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Black Methodism

Black Methodism

African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church

British Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Free Christian Zion Church of Christ

Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church

Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church

Union American Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Church

500 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37203

A short time after the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, friction developed between the blacks and the whites of St. George’s Church in Philadelphia. The situation was intensified by the construction of a gallery to which the blacks were relegated. The long-standing grievances came to a head on a Sunday morning in November 1787, when whites tried to pull several blacks from their knees at the altar rail. Richard Allen (1760–1831) led the group of blacks out of the church, and they formed a church of their own.

Allen was a former slave whose master had been converted by Freeborn Garrettson (1752–1827), a Methodist preacher. Allen was allowed by his master to buy his freedom. As a freeman he became a prosperous businessman and a licensed Methodist preacher. After leaving St. George’s, Allen purchased an abandoned blacksmith shop, and Methodist Bp. Francis Asbury (1745–1816) dedicated it as Bethel Church. In 1799 Allen was ordained a deacon, the first black to be so honored.

Differences continued between the leaders of Allen’s Bethel Church and St. George’s. The former wished to be independent but with a nominal relation to the Methodists. Finally, in 1816, the issues were settled in a court suit when Bethel was granted full independence.

In Baltimore, blacks at the two white churches formed an independent Colored Methodist Society after they had been put in galleries and not allowed to take communion until after the whites. In 1801 Daniel Coke arrived in Baltimore and took over the leadership of the Society. Through his work an independent Methodist Church, also named Bethel, was formed. A call was issued in 1816 for a national meeting of black Methodists for the purpose of forming an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The Discipline, Articles of Religion, and General Rules of the Methodist Episcopal Church were adopted, and Richard Allen was elected bishop. The AME Church remains close in doctrine, practice, and polity to the United Methodist Church, the successor to the Methodist Episcopal Church, with whom it has engaged in merger conversations.

Growth in the church throughout the North and Midwest was steady through 1865. After the Civil War a rapid expansion throughout the South occurred, and conferences were established across the territory of the former Confederacy.

A missionary imperative was an early part of African Methodist concern, and in 1827 Scipio Bean was ordained as an elder and sent to Haiti. From that small beginning (and slow growth because of lack of funds), a twentieth-century mission program emerged with stations in Africa, South America, and the West Indies. The primary work is with other people of African descent.

Publishing was seen as an integral part of the evangelistic, missionary, and cultural life of the church from the beginning, and the items published by this church have had a major impact on the black community. The AME Book Concern was the first publishing house owned and operated by black people in America. The Christian Recorder, a newspaper begun as the Christian Herald, published continuously since 1841, is the oldest black periodical in the world; the AME Review, started in 1883, is the oldest magazine published by black people in the world. Education joined publishing as an early concern, and the first AME affiliated college, Wilberforce University, was established in 1856. Today the Interdenominational Theological Seminary, in Atlanta, Georgia, is the largest complex for the education of black Christian ministers in the nation. Educational concerns have been carried to the mission field as well, and the church has established a number of schools from the primary grades through college for its African membership. West Africa Seminary was founded in Sierre Leone.

The church is governed episcopally. An international general conference meets quadrennially. The church is divided into 20 episcopal districts. Districts one through 13 oversee work in the United States, Canada, and Bermuda. The remaining districts oversee work abroad.

The church is a member of both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. Affiliated congregations in Barbados and the Caribbean are members of the Caribbean Conference of Churches.


In 1999 the church reported 14,428 clergy serving 4,174 churches and 2.5 million members.

Educational Facilities

Jackson Theological Seminary, Crossett, Arkansas, and Warren, Arkansas.

Shorter College, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida.

Interdenominational Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia.

Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia.

Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio.

Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio.

Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina.

Dickerson Theological Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina.

Abington School of Religion, Waco, Texas.

Paul Quinn College, Dallas, Texas.


The Christian Recorder. • A.M.E. Church Review. • The Voice of Missions. • The Journal of Christian Education. • The Secret Chamber. • The Missionary Magazine. • The YPD News Letter. All available from The Christian Recorder, 512 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37203-4181.


African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Allen, Richard. The Life Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1960.

George, Carol V. R. Segregated Sabbaths. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Gomez, Joseph. Polity of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nashville, TN: Division of Christian Education, African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1971.

Gregg, Howard D. History of the A.M.E. Church. Nashville: AME Sunday School Union, 1980.

Melton, J. Gordon. A Will to Choose: The Rise of African American Methodism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Singleton, George A. The Romance of African Methodism. New York: Exposition Press, 1952.

White, Andrew. Know Your Church Manual. Nashville, TN: Division of Christian Education, African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1965.

Wright, R. R., Jr., comp. Encyclopedia of African Methodism. Philadelphia, PA: Book Concern of the AME Church, 1947.

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

AME Zion Headquarters, 3225 Sugar Creek Rd., Charlotte, NC 28269

Alternate Address

PO Box 23843, Charlotte, NC 28232

In the late 1790s, a movement for independence among New York blacks was begun when a group petitioned Bp. Francis Asbury, the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to let them hold separate meetings. They complained of not being allowed to preach or join the conference and itinerate. Asbury granted the request, and meetings were held immediately. In 1801 a charter was drawn up for the African Methodist Episcopal Church (called Zion Church) of the City of New York. It was to be supplied with a minister from the white John Street Church. Zion Church was thus assured of regular preaching and the sacraments.

In 1813 Zion Church split, and Asbury Church was formed as a second black Methodist congregation. Both churches were being served by William Stillwell of John Street Church in 1820, when Stillwell, along with about 300 white church members, withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church denomination in a dispute over centralized control of individual church properties and formed their own Methodist Society. Blacks, now without a regular minister and also afraid of losing their property to the Methodist Episcopal Church, separated themselves from John Street Church. They also voted not to join the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Several independent black churches in New Haven and Philadelphia petitioned them for ministers. A Discipline, based upon that of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was drawn up.

Several attempts at reconciliation were made, the most important being a petition to establish the several black congregations as an annual conference within the Methodist Episcopal Church. This request was refused, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church emerged. Ordination of black ministers was accepted from William Stillwell and two other white elders, and in 1822 James Varick (1750–1827) was elected the first superintendent.

Doctrinally the AME Zion Church accepts the Twenty-five Articles of Religion common to Methodists and has an episcopal polity similar to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Church boards implement programs of the quadrennial General Conference. The Publishing House and Book Concern are located in the headquarters complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, and publish a complete line of church school material. The church is a member of both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

The AME Zion Church has member churches in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. In West Africa, the denomination has set up numerous schools and clinics throughout Ghana and Nigeria. The church also has facilities in Liberia, though some of its main structures have been destroyed by civil war.


In 2003 the church reported 1,432,795 members; 3,236 churches; and 3,827 ministers.

Educational Facilities

Lomax-Hannon Junior College, Greenville, Alabama.

Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, North Carolina.

Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina.

Clinton Junior College, Rock Hill, South Carolina.


Star of Zion. • A.M.E. Zion Quarterly Review. • The Connection. Available from PO Box 31005, Charlotte, NC 28231.


African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Association of Religion Data Archives.

Bradley, David C. A History of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 2 vols. Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1956–1970.

Melton, J. Gordon. A Will to Choose: The Rise of African American Methodism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Walls, William J. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Charlotte, NC: A.M.E. Zion Publishing House, 1974.

African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church

Saint James AUMP Church, 1106 E 16th St., Wilmington, DE 19802


The origins of the African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church can be traced to 1813 and the formation of the Union Church of Africans, an event that present-day church leaders point to with pride. The Union Church of Africans was the first church in the United States to be originally organized by and afterward wholly under the care of black people.

The Union Church of Africans began in a series of disputes in the Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church, a congregation in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1805 black members under the leadership of Peter Spencer (1782–1843) and William Anderson (d. 1843) withdrew from what had been an integrated congregation, formed an all-black congregation, Ezion Church, and erected a building. They cited as reasons for their departure the denial of religious privileges and lack of freedom in exercising their “spiritual gifts.” The black members had been segregated in a balcony and made to take communion after white members.

While breaking with the local congregation, Ezion was still a part of the predominantly white Methodist Episcopal Church. However, in 1812 a conflict arose with the white minister who had been assigned to preach to both of Wilmington’s congregations. The conflict resulted in the minister’s dismissal of all of Ezion’s trustees and class leaders. That action led to a court dispute that ended when the black members withdrew from the church. In 1813 they reorganized independently and elected Spencer and Anderson as their ministers. By 1837 there were 21 congregations.

In the generation after Spencer and Anderson, two events were most important. First, in 1850, a major schism occurred when a group arose in the Union Church that demanded the adoption of an episcopal polity. That group left to found the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. The Union Church of Africans emerged from this struggle as the African Union Church. Then, after the Civil War, the church merged with the First Colored Methodist Protestant Church to form the present African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church.

The First Colored Methodist Protestant Church had been formed about 1840 when members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church rejected episcopal leadership and reorganized along the principles of the Methodist Protestant Church, which included no episcopacy and lay representation of local preachers at the general conference. Because the Methodist Protestant Church was very similar to the African Union Church, they united in 1866.


The church accepts the commonly held articles of religion of United Methodism, but it has attached the Apostles’Creed as the first article and deleted the article on “The Rulers of the United States.” It has made a few changes in wording, for example, adding the words “and women” to the article on “The Church,” which now reads, “The visible church is a congregation of faithful men and women.”


The church is organized congregationally. Congregations are grouped into three districts: the Middle District, which includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Canada; the Maryland District, which includes Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and all states south and southwest of Maryland; and the Southern and Western Missionary District, which includes all the southern and western states. A general conference meets quadrennially.

In 1966 the church moved to replace the titles of general president and general vice president, the two offices elected by the General Conference, with that of senior bishop and junior bishop. In 1971 the office of presiding elder of the combined districts of the church was created, and a second presiding elder was named in 1979.

There is no foreign mission work, and the home mission work is primarily the providence of the women.


Not reported.

Educational Facilities

AU School of Religion, Wilmington, Delaware.


African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church.

Baldwin, Lewis V. “Invisible” Strands in African Methodism. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1983.

Melton, J. Gordon. A Will to Choose: The Rise of African American Methodism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Russell, Daniel James. History of the African Union Methodist Protestant Church. Philadelphia: Union Star Book and Job Printing and Publishing House, 1920.

British Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada

460 Shaw St., Toronto, ON, Canada M6G 3L3

The British Methodist Episcopal Church traces its beginning to the entrance into Canada of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in the 1830s, and more directly to the organization of the Upper Canada Conference in 1840 in Toronto under the leadership of Bp. Morris Brown (1770–1849). At the time, there were 10 preachers and 256 lay members in the conference. Some trouble developed in the early 1850s, which the Canadian members attributed to neglect by the American authorities. In 1854 the conference asked for a discipline in conformity to Canadian laws (rather than those of the United States), and it asked the AME Church to set it off as a separate body. The 1856 general conference granted the request, and the independent British Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), under the leadership of Bp. Willis Nazrey (1808–1874), was organized.

During the late nineteenth century, the work prospered. Churches were founded in Ontario and Nova Scotia (where many former slaves had migrated after the Civil War), and a mission was established in Bermuda. The Missionary Messenger served the church.

No doctrinal issues existed between the AME churches and their Canadian membership, so the British MEC continued the doctrines of the AME Church.


Not reported. The denomination has churches across the province of Ontario.


Canadian Church Headquarters Directory.

Payne, Daniel A. History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 2 vols. Nashville, TN: AME Sunday School Union, 1891. Reprint, New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1968.

Simpson, Matthew. Cyclopedia of Methodism. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1880.

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

4466 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116-7100

From 1844 until the end of the Civil War, slaves formed a large percentage of the membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In South Carolina they were in the majority. The proselytizing activity of both the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church claimed many of these former slaves as soon as they were free; others remained with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), the southern branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which had split in 1844. Many white Methodists felt that, given the blacks’ new freedom, a new relationship must follow. In 1870, following the wishes of their black members, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, helped them form a separate church named the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. In 1954 the church changed its name to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

At the first General Conference, nine annual conferences were designated, the Discipline of the MECS adopted with necessary changes, a publishing house established, and a periodical, the Christian Index, begun. Two MECS bishops ordained two black Methodist Episcopal bishops. Throughout its history the CME Church has been aided financially in its program by the MECS and its successor bodies. Today the church is very similar to the United Methodist Church in belief and practice.

One of the keys to Colored Methodist Episcopal success was the 41-year episcopate of Isaac Lane. Besides traveling widely and bolstering the poverty-ridden church, he initiated the educational program by founding the CME High School (now Lane College) in 1882. Education of former slaves and their children, a major enterprise of all Methodists, has been carried through the CME Church in the establishment of a number of schools across the South. Paine College, established with the assistance of the MECS, has been a traditional focus of CME and MECS cooperation. In 1959 Phillips School of Theology moved from Jackson, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia, to become part of the Interdenominational Theological Center, a complex of four theological schools, the largest educational facility in the nation for the training of black Christian ministers.

Growth and expansion beyond the 200,000 initial members of the church was slowed by lack of funds. Movement northward followed the major migration of blacks into northern urban centers in the early twentieth century.

The CME Church is a member of both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.


In 2002 the CME Church reported 850,000 members and 3,407 churches served by 3,300 clergy in the United States. It has missions and sister churches in Haiti, Jamaica, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria.

Educational Facilities

Miles College, Birmingham, Alabama.

Phillips School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.

Paine College, Augusta, Georgia.

Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee.

Texas College, Tyler, Texas.


Christian Index. Available from PO Box 665, Memphis, TN 38101.


Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Association of Religion Data Archives.

Harris, Eula Wallace, and Naomi Ruth Patterson. Christian Methodist Episcopal Church through the Years. Jackson, TN: Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Publishing House, 1965.

Johnson, Joseph A., Jr. Basic Christian Methodist Beliefs. Shreveport, LA: Fourth Episcopal District Press, 1978.

Lakey, Othal Hawthorne. The Rise of Colored Methodism. Dallas, TX: Crescendo Book Publications, 1972.

———. The History of the CME Church. Memphis, TN: CME Publishing House, 1997.

Melton, J. Gordon. A Will to Choose: The Rise of African American Methodism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Sommerville, Raymond R., Jr. An Ex-Colored Church: Social Activism in the CME Church, 1870–1970. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2004.

Wondrous Grace. (Information guide.) Available from the Department of Christian Education, CME Church.

Free Christian Zion Church of Christ

1409 S Mill St., Nashville, AR 71852

The Free Christian Zion Church of Christ was formed on July 10, 1905, in Redemption, Arkansas, by the Rev. E. D. Brown, a conference missionary of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. He and ministers from other Methodist churches objected to what they considered a taxing of the churches for support of an ecclesiastical system and believed that the primary concern of the church should be the care of the poor and needy.

The doctrine is Wesleyan and the polity Methodist with several minor alterations. The bishop, who is called the chief pastor, presides over the work and appoints the ministers and church officers. Pastors and deacons are the local church officers. There are district evangelists to care for the unevangelized communities.


In 2001 the church reported 16,000 members in 60 churches.

Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church

1136 Brody Ave., Charleston, SC 20407

The Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church was formed in 1885 by members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who withdrew after a dispute concerning the election of ministerial delegates to the Annual Conference. The Rev. William E. Johnson was elected the first president. A strong sentiment approving of the nonepiscopal nature of the new church was expressed. However, in 1896, steps were taken to alter the polity, and in 1919, after the death of the Reverend Johnson, E. Russell Middleton was elected bishop. He was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Peter F. Stevens of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Following Middleton’s death, a second bishop was elected and consecrated by the laying on of hands of seven elders of the church.

Doctrine was taken from the Methodist Episcopal Church. The polity has moved in the episcopal direction and was fully adopted in 1916. Class meetings and love feasts are also retained. Class meetings are regular gatherings of small groups for exhortation, discussion, confession and forgiveness, Bible study, and prayer. Love feasts are informal services centering on Holy Communion but also including a light meal, singing, and a talk by the officiating minister.


In 1983 the church reported 3,800 members in 18 churches served by 33 clergy.


The Doctrines and Discipline. Charleston, SC: Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church, 1972.

Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church

c/o James C. Feggins, 416 South Hill Ave., South Hill, VA 23970

The Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church was founded by a group from the African Methodist Episcopal Church interested in setting up a religious organization “to aid in bringing about Christian Union, whose fruit will be Holiness unto the Lord.” Led by the Rev. James Howell, the group met in Boydton, Virginia, in April 1869, and organized the Zion Union Apostolic Church with the Reverend Howell as the president. Harmony and growth prevailed until 1874, when changes in polity led to the election of the Reverend Howell as bishop with life tenure. Dissatisfaction with this action nearly destroyed the organization, even though Bishop Howell resigned. In 1882 a reorganization was effected, the four-year presidential structure reinstituted, and the present name adopted.

The representative conference structure is maintained with the lawmaking power invested in the quadrennial General Conference. Over the years the four-year presidency has again been dropped in favor of life-tenure bishops. A Board of Publication has control over church literature and prints the church school material and the church’s periodical.


In 1965 the church reported 1,832 members and 27 churches.


Union Searchlight.


General Rules and Discipline of the Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church. Norfolk, VA: Creecy’s Good-Will Printery, 1966.

Union American Methodist Episcopal Church

c/o Bishop Michael Moulden, 3101 N Market St., Wilmington, DE 19802

Alternate Address

c/o Bishop Linwood Rideout,4411 Fielding Rd., Wilmington, DE 19802.

The Union American Methodist Episcopal Church is one of two denominations that grew out of the movement within the Methodist Episcopal Church (now a constituent part of the United Methodist Church) led by two African-American members, Peter Spencer (1782–1843) and William Anderson. They formed the African Union Church (also called the Union Church of Africans) in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1813. At some point, a schism occurred in the African Union Church. According to some accounts, around 1816, 30 congregations of the Union Church separated themselves from the other 24 congregations, and for a number of years the two groups existed side by side, each using the same name. Other accounts say the schism occurred in 1850, after Spencer’s death. In any case, by the 1850s, two factions existed. In 1865 one faction united with the First Colored Methodist Protestant Church to become the African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church. That same year, the other group incorporated under the name African Union American Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America and Elsewhere (now the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church).

The church is Methodist in doctrine and has an episcopal polity. There are two bishops who head four districts. The General Conference meets quadrennially. The church not only allows but encourages female ministers. The church is led by Bishops Moulden and Rideout.


In 1990 the church reported 55 congregations and over 12,000 members.


The Union Messenger.


Baldwin, Lewis V. The Mark of a Man: Peter Spencer and the American Union Methodist Tradition. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.

Melton, J. Gordon. A Will to Choose: The Rise of African American Methodism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Payne, Wardell J., ed. Directory of African American Religious Bodies: A Compendium by the Howard University School of Divinity. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1991.

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