African Methodist Episcopal Church

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African Methodist Episcopal Church
Classification Protestant
Orientation Methodist
Polity Connexionalism
Associations National Council of Churches;
World Council of Churches;
Churches Uniting in Christ;
World Methodist Council
Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founder Richard Allen
Origin 1816
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Separated from Methodist Episcopal Church
Congregations 7,000[1]
Members Worldwide: 2.5 million [1][2]
Official website

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It is the oldest independent Protestant denomination founded by black people in the world. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists. Allen was consecrated its first bishop in 1816. It began with 8 clergy and 5 churches, and by 1846 had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches, and 17,375 members The 20,000 members in 1856 were located primarily in the North.[3][4] AME national membership (including probationers and preachers) jumped from 70,000 in 1866 to 207,000 in 1876.[5]

Church name

The AME Church was created and organized by people of African descent, Black people, descendants of enslaved Africans in North America as a response to being forcibly denied access to the Methodist church based on the color of their skin. The church was not founded in Africa, nor is it exclusively for people of African descent. It is open and welcoming to people of all ethinicities, origins, nationalities and colors, although its congregations are predominantly made of up Black Americans.[6]
The church's roots are in the Methodist church. Members of St. George's Methodist Church left the congregation when faced with racial discrimination, but continued with the Methodist doctrine and the order of worship.[7]
The AME Church operates under an episcopal form of church government.[8] The denomination leaders are bishops of the church.


"God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family"

Derived from Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne's original motto "God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother", which served as the AME Church motto until the 2008 General Conference, when the current motto was officially adopted.


Richard Allen
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend a church service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2013.[9]

The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society (FAS), which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and other free blacks established in Philadelphia in 1787. They left St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church because of discrimination. Although Allen and Jones were both accepted as preachers, they were limited to black congregations. In addition, the blacks were made to sit in a separate gallery built in the church when their portion of the congregation increased. These former members of St. George's made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although the group was originally non-denominational, eventually members wanted to affiliate with existing denominations.

Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodist. They formed the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1793. In general, they adopted the doctrines and form of government of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel's independence, Allen successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an institution independent of white Methodist congregations. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities also encountered racism and desired religious autonomy, Allen called them to meet in Philadelphia in 1816 to form a new Wesleyan denomination, the "African Methodist Episcopal Church" (AME Church).

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a unique history as it is the first major religious denomination in the western world that developed because of sociological rather than theological differences. It was the first African-American denomination organized and incorporated in the United States. The church was born in protest against racial discrimination and slavery. This was in keeping with the Methodist Church's philosophy, whose founder John Wesley had once called the slave-trade "that execrable sum of all villainies." In the 19th century, the AME Church of Ohio collaborated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominantly white denomination, in sponsoring the second independent historically black college (HBCU), Wilberforce University in Ohio. Among Wilberforce University's early founders was Salmon P. Chase, then-governor of Ohio and the future Secretary of Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln.

Other members of the FAS wanted to affiliate with the Episcopal Church and followed Absalom Jones in doing that. In 1792, they founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first Episcopal church in the United States with a founding black congregation. In 1804, Jones was ordained as the first black priest in the Episcopal Church.

While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written works that demonstrate the distinctive racial theology and praxis that have come to define this Wesleyan body. In an address to the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions, Bishop Benjamin W. Arnett reminded the audience of blacks' influence 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 Cone,[10] Cecil W. Cone, and Jacqueline Grant, who came from the AME tradition, criticized Euro-centric Christianity and African-American churches for their shortcomings in resolving the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.[citation needed]


The AME motto, "God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family", reflects the basic beliefs of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The basic foundations of the beliefs of the church can be summarized in the Apostles' Creed, and The Twenty Five Articles of Religion, held in common with other Methodist Episcopal congregations. The church also observes the official bylaws of the AME Church. The "Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church" is revised at every General Conference and published every four years.The AME church also follows the rule that a minister of the denomination must retire at age 75,[11] with bishops, more specifically, being required to retire upon the General Conference nearest their 75th birthday.[12]

Church mission

1918 A.M.E. Church, Cairo, Illinois

The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, physical development of all people. 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. It is also the duty of the Church to continue to encourage all members to become involved in all aspects of church training. The ultimate purposes are: (1) make available God's biblical principles, (2) spread Christ's liberating gospel, and (3) provide continuing programs which will enhance the entire social development of all people. In order to meet the needs at every level of the Connection and in every local church, the AME Church shall implement strategies to train all members in: (1) Christian discipleship, (2)Christian leadership, (3) current teaching methods and materials, (4) the history and significance of the AME Church, (5) God's biblical principles, and (6) social development to which all should be applied to daily living.

  1. preaching the gospel,
  2. feeding the hungry,
  3. clothing the naked,
  4. housing the homeless,
  5. cheering the fallen,
  6. providing jobs for the jobless,
  7. administering to the needs of those in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, asylums and mental institutions, senior citizens' homes; caring for the sick, the shut-in, the mentally and socially disturbed,
  8. encouraging thrift and economic advancement.,[13] and
  9. bringing people back into church.

Colleges, seminaries and universities

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has been one of the forerunners of education within the African-American community.

Former colleges & universities of the AME Church:

Senior colleges within the United States:

Junior colleges within the United States:

Theological seminaries within the United States:

Foreign colleges and universities:


The General Conference

The General Conference is the supreme body of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is composed of the Bishops, as ex officio presidents, according to the rank of election, and an equal number of ministerial and lay delegates, elected by each of the Annual Conferences and the lay Electoral Colleges of the Annual Conferences. Other ex officio members are: the General Officers, College Presidents, Deans of Theological Seminaries; Chaplains in the Regular Armed Forces of the U.S.A. The General Conference meets every four years, but may have extra sessions in certain emergencies.

Council of Bishops

The Council of Bishops is the Executive Branch of the Connectional Church. It has the general oversight of the Church during the interim between General Conferences. The Council of Bishops shall meet annually at such time and place as the majority of the Council shall determine and also at such other times as may be deemed necessary in the discharging its responsibility as the Executive Branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Council of Bishops shall hold at least two public sessions at each annual meeting. At the first, complaints and petitions against a Bishop shall be heard, at the second, the decisions of the Council shall be made public. All decisions shall be in writing.

Board of Incorporators

The Board of Incorporators, also known as the General Board of Trustees, has the supervision, in trust, of all connectional property of the Church and is vested with authority to act in behalf of the Connectional Church wherever necessary.

The General Board

The General Board is in many respects the administrative body and comprises various departmental Commissions made up of the respective Secretary-Treasurer, the General Secretary of the AME Church, the General Treasurer and the members of the various Commissions and one Bishop as presiding officer with the other Bishops associating.

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council is the highest judicatory body of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is an appellate court, elected by the General Conference and is amenable to it.

AME Connectional Health Commission

The Connectional Health Commission serves, among other tasks, to help the denomination understand health as an integral part of the faith of the Christian Church, to seek to make our denomination a healing faith community, and to promote the health concerns of its members. One of the initiatives of the commission is the establishment of an interactive website that will allow not only health directors, but the AMEC membership at-large to access health information, complete reports, request assistance. This website serves as a resource for members of the AMEC, and will be the same for anyone who accesses the website. Additionally, as this will be an interactive site, it will allow health directors to enter a password protected chat room to discuss immediate needs and coordinate efforts for relief regionally, nationally and globally.

It is through this website that efforts to distribute information about resources and public health updates, and requests for services may be coordinated nationally. This will allow those who access the website to use one central location for all resource information needs.[14]


The World Council of Churches estimates the membership of the AME Church at around 7,510,000; 81,317 pastors, 21 bishops and 12,000 congregations.[1][15]

The AME Church is a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), World Methodist Council, Churches Uniting in Christ, and the World Council of Churches.

The AME Church is not related to either the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church (which was founded in Delaware by Peter Spencer in 1813), or the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (which was founded in New York by James Varick). However, all three are within full communion with each other since May 2012.


The AME Church is divided into 20 districts, spanning North America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America:

  • First District – Bermuda, Delaware, New England, New Jersey, New York, Western New York, and Philadelphia
  • Second District – Baltimore, Washington, Virginia, North Carolina and Western North Carolina
  • Third District – Ohio, Pittsburgh, North Ohio, South Ohio and West Virginia
  • Fourth District – Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Canada and a mission extension in India
  • Fifth District – California, Southern California, Desert Mountain, Midwest, Missouri, and Pacific Northwest
  • Sixth District – Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Atlanta-North, Macon, South Georgia and Augusta
  • Seventh District – Palmetto, South Carolina, Columbia, Piedmont, Northeast South Carolina and Central South Carolina
  • Eighth District – South Mississippi, North Mississippi, Central North Louisiana, and Louisiana
  • Ninth District – Alabama River Region, Southeast Alabama, Northeast Alabama, Southwest Alabama, Northwest Alabama
  • Tenth District – Texas, Southwest Texas, North Texas and Northwest Texas
  • Eleventh District – Florida, Central, South, West Coast, East, Bahamas
  • Twelfth District – Oklahoma, Arkansas, East Arkansas, and West Arkansas
  • Thirteenth District – Tennessee, East Tennessee, West Tennessee, Kentucky and West Kentucky
  • Fourteenth District – Liberia, Central Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo-Benin
  • Fifteenth District – Angola, Cape, Eastern Cape, Kalahari, Namibia, and Queenstown
  • Sixteenth District – Guyana/Suriname, Virgin Islands, European, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Winward Islands
  • Seventeenth District – Southeast Zambia, Southwest Zambia, Northeast Zambia, Northwest Zambia, Zambezi, Congo Brazzaville, Katanga, Kananga, Kinshasa, Mbuji-mayi, Rwanda, Burundi and Tshikapa
  • Eighteenth District – Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Swaziland
  • Nineteenth District – Orangia, Natal, M.M. Mokone Memorial Conference, East, West
  • Twentieth District – Malawi North, Malawi South, Malawi Central, Northeast Zimbabwe, Southwest Zimbabwe, Central Zimbabwe

Bishops (past and present)

The Four Horsemen: important bishops

Current bishops

Retired bishops

  • John Hurst Adams
  • Richard Allen Hildebrand
  • Frederick Hilborn Talbot
  • Hamil Hartford Brookins
  • Vinton Randolph Anderson
  • Frederick Calhoun James
  • Frank Curtis Cummings
  • Philip Robert Cousin, Sr
  • Henry Allen Belin, Jr.
  • Richard Allen Chappelle, Sr
  • Robert Vaughn Webster
  • Zedekiah Lazett Grady
  • Carolyn Tyler Guidry

General officers

  • Dr. Richard Allen Lewis, Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Johnny Barbour, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer, AMEC Sunday School Union[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. George F. Flowers, Secretary-Treasurer, Global Witness and Missions[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Jerome V. Harris, Executive Director, Annuity Investments and Insurance[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. James C. Wade, Executive Director of Church Growth and Development[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Daryl B. Ingram, Secretary-Treasurer of Christian Education[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder, the official newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Jeffery B. Cooper, General Secretary/CIO[16]
  • The Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, Director, Research and Scholarship and Editor of The A.M.E. Church Review[16]

Notable clergy and educators

  • Sarah Allen (1764–1849), Richard Allen's wife, who founded the Daughters of the Conference.
  • Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson (1927–2014 ), first African American to be elected President of the World Council of Churches, headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (served January 1991 – December 1998); author of My Soul Shouts and subject of an edited work (Gayraud Wilmore & Louis Charles Harvey, editors), A Model of A Servant Bishop; first native Bermudian elected a bishop in any church/denomination.
  • Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant (1971– ) Founded Empowerment Temple (A.M.E. Church) in Baltimore in 2000 with a congregation of 43 people. Today more than 7,500 members attend weekly services at this large influential congregation.
  • Rev. Daniel Coker (1780–1846), born "Issac Wright" in Baltimore, Maryland to mixed-race parents. Famous preacher and abolitionist. Ordained deacon in the new Methodist Episcopal Church by Bishop Francis Asbury in 1802 in Baltimore. Led Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore. Participated in the organization of the national A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia in 1816. By 1820, sent as missionary to Sierra Leone, British colony in West Africa and considered founder of national Methodist Church there.
  • The Rev. Dennis C. Dickerson, Ph.D., Director of the Research and Scholarship and Professor at Vanderbilt University (retired).
  • Bishop William Heard (1850–1937), A.M.E. minister and educator. Appointed by the U.S. government as "Minister Resident/Consul General" to Republic of Liberia, (1895–1898).[17]
  • Sarah E. Gorham, first female missionary from AME church, dying in Liberia in 1894.
  • Rev. Henry Aaron Joubert (1940–2004), leader of Cape Town, South Africa, administrator, builder and respected leader. Rendered untiring service in adverse situations in South Africa.
  • Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid III (1951–) Pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore link title. Rev. Reid started The Bethel Outreach of Love Broadcast; Bethel was the first AME Church to have an international TV broadcast. Was selected as the 26th most influential person in Baltimore by local regional publication, Baltimore Magazine. His congregation's members include the mayor and city comptroller of Baltimore. He consulted for the TV show Amen, and guest starred several times on the popular HBO cable TV series The Wire.
  • The Rev. Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder, the official newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (
  • Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923), author of An Apology for African Methodism (1867), editor of the Christian Recorder, AME publication, and founder of the AME Church Review. As a bishop, presided over AME parishes, first, in Canada, Bermuda, and the West Indies, later, in New England, New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.


In May 2012, The African Methodist Episcopal Church entered into full communion with the racially integrated The United Methodist Church, and the predominantly Black/African American members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, African Union Methodist Protestant Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, in which these Churches agreed to "recognize each other's churches, share sacraments, and affirm their clergy and ministries." bringing a semblance of unity and reconciliation to those church bodies which follow in the footsteps of John and Charles Wesley[23]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "African Methodist Episcopal Church — World Council of Churches". May 14, 2014. Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Zavada, Jack (May 14, 2014). "African Methodist Episcopal - Brief Overview of the African Methodist Episcopal Church". Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (1995)
  4. A. Nevell Owens, Formation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Nineteenth Century: Rhetoric of Identification (2014)
  5. The Annual Cyclopedia: 1866," (1867) p 492; The Annual Cyclopedia: 1876 (1877) p 532
  6. Beck, Carolyn S. (1988). "Our Own Vine and Fig Tree: The Authority of History and Kinship in Mother Bethel". Review of Religious Research. 29 (4): 369–84. JSTOR 3511576.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Melton, J. Gordon (2007). A Will to Choose: The Origins of African American Methodism. Introduction by Woodie W. White. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 8–11. ISBN 978-0-7425-5264-7. LCCN 2006034686. OCLC 73993826. OL 10721694M.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Our Church". June 14, 2014. Archived from the original on June 14, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Harris, Hamil R. (January 20, 2013). "Obamas attend church prior to White House swearing-in - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Image credits: Hamil Harris/TWP -. Washington DC: WPC. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 464372658. Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014. The president has not a joined a church in Washington and most frequently attends St. John's Church, an Episcopal church close to the White House. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Dr. Cone is an ordained minister in the (A.M.E.) church." (Union Theological Seminary's URL)
  11. Heagney, Meredith (March 21, 2008). "Legacy of retiring AME bishop includes health center". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved June 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "OUR STRUCTURE". African Methodist Episcopal Church. Retrieved June 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (2012). p. 13
  14. AME Connectional Health Commission
  15. "African Methodist Episcopal Church". World Council of Churches. October 2, 2012. Archived from the original on October 2, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 "GENERAL OFFICERS | African Methodist Episcopal Church". May 17, 2014. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State
  18. The History Makers: Carolyn Tyler Guidry
  19. Harger, Jim. "Lyman Parks, first black mayor of Grand Rapids, dies at 92". Online Newspaper. Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved 9 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. See: Balto. City Heritage Area marker on site with sketch.
  23. Banks, Adelle M. (7 May 2012). "Methodists Reach Across Historic Racial Boundaries with Communion Pact". Christianity Today. Retrieved 11 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Bailey, Julius H. Race Patriotism Protest and Print Culture in the AME Church. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2012.
  • Campbell, James T. Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Cone, James. God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Man Our Brother: A Theological Interpretation of the AME Church, AME Church Review, vol. 106, no. 341 (1991).
  • Gregg, Howard D. History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: The Black Church in Action. Nashville, TN: Henry A. Belin, Jr., 1980.
  • Wayman, Alexander W. Cyclopaedia of African Methodism. Baltimore: Methodist Episcopal Book Depository, 1882.

External links