Saturday, March 26, 2016

For All the Saints: Richard Allen

On the Episcopal Church calendar, Richard Allen (1760-1831) is honored today, the anniversary of his death. Born into slavery, Allen founded the first independent black denomination in the US, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1794, and was elected its first bishop in 1816. In the AME Church, he hoped to give free blacks a place to worship with respect and dignity. He also organized Sabbath schools to teach literacy, promoted the well being of American blacks, and operated an Underground Railroad station. As a young person he had taught himself to read and write. Already active in Methodist evangelizing, he was qualified as a preacher in 1784 when the Methodist Church was founded at at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore.  He became a preacher at the St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, but when the white Methodists ordered the blacks to worship separately, he and the rest of the black congregation left and formed the basis of the AME Church, which in twenty years had nearly 1300 members.

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