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St. Paul A.M.E. Mission Statement

St. Paul's current mission statement reflects the lessons learned in the church's history. According to their website:

The Mission of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church is to humbly submit ourselves to God's Word by exemplifying, developing and maintaining strong spiritual character by loving everyone. We are committed to grow, glow, and go that we might be filled with all the fullness of God, winning souls by properly utilizing our time, talents and resources, endeavoring to develop Christian youth through obedience to God.

By adhering to that mission, St. Paul hopes to achieve certain core goals reminiscent of the AMEC's founders:

  1. We will be the head and not the tail.
  2. We will be above and not beneath.
  3. We will be lenders and not borrowers.
Official logo of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Official logo of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Worldwide A.M.E. Church

African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) is a Christian denomination organized in pre-Civil War America by slaves and ex-slaves. Its doctrine is straight Methodist, and its governing structure is known as Episcopal. Nowadays, its congregations welcome and serve people of all races and walks of life. But the origin of the church by people of African descent is retained as its heritage. Their motto is "God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family."

History of the A.M.E. Church

Richard Allen, Founder

A.M.E. founder Richard Allen

In 1787, ex-slave Richard Allen joined other free blacks to establish the Free African Society in Philadelphia. These people were members of the white-run St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. Methodist leaders were trying to rid their churches of racial injustices, especially slavery. But churchgoers were slow to comply. Amid various discriminations, lower officials at St. George's were bothered by black members kneeling to pray in church, and pulled them from their knees.

This was the final straw for Allen's devotion to his church. He collected a few followers and started a church specifically for Negro Methodists, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). The long name of the organization is vital to understanding its character: 'African' reminds the world that the church will never forsake the culture of its roots; 'Methodist' tells other Christians what biblical doctrine is taught at the church; 'Episcopal' keeps the leadership in check with limited terms of office and a hierarchy of accountability. All A.M.E. churches are interconnected.

In 1794, the first African Methodist Episcopal church was dedicated as Bethel A.M.E., Pennsylvania, with Allen as pastor. The congregation eagerly sought out other black members. Prior to the Civil War, the church branched out through Northeast and Midwest America; hardly any groups managed to take hold in the southern slave states.

During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the AMEC sought out newly freed slaves to join their church. Union troops helped AMEC missionaries travel and evangelize safely in the Confederate south. Their trademark sermon titled "I Seek My Brethren" won the hearts of thousands, making the AMEC's membership skyrocket to 400,000 by 1880. A few years later, the church grew branches in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. In the 1990s, AMEC membership passed the two million mark, with 7,000 congregations in more than thirty countries.

While the A.M.E. doctrine is Methodist, the church's more prolific members have propagated a distinctive emphasis on the issue of race in Christianity. Their teachings address such topics as the presence of blacks in the formation of Christianity, racially skewed biblical translations, and the African American obligation to remember their heritage and reach out to those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.

Further Reading

Larry Eugene Rivers' Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord, 2001.

Last modified 10-29-08.

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