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Birth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Celebrated at General Conference 2016

Featured Birth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Celebrated at General Conference 2016

           The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, general secretary for the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH), and Bishop Gregory Palmer, Bishop of West Ohio conference, delivered an address to the plenary on Tuesday morning to recognize the 200th anniversary of the birth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). “It was a special privilege to share the platform with Bishop Palmer. Both of us were born and reared in Philadelphia, PA where the AME was born out of hurtful and hostile relationships within the church we still regret,” said Day.

            Dennis C. Dickerson, retired general director of the AMEC, wrote, “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.”

            Under the leadership of Allen, the first AME bishop, this autonomous Church emerged from the same Wesleyan theology, spirit and practical divinity as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Francis Asbury. Day stated: “What striking timing for this presentation! General Conference coming to worship this morning, with rumors of schism rampant all over the hall, remembering a painful 200 year-old breech among Methodists—a breech that was only brought back to full communion in 2012.”

            During the service, leaders celebrated the strength, perseverance, and resilience of the AME. “To this great Methodist church, conceived in racial injustice and born out of an unquenchable thirst for freedom; to brothers and sisters of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church says: YOU are the Lord’s doing and YOU are marvelous in our eyes,” said Day.

“The racial tensions and discrimination that caused black and white Methodists to split into separate denominations as well as segregate into separate congregations within the Methodist Episcopal Church are not only worthy of remembrance and reflection,” said Day. “They are the subject and substance of renewed confession and action that will end all racial injustice and work for full and equal participation the varied hues and constituencies of the United Methodist Church, even the whole world. I pray God used our words to suggest that history doesn't have to repeat the broken and painful consequences of division.”

For more information on the AMEC, please visit their website: http://ame-church.com

The full transcript from the service is here:

African Methodist Episcopal Church 200th Anniversary Tribute

Written for The United Methodist General Conference

Portland, Oregon - May 2016

Awestruck at God’s time and again making a way out of no way, astonished at hope raised-up when disappointment and despair have a stranglehold, astounded at the remembrance of transformations come through impossible struggles, the Psalmist exclaims:

THIS is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes (118:23).

“The people called Methodist” from many and diverse communions, claiming the Wesleyan way of faith,  gathered in Portland at the United Methodist General Conference in the 250th year since the formation of the first Methodist societies in America, stand at the edge of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. To this great Methodist church, conceived in racial injustice and born out of an unquenchable thirst for freedom; to brothers and sisters of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church says:

YOU are the Lord’s doing and YOU are marvelous in our eyes.

When the then Methodist Church said “NO” to your ancestors, you kept faith with God’s overpowering “YES” to all humanity. The Holy Spirit stirs in the telling of your story:

YOU have moved from second class, deferential treatment to the dignity of world class leadership in academic, educational, political, economic, religious, artistic and activist fields of endeavor

YOU have moved from enforced racial discrimination and refusing victimization, YOU have created opportunities for individual and community self-determination

YOU have moved from the balcony and the blacksmith shop to the chancel of worldwide Christian leadership, modeling Wesleyan practical divinity

YOU have survived hostility and aggravated interference and grown more relentless in the divine quest for justice and equality for ALL God’s people

YOU have moved from unwanted outcast to found and sustain a vital expression of Christianity challenging the Church beyond the limitations of eurocentrism

YOU are the spirit and substance behind the families of Charleston South Carolina's "Emmanuel Nine," meeting bigotry, hatred and horrible death, fired from the gun of  a white supremacist, with divine mercy and forgiveness

YOU have given us Richard Allen, “Freedom’s Prophet,” founding father of the American nation and a global church. YOUR churches and Sunday schools have given us Jarena Lee, Reverdy Ranson, Rosa Parks, A. Phillip Randolph, Henry O. Tanner,  James Cone, Jacqueline Grant, Vernon Jordan, Ramsey Lewis, Kathleen Battle, Judith Jamison and d’brickashaw Ferguson.

Through the Holy Spirit’s movement among you, YOU have moved The United Methodist Church and people of God everywhere.African Methodist Episcopal Church, our full communion partners:

YOU are the Lord’s doing and YOU are marvelous in our eyes.

The theme of your 2016 Bicentennial General Conference is “An Extraordinary History, An Incredible Future.” Those words echo your life through the ages and continue to and through all that lies ahead.

YOU are 3 million strong in more than 7,000 congregations, in 20 episcopal areas, nearly 40 countries, spanning 5 continents.

The spiritual sons and daughters of John and Charles Wesley, “the people called Methodist” are blessed because of who you are and what, by God’s grace, you are becoming.

We rejoice to be in the Methodist family of Christ with you.

Alfred T. Day, III,  April 29, 2016 / May 17, 2017