Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, or A.M.E. Church, is the world’s oldest protestant Christian denomination founded by Black people. It has a membership that has grown worldwide, and it’s now estimated that the A.M.E. Church has a global membership which includes more than 7.5 million people.
The Beginnings of A.M.E.
The A.M.E. Church has its roots in the Free African Society, which was established for the purpose of meeting the spiritual, economic, and social needs of African Americans in Philadelphia. The Free African Society was founded in 1787 by a group of free Black Americasn, and included Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. These two men worshiped at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, but were forced to leave due to discrimination. Not only were they only allowed to preach to Black congregations, but they weren’t allowed to sit among non-Black people during church services there.
After leaving St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen led a group of friends and colleagues who wanted to remain Methodists. In 1793, they created the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, Absalom Jones went on to found the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in July of 1794. Eventually, Jones’s congregation was consolidated with Allen’s into the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The mission of the A.M.E. Church has always been to minister to people of all colors, from all walks of like. Discrimination and racism made it so that the group had to separate themselves, but from the beginning, the A.M.E. Church welcomed everyone who wanted to worship there.
Growth of the A.M.E. Church
One key thing that helped spread the A.M.E. Church’s influence was its dedicated to education. This was important at a time when Black Americans weren’t allowed admission to predominately White schools, yet greatly wanted to increase their chance of succeeding in society. Many of the colleges, universities, and theological seminaries founded by the A.M.E. Church in its early days still exist today, including Payne Theological Seminary, Morris Brown College, Wilberforce University, Paul Quinn College, and Shorter College.
The A.M.E. Church’s leaders also helped grow the congregation and turn A.M.E. into a major Christian denomination due to their dedication to structure, organization, and working together to achieve the church’s mission. This mission includes the following objectives: preaching the Gospel; feeding the hungry; clothing those without clothes; housing the homeless; bringing cheer to society’s fallen; providing honest jobs; ministering to the sick and imprisoned; encouraging righteous economic advancement; and drawing people back to church life.
The A.M.E. Church has endured through the years and its structure is still very much like it was at its inception. To serve the needs of modern society, they have added a health commission — the A.M.E. Connectional Health Commission — more educational initiatives, and social programs. Throughout everything, the A.M.E. Church has stuck by its motto: “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family”.