History of the A.M.E Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a unique history in that it is the first major religious denomination in the Western World that had its origin over sociological rather than theological beliefs and differences, and its the first African-American organized and incorporated denomination in the United States. The AME church is also the church that sponsored the first historicaly black college, Wilberforce University. The church was born in protest against slavery--against dehumanization of African people.
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. The church was organized by African-American members of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. The incident that led to this was the removal of Absalom Jones (1746-1818) from St. George's by the trustees while he was in the act of prayer. The congregation supported the act of the trustees, and Allen and Jones led the African-American members out of St. George's as a body. Allen went on to form the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1793. In general, they adopted the doctrines and form of government of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Jones affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church and would go on to become the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church.
When officials at St. George's MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far the Methodist church 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. In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel's independence from interfering Methodists, Allen, a former Deleware slave, successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an independent institution.