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:
- preaching the gospel.
- feeding the hungry.
- clothing the naked.
- housing the homeless.
- cheering the fallen.
- providing jobs for the jobless.
- 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.
- encouraging thrift and economic advancement.
Also known as the A.M.E. Church for short, the denomination is Methodist in terms of its basic doctrine and order of worship. It was born, through adversity, of the Methodist church and to this day does not differ in any major way from what all Methodists believe. The split from the main branch of the Methodist Church was not a result of doctrinal differences but rather the result of a time period that was marked by man’s intolerance of his fellow man, based on the color of his skin. It was a time of slavery, oppression and the dehumanization of people of African descent and many of these un-Christian practices were brought into the church, forcing Richard Allen and a group of fellow worshippers of color to form a splinter denomination of the Methodist Church. To find the basic foundations of the beliefs of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, you need look no further than The Apostles’ Creed and The Twenty Five Articles of Religion.
Through Methodist never claim that such a perfect, sinless life was never attained (except Jesus); they teach that it is attainable. Most important is the teaching that every Christian must strive towards perfection and should show some evidence of progress in that direction.
This proclaims that Jesus died for all and that all can be saved, not just a select few: “Whosoever will, let him come.”
This belief professes that one is saved by faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ alone. One’s acts and deeds are expressions of one’s faith itself.
The inner certainty that assures us that we are a child of God and that God is at work in the world, as well as in our lives, bringing on the Kingdom of God; Our church acknowledges the gifs of the Spirit. Falling From Grace: There is a real responsibility that a Christian can be lost. He or she can so live that he or she will reject God’s grace.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ His only son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He arose form the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in Holy Spirit; the Church Universal, the communion of Saints, and the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. 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.
The geographical spread of the AMEC prior to the Civil War was mainly restricted to the Northeast and Midwest. Major congregations were established in Philadelphia , New York , Boston , Pittsburgh , Baltimore, Washington , DC, Cincinnati , Chicago , Detroit , and other large cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland , Kentucky , Missouri , Louisiana , and, for a few years, South Carolina , became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s with churches in Stockton , Sacramento , San Francisco , and other places in California. Moreover, Bishop Morris Brown established the Canada Annual Conference.
The most significant era of denominational development occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oftentimes, with the permission of Union army officials AME clergy moved into the states of the collapsing Confederacy to pull newly freed slaves into their denomination. “I Seek My Brethren,” the title of an often repeated sermon that Theophilus G. Steward preached in South Carolina, became a clarion call to evangelize fellow blacks in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and many other parts of the south. Hence, in 1880 AME membership reached 400,000 because of its rapid spread below the Mason-Dixon line . When Bishop Henry M. Turner pushed African Methodism across the Atlantic into Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1891 and into South Africa in 1896, the AME now laid claim to adherents on two continents.
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 H. 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.
In the 1990s, the AME included over 2,000,000 members, 8000 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.