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This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timeline

People

About the Series
Discussions

1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR
Next Journey
Our Own Congregation: The African Methodist Episcopal Church 1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW



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Timeline: 1776-1865 View Detailed Timeline
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues



1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR
Our Own Congregation: The African Methodist Episcopal Church



"If you deny us your name, you cannot seal up the scriptures from us, and deny us a name in heaven. We believe heaven is open to all who worship in spirit and truth." --Richard Allen (1794)



Bishops of the AME Church.

Bishops of the AME Church.


In 1794, black Christians in Philadelphia began to form their own churches. These congregations began as the result of an incident at the predominantly white St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, when ushers pulled black worshippers from their knees during prayer. The incident incited the black congregants to walk out of the church. Some of those black congregants decided to form an Episcopal congregation, which they called St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. Its leader, Absalom Jones, became the first black Episcopal pastor in the United States.

The rest of the black Philadelphia Methodists, however, found themselves in a bind as they struggled to renegotiate the paternal relationship they had heretofore enjoyed with the white Methodist elders. In an attempt to gain autonomy, a black parishioner named Richard Allen converted a blacksmith's shop into a Methodist church. Bethel Church was dedicated on July 29, 1794 - just twelve days after Jones' Episcopal congregation. The city's presiding Methodist elder, however, wouldn't recognize them. Since Allen wasn't ordained, and the church had no money, they relied on a series of visiting white preachers. In 1799, Allen became a deacon. Although he was finally able to pastor Bethel himself, he remained under the authority of white presiding elders, who had varying levels of tolerance for the idea of a black man running a Methodist-affiliated church.


Mother Bethel AME church in Philadelphia, c.1805.

Mother Bethel AME church in Philadelphia, c.1805.


This matter came to a head on New Year's Eve of 1815, when the black congregation blocked a white Methodist elder from preaching at their church. Four months later, on April 7, black Methodists from four states convened for what became known as the first General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen was elected and consecrated as the first bishop. Bethel AME Church, which still stands today, had been established.

Allen's leadership extended beyond the walls of the church. He founded the African Masonic Lodge and organized societies to promote education for children of African descent. He vigorously opposed the program of resettling free blacks in Africa. In 1830, shortly before his death, Allen presided over the first Convention of the Colored Men of the United States. Twenty-seven elected delegates from seven states attended. The convention, held at Bethel AME Church, was a harbinger of such organizations as the NAACP and the Urban League.

In the history books, Allen should go down as both the father of the AME Church, and the first national black leader.




People of Faith


 Denmark Vesey
Denmark Vesey


Did You Know?



The AME Church was outlawed in South Carolina.
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