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Overview of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was born of racial discrimination following the American Revolution when African Americans struggled to establish their own houses of worship. Today the African Methodist Episcopal Church has congregations on four continents. The church was organized in America by people of African descent, its beliefs are Methodist, and its form of government is Episcopal (governed by bishops).

Currently, the AME Church is active in 30 nations in North and South America, Europe, and Africa and has more than 2 million members worldwide.

In 1794, Bethel AME was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as an independent black church, to escape the racism prevalent in New England at the time. Richard Allen, the pastor, later called a convention in Philadelphia of other persecuted blacks throughout the region. The AME Church, a Wesleyan denomination, was formed in 1816 as a result.

The AME Church describes itself as a "connectional" organization. The General Conference is the highest ruling body, followed by the Council of Bishops, the executive branch of the church. Equal with the Council of Bishops is a Board of Trustees and a General Board. The Judicial Council serves as the appellate court of the church.

The AME Church is Methodist in its basic doctrine: The church"s beliefs are summarized in the Apostles" Creed. Members believe in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the once and final forgiveness of sins.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church practices two sacraments: baptism and the Lord"s Supper. A typical Sunday worship service includes hymns, responsive prayer, Old Testament and New Testament readings, a sermon, tithing/offering, and communion.

To learn more about African Methodist Episcopal beliefs, visit AME Church Beliefs and Practices.

Sources: ame-church.com, stpaul-ame.org, NYTimes.com

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