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{{ |name = African Methodist Episcopal Church |image = Amesheild.png |imagewidth = 200px |caption = God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family |main_classification = Protestant |orientation = Methodist |polity = Episcopal |founder = Richard Allen |founded_date = 1787 |founded_date = 1816 |founded_place = Philadelphia, Pennsylvania |separated_from = Methodist Episcopal Church |parent = |merger = |separations = |associations = National Council of Churches;
World Council of Churches;
Churches Uniting in Christ |area = |congregations = 7,000 |members = 3 million (estimated) |footnotes = }} The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the AME Church, is a Methodist denomination founded by the 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 elected its first bishop in 1816.


Church name

  • 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 worship.
  • Episcopal: The AME Church operates under an episcopal form of church government. The denomination leaders are bishops of the church. Episcopal, in this sense, refers to the form of government under which the church operates.[1]


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

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


Richard Allen

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a unique history in that it is the first major religious denomination in the western world that originated because of sociological rather than theological differences. It was the first African-American denomination organized and incorporated in the US. The AME denomination collaborated with the Methodist Episcopal Church in sponsoring the first independent historical black college, Wilberforce University. The church was born in protest against slavery and discrimination against black people. 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) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. The church was organized by Richard Allen and other African-American members of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. Absalom Jones was removed from St. George's by trustees while he was praying. When the white members of the congregation supported the trustees, Allen and Jones led the African-American members as a body out of St. George's.

The black members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society to an African congregation. Many went with Jones, to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church in a church they named the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Jones was ordained as the first black priest in the Episcopal Church.

Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodists. 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 congregations. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities 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.

While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written works that demonstrate the distinctive racial 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 resolving the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.


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, 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.

Church mission

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 AME 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.[2]

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*Western University (Kansas)

Senior colleges within the United States:

Junior colleges within the United States:

Theological seminaries within the United States:

  • Jackson Theological Seminary Website
  • Payne Theological Seminary Website
  • Turner Theological Seminary Website


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.


The AME Church estimates around 4,000,000 members worldwide, 9000 ministers, and 7000 congregations in more than 30 nations in North and South America, Africa, and Europe. Twenty bishops and 12 general officers lead 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.

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 Peter Williams).

Bishops (past and present)

The Four Horsemen: important bishops

Active bishops

(in order of current episcopal district)

  • Richard Franklin Norris
  • Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr.
  • Cornal Garnett Henning, Sr.
  • John Richard Bryant
  • Theodore Larry Kirkland
  • William Phillips DeVeaux, Sr.
  • Preston Warren Williams, II
  • Carolyn Tyler Guidry
  • James Levert Davis
  • Gregory Gerald McKinley Ingram
  • McKinley Young
  • Samuel Lawrence Green, Sr.
  • Vashti Murphy McKenzie
  • David Rwhynica Daniels, Jr.
  • Wilfred Messiah
  • Sarah Frances Davis
  • Paul Jones Kawimbe
  • E. Earl McCloud, Jr.
  • Jeffrey N. Leath
  • Julius H. McAlister, Sr.
  • John F. White, Sr. Office of Ecumenical Affairs

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 Counsin, Sr
  • Henry Allen Belin, JR.
  • Richard Allen Chappelle, Sr
  • Robert Vaughn Webster
  • Zedekiah Lazett Grady

Notable clergy and educators

  • Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson (1927 - ) First African-American to be elected President of the World Council of Churches and served from Jan 1991 - Dec 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
  • Bishop Richard Harvey Cain - elected member of US House of Representatives from SC during Reconstruction
  • Bishop Reverdy Cassius Ransom - creative founder of NAACP via The Niagra Movement concept
  • Bishop William Heard (1850-1937), AME minister and educator. Appointed by the U.S. government as "Minister Resident/Consul General" to Liberia (1895-1898)[1]
  • Bishop Daniel Payne (1811-1893), historian, educator and AME minister. First African-American president of an African-American university, Wilberforce University, in the U.S. [2]
  • Dr. Jamye Coleman Williams (1918 -), educator, community leader. Former editor of the AME Church Review; recipient of the NAACP Presidential Award (1999).[3]
  • Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, first female AME bishop in church history, best-selling author.
  • Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry (1937- ), second female AME bishop in church history. [4]
  • Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake (1945- ), former U.S. Congressman from New York (1986-1998); senior pastor of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
  • Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid III (1951-) Pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimorelink title. Rev. Reid started "The Bethel Outreach of Love" Broadcast was the first African Methodist Episcopal Church to have an international TV broadcast. He is a well noted author. Was selected as the 26th most influential person in Baltimore by Baltimore Magazine. His membership includes the mayor and city comptroller of Baltimore. He was also a consultant for the T.V. show Amen, and guest starred several times on the popular HBO series The Wire.
  • Rev. Henry Aaron Joubert (1940 - 2004) leader par execellence of Cape Town South Africa, administrator builder and respected leader in the community in which he resided. Respected by all Bishops he served under and rendered untiring service in adverse situations in South Africa.
  • Rev. King Solomon Dupont - AME clergy who was first African American to seek public office in northern Fla since re-construction in 1950s and VP of Tallahassee Civic Association which spearheaded a life threatening bus boycott simultaneous to the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.

Notable members

See also


  • Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, Samuel S. Hill, editor
  • The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2000
  • The AMEC Book of Worship
  • History of the AME Church: The Black Church in Action, Howard D. Gregg, Ph.D.
  • See "God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Man Our Brother: A Theological Interpretation of the AME Church." By Dr. James H. Cone, Ph.D. AME Church Review, Volume CVI, No. 341 (1991), page 25.


  1. ^ AME Church homepage describing its name
  2. ^ The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (2000). p. 13.

External links

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