The African Methodist Episcopal Church was started in 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by a
group of disinherited Americans whose forefathers came from Africa. The leader of this group was a 27 year old
Richard Allen. At that time the word "African" was used to designate those persons whom we now call African
The movement to organize a church separated from the white peoples' church was started in response to the
"Africans" need for opportunities for self-expression and fuller involvement in the service of the worship of God,
in society as a whole. It was the answer to a cry for social recognition as human beings, and the means through
which a group of people started on a program which gave them a growing sense of dignity and self-respect.
To foster this program Richard Allen considered it important to conduct night school classes in which his people
could learn how to help themselves. Out of these night school classes has come the church's philosophy of
education with its strong emphasis upon self-help. The general emphasis has not been significantly changed until
this day. In addtion to the educational program of the local church, the A.M.E. Church operates eleven institutions
Most religious groups had their origin in some theological, doctrinal, or ideological dispute or concern. But the
A.M.E. Church originated as a protest against the inhumane treatment which the helpless people of African
were forced to accept from the white people belonging to the St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in
Philadelpha, Pennsylvania. This fact says to us that the organization of the A.M.E. Church was the result of racial
discrimination rather than of any theological or doctrinal concern.
The A.M.E. Church is a member of the family of Methodist Churches. Its founder and first active bishop, Richard
Allen, felt that no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of his people as well as did Methodism with
its emphasis upon the plain and simple gospel which the unlearned could understand, and its orderly system of
rules and regulations which the underdeveloped needed. He felt that Methodism had what the "African" needed to
encourage him to make progress, to worhsip God freely, and to fill every office for which he had the capability.
The "Africans" who started the A.M.E. Church were very poor and most of them could not read nor write. Yet, under
the leadership of Richard Allen, they managed to buy an old blacksmith shop, and to move it to a lot at the corner
Sixth and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they organized Bethel A.M.E. Church (also called
Mother Bethel) which stands today as one of the historic shrines of Philadelphia.
In time other African American churches were started in Baltimore, Maryland; Salem, New Jersey; Attlesboro,
Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware and other places in the United States. In the year 1816 these churches came
together and formed the A.M.E. Church. Richard Allen was elected to serve as the first active bishop.
Today, the A.M.E. Church has 18 active bishops and more than a million members scattered throughout the 50
States in the U.S.A., the Dominion of Canada, South America, West Africa, South Africa and the West Indies.
African: The AME church was organized by people of African descent. The church was not founded in Africa, nor is
it only for persons of African descent. The church is open to people of all races.
Methodist: 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
Episcopal: The AME church operates under an episcopal form of church government. The denomination leaders
are Bishops of the church. Episcopal refers to the form of government under which the church operates. The chief
executive and administrative officers of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination are the Bishops of the
"God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Man Our Brother"
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 cheap labor. This
fit well with the Methodist church's philosphy since it's founder John Wesley had one called the slave-trade "that
execrable sum of all villanies".
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established
in Philadelphia in 1787. The church was organized by African-American members of St. George's Methodist
Episcopal Church. The incident that led to this was the removal of Absalom Jones (1746–1818) from St. George's
by the trustees while he was in the act of prayer. The congregation supported the act of the trustees, and Allen
Jones led the African-American members to form the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1793. In
general, they adopted the doctrines and form of government of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
When officials at St. George’s 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 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
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 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
Cone, Cecil W. Cone, 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 AME Motto, "God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Man Our Brother", reflects the basic beliefs of the African
Methodist Episcopal Church.
The basic foundations of the beliefs of the church can be summarized in the The Apostles' Creed and The Twenty
Five Articles of Religion.
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 A.M.E. Church evolved: that is, to seek
out and save the lost, and serve the needy through a continuing program of (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, and (8)
encouraging thrift and economic advancement
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 quadrennialy (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.
The AME church estimates around 5,000,000 members, 9000 ministers, and 7000 congregations in more than 30
nations in North and South America, Africa, and Europe . Twenty bishops and 12 general officers comprised the
leadership of the denomination
The AME Church is a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), and the World
Council of Churches.
It is not the same as the U.A.M.E. Church founded in Delaware by Peter Spencer in 1813, or the AME Zion Church,
founded in New York.