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History of the AME Church

History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Richard Allen and a group of African worshippers started the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787 in Philadelphia, PA. This group was responding to a need to organize an African American church that would satisfy their craving for opportunities for self-expression and fuller involvement in the service of the ownership of God.

Richard Allen, the leader of this group, and Absolam Jones were kneeling in prayer at the front of St. George Methodist Episcopal Church, a white church in Philadelphia. They were asked to move to the back, up in the balcony, as was customary in 1787. In protest, Allen and Jones walked out of the church and led other black members across the street, deciding never to worship in St. George Church again since they were not accepted as equal citizens and brothers in Christ.

They soon purchased an old blacksmith shop and later moved it to the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, where they held their first meeting. The church, Bethel A.M.E., was built in 1787 and incorporated in 1816. This church still stands today as one of the historic shrines of Philadelphia. Allen was the first pastor of Bethel in Philadelphia, and later the first consecrated Bishop of the A.M.E. church, consecrated by Bishop Asbury of the Methodist Church in America.

The A.M.E. Church is a member of the family of Methodist Churches. Allen felt that no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of his people as well as did Methodism, with its emphasis on the plain and simple gospel, which the unlearned could understand, and its orderly system of rules and regulations, which the underdeveloped needed.

The A.M.E. Church was the first black corporation in America, and the first to bring a Negro newspaper, "The Christian Recorder", published continuously since 1841. The church has produced 11 colleges, which in turn have given education to thousands of students in an Afrocentric environment.

Presently the church extends into the Caribbean, Africa, England, and the continental United States. Richard Allen, with his wife Sarah by his side, left a legacy and a legend which inspires over two million members who comprise the African Methodist Episcopal Church today.

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