Rev. Richard Allen was an Abolitionist, church founder, and the first major leader of Black Americans in the United States. He was born into slavery on February 14, 1760, in Philadelphia, PA. He was emancipated in 1783. During his younger years he was converted to Christianity, and served in the Revolutionary War. After accepting his call to the preaching ministry, Rev. Allen preached in Delaware, West Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. He was selected to attend the first organizing conference of the General Methodist Church in 1784.
In 1787, an incident occurred in St. George’s Episcopal Church in which several Black people were not allowed to kneel in prayer on the main floor of the sanctuary, but were rudely pulled from their feet and forced to go up to the balcony, the place reserved for Black worshippers. Rev. Allen and others walked out of St. George’s that day and established the Free African Society of Philadelphia. This new religious movement convened its first service in a blacksmith’s shop, where Rev. Allen preached from an anvil. For this reason the image of an anvil is intertwined with that of the Christian cross in the emblem of our denomination.
Over time, several buildings were secured for worship, the most historical being Mother Bethel Church in Philadelphia, PA. In time the movement led by others became knows as the African Methodist Episcopal Church. African in honor of the fact that our founders were of African descent. Methodist because there is a method to all that we do, and Rev. Allen felt that thiswould be the best form of operations for our people. Episcopal refers to our form of government, which is inclusive of Bishops, Pastors, and Lay Persons.
Today in 2005, over 1 million members in sixteen districts support the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination across the world. These districts include the United States, the Caribbean, South America, England, Bermuda, Africa, and the Bahamas.
Annual Conference – Composed of all Traveling Annual Elders, Deacons, Licentiates, Local Preachers, Conference Presidents and other leaders. This Conference is convened by the Bishop, and is the place where all Pastors are to remit a report of the work and mission of the church to which he/she is assigned
Bishop –An Itinerant Elder elected by the General Conference to oversee the spiritual, administrative and other functions of each local church. These duties are inclusive of, but not limited to, upholding the laws of the AME Book of Discipline, and appointment of Pastors to local churches.
District Conference – Compose of the Clergy and Laity of the Presiding Elder District. This meeting is convened by the Presiding Elder for the purpose ofcarrying-out the Episcopal vision/plan, along with the of the Presiding Elder’s.
General Conference – The supreme body of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is composed of the Bishops, and an equal number of Lay and Ministerial delegates elected at each Annual Conference and the Lay Electoral Colleges of the Annual Conference.
General Officer – Persons elected by the General Conference to lead the various ministries/departments of the Connectional Church.
Quarterly Conference – This conference is convened by the Presiding Elder for the purpose of meeting with the membership of the local church to ascertain the state of health of each local church.