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First AME Church
On this date in 1816, representatives of five Methodist congregations assembled at the Bethel church in Philadelphia.
Dissatisfied with the treatment of Blacks in the Methodist Episcopal Church, they organized the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Daniel Coker was the church’s first elected bishop, but declined. Richard Allen then became the first AME bishop. The Black Methodist church in the United States was formally organized in 1816. It developed from a congregation formed by a group of Blacks who withdrew in 1787 from St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia because of discrimination.
They built Bethel African Methodist Church in Philadelphia, and in 1799 Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church ordained Richard Allen its minister. In 1816, Asbury consecrated Allen bishop of the newly organized African Methodist Episcopal Church. Confined to the Northern states before the American Civil War, the church spread rapidly in the South after the war. It supports an active home-missions program and has sent missionaries to Africa and the West Indies.
The church is Methodist in doctrine and church government, and it holds a general conference every four years. It has about 3,500,000 members. Currently the African Methodist Episcopal Church is the largest Black Methodist denomination in America, with about 2.2 million congregants.
2,000 years of extraordinary achievement
by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1994 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI