How Racist Act of a White Man Gave Birth to Creation of the African Methodist Church


History recorded how a group of blacks sat in pews reserved for whites and one of them was pulled off amidst prayer but the group finished praying before they got up and walked out – the genesis of the African Methodist Church.

Many black could not understand why: “As these blacks knelt in prayer, a white trustee came over and grabbed Absalom Jones, Allen’s associate, and began pulling on him, saying, “You must get up—you must not kneel here”.

It was reported that Mr Jones asked him to wait until prayer was over, but the trustee replied: “No, you must get up now, or I will call for aid and force you away”.

This unpalatable racist tendency that happened in 1787 led Richard Allen to establishing an independent black congregation even though he had no desire to leave Methodism Church, which was 90 percent white in population.

He disclosed: “I was confident that there was no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of the colored people as well as the Methodist; for the plain and simple gospel suits best for any people.

It was obvious that the blacks needed a place they could worship in freedom.

Richard Allen got into ministry when he and his associate Absalom Jones as the leaders of the black Methodist community in Philadelphia in 1793 were asked by city officials if the black community could help serve as nurses to the suffering and help bury the dead.

It was when the yellow fever epidemic broke out and many people, black and white, were dying and lots of people ran away from the city.

Mr Allen and his associate saw the racism inherent in the request: asking black folks to do the risky, dirty work for whites but they obliged to show the white community, in one more way, the moral and spiritual equality of blacks.

Afterward around 1781, Allen began traveling the Methodist preaching circuits in Delaware and surrounding states and prominent Methodist leaders, like Francis Asbury, made sure Allen had places to preach.

He returned to Philadelphia and joined St. George’s Methodist Church in 1786 and leadership at prayer services drew plenty black folks into the church, which eventually culminated in the ‘unpalatable racist tendency’.

Born into slavery in Philadelphia in 1760 and converted at age 17, he began preaching on his plantation and at local Methodist churches.

Every there were people, a pulpit was raised for preaching. He said sometimes hewould wake from my sleep preaching and praying.

The slave boy converted his owner who was so impressed with him that he allowed Allen to purchase his freedom earlier than he ever imagined.

By 1786 blacks who were 10 percent of the Methodist church in the United States worshipped together with white with no real freedom.
The area reserved for blacks was usually called the “Negro Pew” or the “African Corner.”

It was recorded that St. George’s had no history of segregated seating, at least until the later 1780s after which white leaders required black members to use the chairs around the walls rather than the pews.

Mr Allen and Mr Jones were threatening them with expulsion from the Methodist Conference, which led to Mr Allen purchasing an old frame building formerly a blacksmith’s shop in 1974. The building was the creation of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The building was dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury and in 1799 Mr Allen was ordained a deacon.

The white Methodist leaders in Philadelphia tried for fifteen years to own Mr Allen’s congregation and property tut on the first day of 1816, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the church belonged to Allen and his associates.

In April of 1786, delegates from several black Methodist churches convened in Philadelphia and drew up an “Ecclesiastical Compact” that united them in the independent African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Mr Allen was ordained an elder and then consecrated as bishop — the first black to hold such an office in America.

Blacks in Baltimore, Wilmington, Attleboro, and Salem followed Mr Allen’s example and established independent African Methodist (AME) churches.

He oversaw the rapid growth of the AME’s mother church in Philadelphia, which grew to 7,500 members in the 1820s.

The denomination turned out as the most significant black institution in the nineteenth century, and today has over 6,000 churches and over 2 million members.

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