A Brief Overview of the A.M.E. Church
St. Stephens African Methodist Episcopal Church
Reverend Dededrick O. Rivers, Pastor
African means that the church was organized by people of African descent and heritage. It does not mean that the church was founded in Africa or that it is for persons of African descent only.
Methodist. The church's root is of the family of Methodist churches. Methodism provides an orderly system of rules and regulations and places emphasis on a plain and simple gospel.
Episcopal refers to the form of government under which the church operates. The chief executive and administrative officers of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination are the Bishops of the church.
The mission of the AME Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people.
The Church engages in carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society, out of which the AME Church evolved: that is, to seek out and save the lost, and serve the needy through a continuing program of (1) preaching the gospel, (2) feeding the hungry, (3) clothing the naked, (4) housing the homeless, (5) cheering the fallen, (6) providing jobs for the jobless, (7) administering to the needs of those in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, asylums and mental institutions, senior citizens' homes; caring for the sick, the shut-in, the mentally and socially disturbed, and (8) encouraging thrift and economic advancement.
In order to meet the needs of every level of the Connection and in every local church, the AME Church shall implement strategies to train all members in: (1) Christian discipleship, (2) Christian leadership, (3) current teaching methods and materials, (4) the history and significance of the AME Church, (5) God’s biblical principles, and (6) social development to which all should be applied to daily living.
A Brief Overview of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Richard Allen
– Our Founder
Richard Allen was born on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, PA. He was born into slavery; his family was the property of a wealthy Philadelphia lawyer, Benjamin Chew. Later Richard and his family were sold to Stockley Sturgis in Delaware. Sturgis allowed Allen to learn to read and write and through his reading he became interested in religion and attended local Methodist meetings until people objected. Sturgis then allowed Methodist meetings on his plantation and Allen soon found that preaching was his calling, and is said to have influenced Sturgis' own conversion to the Methodist religion. In 1783, Richard Allen purchased his freedom and moved back to Philadelphia.
He began preaching and regularly worshipped in the Methodist church. However, he and other black worshippers faced opposition from some of the white members of the church. Instead of forcing the issue, Allen left the Methodist congregation and in 1787 he began his own congregation where people could worship without restriction and harassment. As the free black population of Philadelphia grew, Allen continued to devote his efforts to bringing increasing numbers of black people into the Methodist religion.
Allen was an organizer of the Free African Society, a group that fostered self-help and self-dependence. He established day and night schools, and was co-organizer of the first Masonic lodge for colored men in Pennsylvania.
From 1797 to his death on March 26, 1831, Allen operated a station on the Underground Railway. This work was continued by Bethel Church until Emancipation. Bishop Allen was married to Sarah Bass Allen and was the father of six children - Richard Jr., James, John, Peter, Sarah and Ann.
Our Emblem and Motto
The emblem displays characteristics that can be equated to a significant aspect of the African Methodist Episcopal doctrine and belief.
The shape of the emblem is in the form of a three-pointed shield. The three points being symbolic of the original Church motto, "God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother."
A new motto, “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family”, was adopted at the 2008 General Conference in St. Louis, MO.
An anvil and cross occupy the center of the Emblem. The anvil represents the blacksmith shop in Philadelphia where the first AME Church was established and the cross represents the Church.
Our Discipline The book, “Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church”, (commonly referred to as “The Discipline”) outlines the rules, laws, and procedures of the AME Church. It is published every four years. The first edition was issued in 1817 by Bishop Richard Allen and Elder James Tapisco and others of Philadelphia, and is one of the oldest books published by American Blacks.
The AME Church recognizes and observes two holy sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion. The modes of baptism are pouring, sprinkling, and immersion. Regardless of the mode administered, baptism is a powerful symbol of regeneration and initiation into the community of faith – Christ’s Church. Holy Communion services as a memorial of the death and suffering of Christ and celebrates the abundant life we have through Him.
The Supper of the Lord is a sign of the love that Christians ought to have for one another and our redemption by Christ's death. The bread that we break is a partaking of the body of Christ and likewise the cup is a partaking of the blood of Christ. In the AME doctrine, the Supper of the Lord is administered to all Christians alike.