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Who are the AME Church?

Who are the AME Church?

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, or AME Church, is one of the historic black Methodist churches in the United States. It was founded in Philadelphia PA by the Rt Revd Richard Allen, at that time a black Methodist minister. The Revd Allen founded the first AME congregation in 1816 when African Americans grew tired of the abuse and discrimination founded in the racism of the predominantly white Methodist Episcopal Church.

The AME grew out of the Free African Society founded earlier by Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and others in 1787. They resolved to turn their mutual aid group into a black congregation. At first nondenominational, Allen and others eventually wished to remain connected to Methodism. They originally founded an MEC congregation specifically for black Methodists, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church with Allen as its first pastor.

Eventually, Allen and others sued in the PA courts in 1807 and again in 1815 for the right of the Bethel church to be independent of the white Methodist churches. Bethel church’s independence soon attracted the interest of other black congregations in the Mid-Atlantic area who also sought independence from the white Methodist church. Called by Allen to a meeting in Philadelphia in 1816, those attending formed a new Wesleyan denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Absalom Jones and others of the Free African Society wished to affiliate with the newly organized Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA and founded the African Episcopal Church of St Thomas in 1792. This was the first Episcopal parish founded by African Americas in the US. In 1804, Jones became the first black priest ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Today the AME is a protestant denomination founded in Weslayan doctrinal beliefs strongly influenced by the African American experience in the US. It’s polity is the connectionism of Methodism, led by bishops. The membership of the AME today is around 7.5 million organized into 22 episcopal districts in 39 countries on 5 continents. Comprising a huge majority of African Americans, the AME is decidedly welcoming to folks of all national origins.

The AME Church is in full communion with other Methodist churches; the United Methodist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church.
It is also a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), World Methodist Council, Churches Uniting in Christ, and the World Council of Churches.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church website.

Posted by David Allen


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JC Fisher

Note that the AME and TEC are both members of “Churches Uniting in Christ” (which began in the 1960s as the Consultation on Church Union, COCU), and enjoy close mutual relations therein.

The Rev. Marcia Ledford

Please explain the anvil in the AME crest. Thx for the history lesson, too!

Ann Fontaine

The emblem displays characteristics which can be equated to a significant aspect of the African Methodist Episcopal doctrine and belief.

The shape of the emblem is in the form of a three pointed shield; the three points being symbolic of the official motto of the A.M.E. Church. “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother.”

An anvil and cross occupy the center of the Emblem. The anvil represents the blacksmith shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where the founder, Richard Allen, with a few followers, established the first African Methodist Episcopal Church; the cross represents the Church.


I am glad to see this history and our Episcopal connection due to Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. The story of what motivated them to leave the Philadelphia white Methodist Church together in 1787 is important, too. This church was celebrating the construction and opening of a new gallery. Jones and Allen were rudely removed by an usher who told them that they, as black men, belonged only in the balcony. They left, formed the society, they were the first black men ordained as clergy in their respective denominations.

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