The Origin of the A.M.E. Zion Church
January 15, 2010
The Origin of the A.M.E. Zion Church
In the late 1700s, the A.M.E. Zion Church development was planned and formed. This was an effort to step out on a new horizon with roots tied to the White Methodist Episcopal Church. The White Methodist Episcopal Church had begun some decades prior to the sprout of the A.M.E. Zion Church.
The Methodist Church in England was founded by John Wesley, in an attempt to remake the Church of England from within; A.M.E Zion Church grew out of a spirit of reform. John Wesley had a deep resistance to slavery and his championing of poor and mistreated people, both white and black, not ...view middle of the document...
However, it was chartered in 1801 and firmly established in 1820.
In the late 18th century, two distinct groups of black Methodists, one in Philadelphia, and one in New York City, formed their own churches. Coincidentally both groups initially took the name African Methodist Episcopal Church. The New York based African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was developed under the leadership of James Varick, Abraham Thompson, June Scott, William Miller, and several other Black men who worshipped at the John Street Church. Most of the leaders of this first A.M.E. Zion church were free men, but slavery was still legal in New York, and many church members were slaves. This newly founded church was a branch off of the White Methodist Episcopal Church. Denial of religious liberty and discrimination caused this outgrowth to happen.
By 1801, the group was incorporated as the African Methodist Episcopal Church in New York. For the next two decades, they remained affiliated with the white-dominated Methodist Episcopal Church. However, in 1820, the A.M.E. Zion leaders voted to leave the White Methodist Episcopal Church and they published their first discipline, or rules and regulations for church practice. The following year, church founders agreed to call the church the African Methodist Episcopal Church in America. The word “Zion” was added to the title during the church’s general conference in 1848, to distinguish this New York-based group from the Philadelphia Black Methodist movement which emerged about the same time.
With its identity problems resolved, the A.M.E. Zion Church made the salvation of the whole person—mind, body and spirit—its top priority. At the core of its ministry lay racial justice, peace and harmony, thus earning it the title, the Freedom Church (Amez, 2011, para. 3).
The A.M.E. Zion Church has been known for its spirit of reform and social activism from its earliest beginnings. The church was in the forefront of the antislavery movement in the 19th century. Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth were several of the best-known black abolitionists. A.M.E. Zion members have made other significant contributions since those times. A.M.E. Zion Bishop Alexander Walters, along with Dr. W.E.B DuBois, helped to found the NAACP. Bishop Walters was also a pioneering member of the Pan-African Congress. Many of the denomination’s clergy and lay people were active participants in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s (Amez, 2011, para. 5).
As the ministry expanded, so did the denomination’s emphasis on education. “In order to succeed in American society as productive citizens, we (newly free slaves) need to become an educated citizenry. The A.M.E. Zion Church has founded and contributed to a handful of institutions and associations. To maintain that goal, the Church maintains four colleges and one university today. A few of these are Livingstone College (Salisbury, North Carolina), Lomax Hannon Junior...