who came out of the AME 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.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 

 
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JAN

19

TUE
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20

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