African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Birgitta J. Johnson
The oldest and largest black Methodist denomination in the world, with approximately four million members in the United States and abroad. The first independent African American Christian denomination, it was founded by Richard Allen and other former members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Allen and Absalom Jones had formed the Free African Society in 1787 to protest the rise in discriminatory treatment faced by growing numbers of blacks in the white church. They and other African American ministers were being denied advancement to pastorate positions, and after white church officials tried to physically remove blacks from the gallery during prayer, Allen and other black members walked out of worship. Efforts toward gaining equal treatment and representation in Methodist congregations were ignored or denied, and in 1794 Allen and Jones organized a separate congregation under the Protestant Episcopal Church. Jones was appointed as its first bishop. Allen, however, wanted to remain in the Methodist tradition, so he and part of the group who had left St. George’s founded Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church during that same year....