Black church

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The term black church or African-American church refers to Protestant churches that currently or historically have ministered to predominantly black congregations in the United States. While some black churches belong to predominantly African-American denominations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), many black churches are members of predominantly white denominations, such as the United Church of Christ (which developed from the Congregational Church of New England). [1]

Christian denomination identifiable Christian body with common name, structure, and doctrine

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

African Methodist Episcopal Church African American denomination

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church or AME, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination. It is the first independent Protestant denomination to be founded by black people. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists. It was among the first denominations in the United States to be founded on racial rather than theological distinctions and has persistently advocated for the civil and human rights of African Americans through social improvement, religious autonomy, and political engagement. Allen, a deacon in Methodist Episcopal Church, was consecrated its first bishop in 1816 by a conference of five churches from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The denomination then expanded west and south, particularly after the Civil War. By 1906, the AME had a membership of about 500,000, more than the combined total of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, making it the largest major African-American Methodist denomination. The AME currently has 20 districts, each with its own bishop: 13 are based in the United States, mostly in the South, while seven are based in Africa. The global membership of the AME is around 2.5 million and it remains one of the largest Methodist denominations in the world.

United Church of Christ Protestant Christian denomination

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination based in the United States, with historical confessional roots in the Congregational, Reformed, and Lutheran traditions, and with approximately 4,956 churches and 853,778 members. The United Church of Christ is a historical continuation of the General Council of Congregational Christian churches founded under the influence of New England Pilgrims and Puritans. Moreover, it also subsumed the third largest Reformed group in the country, the German Reformed. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC. These two denominations, which were themselves the result of earlier unions, had their roots in Congregational, Lutheran, Evangelical, and Reformed denominations. At the end of 2014, the UCC's 5,116 congregations claimed 979,239 members, primarily in the U.S. In 2015, Pew Research estimated that 0.4 percent, or 1 million adult adherents, of the U.S. population self-identify with the United Church of Christ.

Contents

Most of the first black congregations and churches formed before 1800 were founded by free blacks – for example, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Springfield Baptist Church (Augusta, Georgia); Petersburg, Virginia; and Savannah, Georgia. [2] The oldest black Baptist church in Kentucky, and third oldest in the United States, was founded about 1790 by the slave Peter Durrett. [3]

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Petersburg, Virginia Independent city in Commonwealth of Virginia, United States

Petersburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,420. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines Petersburg with Dinwiddie County for statistical purposes. It is located on the Appomattox River. The city is just 21 miles (34 km) south of the historic commonwealth (state) capital city of Richmond. The city's unique industrial past and its location as a transportation hub combined to create wealth for Virginia and the Middle Atlantic and Upper South regions of the nation.

Savannah, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Savannah is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia and is the county seat of Chatham County. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia's fifth-largest city, with a 2018 estimated population of 145,862. The Savannah metropolitan area, Georgia's third-largest, had an estimated population of 389,494 in 2018.

After slavery was abolished, segregationist attitudes in both the North and the South discouraged and even prevented African Americans from worshiping in the same churches as whites. Freed blacks most often established congregations and church facilities separate from their white neighbors, who were often their former masters. These new churches created communities and worship practices that were culturally distinct from other churches, including forms of Christianity that derived from African spiritual traditions.

Slavery in the United States Form of slave labor which existed as a legal institution from the early years of the United States

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British America from early colonial days, and was legal in all Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It lasted in about half the states until 1865, when it was prohibited nationally by the Thirteenth Amendment. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing.

Abolitionism in the United States Movement to end slavery in the United States

Abolitionism in the United States was the movement before and during the American Civil War to end slavery in the United States. In the Americas and western Europe, abolitionism was a movement to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, enlightenment thinkers condemned slavery on humanistic grounds and English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. At that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans were also enslaved. In the 18th century, as many as six million Africans were transported to the Americas as slaves, at least a third of them on British ships to North America. The colony of Georgia originally abolished slavery within its territory, and thereafter, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the Thirteen Colonies.

Racial segregation in the United States Historical separation of African Americans from American white society

Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, refers to the racial segregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation in the United States along racial lines. The term mainly refers to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from whites, but is also used in regards to the separation of other ethnic minorities from majority mainstream communities. While mainly referring to the physical separation and provision of separate facilities, it can also refer to other manifestations such as the separation of roles within an institution. Notably, in the United States Armed Forces up until the 1950s, black units were typically separated from white units but were nevertheless still led by white officers.

African-American churches have long been the centers of communities, serving as school sites in the early years after the Civil War, taking up social welfare functions, such as providing for the indigent, and going on to establish schools, orphanages and prison ministries. As a result, black churches were particularly important during the civil rights movement.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy). The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

The civil rights movement (1896–1954) was a long, primarily nonviolent series of events to bring full civil rights and equality under the law to all Americans. The era has had a lasting impact on United States society, in its tactics, the increased social and legal acceptance of civil rights, and in its exposure of the prevalence and cost of racism.

History

Slavery

African American Baptist Church, Silver Hill Plantation, Georgetown County, South Carolina Negro Baptist Church Silver Hill Plantation.jpg
African American Baptist Church, Silver Hill Plantation, Georgetown County, South Carolina

Evangelical Baptist and Methodist preachers traveled throughout the South in the Great Awakening of the late 18th century. They appealed directly to slaves, and a few thousand slaves converted. Blacks found opportunities to have active roles in new congregations, especially in the Baptist Church, where slaves were appointed as leaders and preachers. (They were excluded from such roles in the Anglican or Episcopal Church.) As they listened to readings, slaves developed their own interpretations of the Scriptures and found inspiration in stories of deliverance, such as the Exodus out of Egypt. Nat Turner, a slave and Baptist preacher, was inspired to armed rebellion, in an uprising that killed about 50 white men, women, and children in Virginia. [4]

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening or the Evangelical Revival was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its Thirteen Colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestantism as adherents strove to renew individual piety and religious devotion. The Great Awakening marked the emergence of Anglo-American evangelicalism as a transdenominational movement within the Protestant churches. In the United States, the term Great Awakening is most often used, while in the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Evangelical Revival.

Nat Turner American slave rebellion leader

Nat Turner was an enslaved African-American mystical preacher who led a two-day rebellion of both enslaved and free black people in Southampton County, Virginia, beginning August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately 60 white men, women and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120, many of whom were not involved in the revolt.

Both free blacks and the more numerous slaves participated in the earliest black Baptist congregations founded near Petersburg, Virginia, Savannah, Georgia and Lexington, Kentucky, before 1800. The slaves Peter Durrett and his wife founded the First African Church (now known as First African Baptist Church) in Lexington, Kentucky about 1790. [5] The church's trustees purchased its first property in 1815. The congregation numbered about 290 by the time of Durrett's death in 1823. [5]

Lexington, Kentucky Consolidated city-county in Kentucky, United States

Lexington, consolidated with Fayette County and often denoted as Lexington-Fayette, is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 60th-largest city in the United States. By land area, Lexington is the 28th largest city in the United States. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," it is the heart of the state's Bluegrass region. It has a nonpartisan mayor-council form of government, with 12 council districts and three members elected at large, with the highest vote-getter designated vice mayor. In the 2018 U.S. Census Estimate, the city's population was 323,780 anchoring a metropolitan area of 516,697 people and a combined statistical area of 746,330 people.

First African Baptist Church (Lexington, Kentucky) church building in Kentucky, United States of America

First African Baptist Church is a historic church at 264-272 E. Short Street in Lexington, Kentucky. The congregation was founded c. 1790 by Peter Durrett and his wife, slaves who came to Kentucky with their master, Rev. Joseph Craig, in 1781 with "The Travelling Church" of Baptists from Spotsylvania, Virginia.

Following slave revolts in the early 19th century, including Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831, Virginia passed a law requiring black congregations to meet only in the presence of a white minister. Other states similarly restricted exclusively black churches, or the assembly of blacks in large groups unsupervised by whites. Nevertheless, the black Baptist congregations in the cities grew rapidly and their members numbered several hundred each before the Civil War. (See next section.) While mostly led by free blacks, most of their members were slaves.

In plantation areas, slaves organized underground churches and hidden religious meetings, the "invisible church", where slaves were free to mix evangelical Christianity with African beliefs and African rhythms. With the time, many incorporated Wesleyan Methodist hymns, gospel songs, and spirituals. [6] The underground churches provided psychological refuge from the white world. The spirituals gave the church members a secret way to communicate and, in some cases, to plan rebellion.

Slaves also learned about Christianity by attending services led by a white preacher or supervised by a white person. Slaveholders often held prayer meetings at their plantations. In the South until the Great Awakening, most slaveholders were Anglican if they practiced any Christianity. Although in the early years of the first Great Awakening, Methodist and Baptist preachers argued for manumission of slaves and abolition, by the early decades of the 19th century, they often had found ways to support the institution. In settings where whites supervised worship and prayer, they used Bible stories that reinforced people's keeping to their places in society, urging slaves to be loyal and to obey their masters. In the 19th century, Methodist and Baptist chapels were founded among many of the smaller communities and common planters. [7] During the early decades of the 19th century, they used stories such as the Curse of Ham to justify slavery to themselves. [7] They promoted the idea that loyal and hard-working slaves would be rewarded in the afterlife. Sometimes slaves established their own Sabbath schools to talk about the Scriptures.[ citation needed ] Slaves who were literate tried to teach others to read, as Frederick Douglass did while still enslaved as a young man in Maryland.

"Wade in the water." A postcard of a river baptism in New Bern, North Carolina, around 1900. River baptism in New Bern.jpg
"Wade in the water." A postcard of a river baptism in New Bern, North Carolina, around 1900.

Free Blacks

Free Blacks in both northern and southern cities formed their own congregations and churches before the end of the 18th century. They organized independent black congregations and churches [8] to practice religion apart from white oversight. [9] Along with white churches opposed to slavery, free blacks in Philadelphia provided aid and comfort to slaves who escaped and helped all new arrivals adjust to city life. [10]

In 1787 in Philadelphia, the black church was born out of protest and revolutionary reaction to racism. Resenting being relegated to a segregated gallery at St. George's Methodist Church, Methodist preachers Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, and other black members, left the church and formed the Free African Society. It was at first non-denominational and provided mutual aid to the free black community. Over time, Jones began to lead Episcopal services there. He led most of its members to create the African Church, in the Episcopal tradition. (Butler 2000, DuBois 1866).

In the fall of 1792, several black leaders attending services at St. George's Methodist Church and had recently helped to expand the church. The black churchgoers were told to sit upstairs in the new gallery. When they mistakenly sat in an area not designated for blacks, they were forcibly removed from the seats they had helped build. According to Allen, "...we all went out of the church in one body, and they were no longer plagued by us". While he and Jones led different denominations, they continued to work closely together and with the black community in Philadelphia.... It was accepted as a parish and on July 17, 1794 became the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. In 1804 Jones was the first black priest ordained in the Episcopal Church. (Butler 2000, DuBois 1866).

Richard Allen, a Methodist preacher, wanted to continue with the Methodist tradition. He built a congregation and founded the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). By July 29, 1794, they also had a building ready for their worship. The church adopted the slogan: "To Seek for Ourselves." In recognition of his leadership and preaching, in 1799 Bishop Francis Asbury ordained Allen as a Methodist minister. Allen and the AME Church were active in antislavery campaigns, fought racism in the North, and promoted education, starting schools for black children.

Finding that other black congregations in the region were also seeking independence from white control, in 1816 Allen organized a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first fully independent black denomination. He was elected its first bishop in 1816. While he and Jones led different denominations, they continued to work closely together and with the black community in Philadelphia. Soon thereafter, Allen. Jones, and others began soliciting funds, again with the help of Rush. Their appeals met with resistance from white church leaders, many of whom had been supportive of the black community, but disapproved of a separate black church.

Petersburg, Virginia had two of the oldest black congregations in the country, both organized before 1800 as a result of the Great Awakening: First Baptist Church (1774) and Gillfield Baptist Church (1797). Each congregation moved from rural areas into Petersburg into their own buildings in the early 19th century. Their two black Baptist congregations were the first of that denomination in the city and they grew rapidly. [2] [11] [12]

In Savannah, Georgia, a black Baptist congregation was organized by 1777, by George Liele. A former slave, he had been converted by ordained Baptist minister Matthew Moore. His early preaching was encouraged by his master, Henry Sharp. Sharp, a Baptist deacon and Loyalist, freed Liele before the American Revolutionary War began. Liele had been preaching to slaves on plantations, but made his way to Savannah, where he organized a congregation. [13] After 1782, when Liele left the city with the British, Andrew Bryan led what became known as the First African Baptist Church. By 1800 the church had 700 members, and by 1830 it had grown to more than 2400 members. Soon it generated two new black congregations in the city. [14]

Before 1850, First African Baptist in Lexington, Kentucky grew to 1,820 members, making it the largest congregation in that state. This was under its second pastor, Rev. London Ferrill, a free black, [3] and occurred as Lexington was expanding rapidly as a city. First African Baptist was admitted to the Elkhorn Baptist Association in 1824, where it came somewhat under oversight of white congregations. In 1841, Saint Augustine Catholic Church was established by the Creole community of New Orleans. This church is the oldest black Catholic parish in the United States. In 1856 First African Baptist built a large Italianate church, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. [15] By 1861 the congregation numbered 2,223 members. [16]

Reconstruction

Outside of a Black church in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1935. Sunday in Little Rock, Ark., 1935. (3109755087).jpg
Outside of a Black church in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1935.
Church goers in Heard County, Georgia, 1941. During the church service at a Negro church in Heard County,... (3110583408).jpg
Church goers in Heard County, Georgia, 1941.

After emancipation, Northern churches founded by free blacks, as well as those of predominantly white denominations, sent missions to the South to minister to newly freed slaves, including to teach them to read and write. For instance, Bishop Daniel Payne of the AME Church returned to Charleston, South Carolina in April 1865 with nine missionaries. He organized committees, associations and teachers to reach freedmen throughout the countryside. In the first year after the war, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church gained 50,000 congregants. [17]

By the end of Reconstruction, AME congregations existed from Florida to Texas. Their missioners and preachers had brought more than 250,000 new adherents into the church. While it had a northern base, the church was heavily influenced by this growth in the South and incorporation of many members who had different practices and traditions. [18] Similarly, within the first decade, the independent AME Zion church, founded in New York, also gained tens of thousands of Southern members. These two independent black denominations attracted the most new members in the South. [19]

In 1870 in Jackson, Tennessee, with support from white colleagues of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, more than 40 black Southern ministers, all freedmen and former slaves, met to establish the Southern-based Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church (now Christian Methodist Episcopal Church), founded as an independent branch of Methodism. They took their mostly black congregations with them. They adopted the Methodist Doctrine and elected their first two bishops, William H. Miles of Kentucky and Richard H. Vanderhorst of South Carolina. [19] [20] Within three years, from a base of about 40,000, they had grown to 67,000 members, and more than ten times that many in 50 years. [21]

At the same time, black Baptist churches, well-established before the Civil War, continued to grow and add new congregations. With the rapid growth of black Baptist churches in the South, in 1895 church officials organized a new Baptist association, the National Baptist Convention. This was the unification of three national black conventions, organized in 1880 and the 1890s. It brought together the areas of mission, education and overall cooperation. Despite founding of new black conventions in the early and later 20th century, this is still the largest black religious organization in the United States. [4] These churches blended elements from underground churches with elements from freely established black churches. [8]

The postwar years were marked by a separatist impulse as blacks exercised the right to move and gather beyond white supervision or control. They developed black churches, benevolent societies, fraternal orders and fire companies. [22] In some areas they moved from farms into towns, as in middle Tennessee, or to cities that needed rebuilding, such as Atlanta. Black churches were the focal points of black communities, and their members' quickly seceding from white churches demonstrated their desire to manage their own affairs independently of white supervision. It also showed the prior strength of the "invisible church" hidden from white eyes. [23]

Black preachers provided leadership, encouraged education and economic growth, and were often the primary link between the black and white communities.[ citation needed ] The black church established and/or maintained the first black schools and encouraged community members to fund these schools and other public services. [8] For most black leaders, the churches always were connected to political goals of advancing the race. There grew to be a tension between black leaders from the North and people in the South who wanted to run their churches and worship in their own way. [24]

Since the male hierarchy denied them opportunities for ordination, middle-class women in the black church asserted themselves in other ways: they organized missionary societies to address social issues. These societies provided job training and reading education, worked for better living conditions, raised money for African missions, wrote religious periodicals, and promoted Victorian ideals of womanhood, respectability, and racial uplift. [4]

Civil Rights Movement

Ralph David Abernathy was a Baptist minister involved in the American Civil Rights Movement. Ralph Abernathy.jpg
Ralph David Abernathy was a Baptist minister involved in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Black churches held a leadership role in the American Civil Rights Movement. Their history as a centers of strength for the black community made them natural leaders in this moral struggle. In addition they had often served as links between the black and white worlds. Notable minister-activists of the 1950s and 1960s included Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Bernard Lee, Fred Shuttlesworth, Wyatt Tee Walker and C. T. Vivian. [25] [26]

Politics and social issues

The black church continues to be a source of support for members of the African-American community. When compared to American churches as a whole, black churches tend to focus more on social issues such as poverty, gang violence, drug use, prison ministries and racism. A study found that black Christians were more likely to have heard about health care reform from their pastors than were white Christians. [27]

Most surveys indicate that while blacks tend to vote Democratic in elections, members of traditionally African-American churches are generally more socially conservative than white Protestants as a whole. [28] Same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues have been among the leading causes for activism in some black churches, [29] though a majority of black Protestants remain opposed to this stance. [30] Nevertheless, some denominations have been discussing this issue. For example, the African Methodist Episcopal Church prohibits its ministers from officiating same-sex weddings, but it does not have a clear policy on ordination. [31]

Some members of the Black clergy have not accepted the same-sex marital ideology. A group known as the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP), maintains their disdain for gay marriage. The CAAP president, Reverend William Owens, claims that the marriage equality act will cause corruption within the United States. The organization insists that a real union is between a man and a woman. They also believe that the law prohibiting gay marriage should have been upheld. The CAAP members agree that the Supreme Court had no right to overturn the constitutional ruling. [32]

Black theology

One formalization of theology based on themes of black liberation is the Black theology movement. Its origins can be traced to July 31, 1966, when an ad hoc group of 51 black pastors, calling themselves the National Committee of Negro Churchmen (NCNC), bought a full-page ad in The New York Times to publish their "Black Power Statement", which proposed a more aggressive approach to combating racism using the Bible for inspiration. [33]

Black liberation theology was first systematized by James Cone and Dwight Hopkins. They are considered the leading theologians of this system of belief, although now there are many scholars who have contributed a great deal to the field. In 1969, Cone published the seminal work that laid the basis for black liberation theology, Black Theology and Black Power. In the book, Cone asserted that not only was black power not alien to the Gospel, it was, in fact, the Gospel message for all of 20th century America. [34] [35]

In 2008, approximately one quarter of African-American churches followed a liberation theology. [36] The theology was thrust into the national spotlight after a controversy arose related to preaching by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to then-Senator Barack Obama at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago. Wright had built Trinity into a successful megachurch following the theology developed by Cone, who has said that he would "point to [Trinity] first" as an example of a church's embodying his message. [37]

As neighborhood institutions

Although black urban neighborhoods in cities that have deindustrialized may have suffered from civic disinvestment, [38] with lower quality schools, less effective policing [39] and fire protection, there are institutions that help to improve the physical and social capital of black neighborhoods. In black neighborhoods the churches may be important sources of social cohesion. [40] For some African Americans the kind of spirituality learned through these churches works as a protective factor against the corrosive forces of poverty and racism. [41] [42]

Churches may also do work to improve the physical infrastructure of the neighborhood. Churches in Harlem have undertaken real estate ventures and renovated burnt-out and abandoned brownstones to create new housing for residents. [43] Churches have fought for the right to operate their own schools in place of the often inadequate public schools found in many black neighborhoods. [44]

Traditions

Like many Christians, African-American Christians sometimes participate in or attend a Christmas play. Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is a re-telling of the classic Nativity story with gospel music. Productions can be found at black theaters and churches all over the country. [45] [46] The Three Wise Men are typically played by prominent members of the black community.

Historically black denominations

Throughout U.S. history, religious preferences and racial segregation have fostered development of separate black church denominations, as well as black churches within white denominations.

African Methodist Episcopal Church

Richard Allen Richard Allen.JPG
Richard Allen

The first of these churches was the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). In the late 18th century, former slave Richard Allen, a Methodist preacher, was an influential deacon and elder at the integrated and affluent St. George's Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The charismatic Allen had attracted numerous new black members to St. George's. White members had become so uncomfortable that they relegated black worshipers to a segregated gallery. After white members of St. George's started to treat his people as second-class citizens, in 1787 Allen, Absalom Jones, also a preacher; and other black members left St. George's.

They first established the non-denominational Free African Society, which acted as a mutual aid society. Religious differences caused Jones to take numerous followers to create an Episcopal congregation. They established the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which opened its doors in 1794. Absalom Jones was later ordained by the bishop of the Philadelphia diocese as the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church.

Allen continued for some years within the Methodist denomination but organized a black congregation. By 1794 he and his followers opened the doors of the all-black Mother Bethel AME Church.

Over time, Allen and others sought more independence from white supervision within the Methodist Church. In 1816 Allen gathered four other black congregations together in the mid-Atlantic region to establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church as an independent denomination, the first fully independent black denomination. The ministers consecrated Allen as their first bishop. [9]

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion or AME Zion Church, like the AME Church, is an offshoot of the ME Church. Black members of the John Street Methodist Church of New York City left to form their own church after several acts of overt discrimination by white members. In 1796, black Methodists asked the permission of the bishop of the ME Church to meet independently, though still to be part of the ME Church and led by white preachers. This AME Church group built Zion chapel in 1800 and became incorporated in 1801, still subordinate to the ME Church. [47]

In 1820, AME Zion Church members began further separation from the ME Church. By seeking to install black preachers and elders, they created a debate over whether blacks could be ministers. This debate ended in 1822 with the ordination of Abraham Thompson, Leven Smith, and James Varick, the first superintendent (bishop) of the AME Zion church. After the Civil War, the denomination sent missionaries to the South and attracted thousands of new members, who shaped the church. [47]

National Baptist Convention

The National Baptist Convention was first organized in 1880 as the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention in Montgomery, Alabama. Its founders, including Elias Camp Morris, stressed the preaching of the gospel as an answer to the shortcomings of a segregated church. In 1895, Morris moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and founded the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., as a merger of the Foreign Mission Convention, the American National Baptist Convention, and the Baptist National Education Convention. [48]

Church of God in Christ

In 1907, Charles Harrison Mason formed the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) after his Baptist church expelled him. Mason was a member of the Holiness movement of the late 19th century. In 1906, he attended the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Upon his return to Tennessee, he began teaching the Pentecostal Holiness message. However, Charles Price Jones and J. A. Jeter of the Holiness movement disagreed with Mason's teachings on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Jones changed the name of his COGIC church to the Church of Christ (Holiness) USA in 1915.

At a conference in Memphis, Tennessee, Mason reorganized the Church of God in Christ as a Holiness Pentecostal body. [49] The headquarters of COGIC is Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. It is the site of Martin Luther King's final sermon, "I've Been to the Mountaintop", delivered the day before he was assassinated. [50] The Church of God in Christ is the nation's largest predominantly African American denomination. [51]

Other denominations

Worshippers at Holy Angel Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, by John H. White, 1973. WORSHIPPERS AT HOLY ANGEL CATHOLIC CHURCH ON CHICAGO'S SOUTH SIDE. IT IS THE CITY'S LARGEST BLACK CATHOLIC CHURCH.... - NARA - 556238.jpg
Worshippers at Holy Angel Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, by John H. White, 1973.

See also

General:

Related Research Articles

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The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the late 1840s. The Second Great Awakening reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the supernatural. It rejected the skeptical rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment.

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Methodist Episcopal Church religious organization in the United States

The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was the oldest and largest Methodist denomination in the United States from its founding in 1784 until 1939. It was also the first religious denomination in the US to organize itself on a national basis. In 1939, the MEC reunited with two breakaway Methodist denominations to form the Methodist Church. In 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, or Methodist Episcopal Church South (MEC,S), was the Methodist denomination resulting from the 19th-century split over the issue of slavery in the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC). Disagreement on this issue had been increasing in strength for decades between churches of the North and South; in 1844 it resulted in a schism at the General Conference of the MEC held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Richard Allen (bishop) Minister, educator, writer

Richard Allen was a minister, educator, writer, and one of America's most active and influential black leaders. In 1794, he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the United States. He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church predominantly African American religious organization

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or the AME Zion Church or AMEZ, is a historically African-American Christian denomination based in the United States. It was officially formed in 1821 in New York City, but operated for a number of years before then.

Lewis Woodson American academic

Lewis Woodson was an educator, minister, writer, and abolitionist. He was an early leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Woodson started and helped to build other institutions within the free African-American communities in Ohio and western Pennsylvania prior to the American Civil War.

Daniel Payne Methodist bishop and educator

Daniel Alexander Payne was an American bishop, educator, college administrator and author. A major shaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), Payne stressed education and preparation of ministers and introduced more order in the church, becoming its sixth bishop and serving for more than four decades (1852–1893) as well as becoming one of the founders of Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1856. In 1863 the AME Church bought the college and chose Payne to lead it; he became the first African-American president of a college in the United States and served in that position until 1877.

George Liele American missionary to Jamaica (1750–1820)

George Liele was an African American and emancipated slave who became the founding pastor of First Bryan Baptist Church and First African Baptist Church, in Savannah, Georgia (USA). He became the first American missionary, leaving in 1782 for Jamaica; this is thirty years before Adoniram Judson left for Burma. He became the first Baptist missionary in Jamaica.

Religion in Black America

Religion in Black America refers to the religious and spiritual practices of African Americans. Historians generally agree that the religious life of Black Americans "forms the foundation of their community life." Before 1775 there was scattered evidence of organized religion among blacks in the American colonies. The Methodist and Baptist churches became much more active in the 1780s, and growth was quite rapid for the next 150 years until they covered a majority of the people.

James Varick American methodist bishop

James Varick was the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Daniel Coker American bishop and missionary

Daniel Coker (1780–1846), born Isaac Wright, was an African American of mixed race from Baltimore, Maryland who gained freedom from slavery and became a Methodist minister. He wrote one of the few pamphlets published in the South protesting slavery and supporting abolition. In 1816 he helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States, at its first national convention in Philadelphia.

Thomas James (1804–1891) had been a slave who became an African Methodist Episcopal Zion minister, abolitionist, administrator and author. He was active in New York and Massachusetts with abolitionists, and served with the American Missionary Association and the Union Army during the American Civil War to supervise the contraband camp in Louisville, Kentucky. After the war, he held national offices in the AME Church and was a missionary to black churches in Ohio. While in Massachusetts, he challenged the railroad's custom of forcing blacks into second-class carriages and won a reversal of the rule in the State Supreme Court. He wrote a short memoir published in 1886.

Andrew Bryan (Baptist) Slave, Baptist preacher

Andrew Bryan (1737–1812) founded First Bryan Baptist Church, affectionately called the Mother Church of Black Baptists, and First African Baptist Church of Savannah in Savannah, Georgia, the first black Baptist churches to be established in America. Bryan was the former slave of Jonathan Bryan.

Julia A. J. Foote American deacon

Julia A. J. Foote was ordained as the first woman deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the second to be ordained as an elder.

History of Methodism in the United States

The history of Methodism in the United States dates back to the mid-18th century with the ministries of early Methodist preachers such as Laurence Coughlan and Robert Strawbridge. Following the American Revolution most of the Anglican clergy who had been in America came back to England. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, sent Thomas Coke to America where he and Francis Asbury founded the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was to later establish itself as the largest denomination in America during the 19th century.

Morris Brown single by Outkast and Sleepy Brown

Morris Brown was one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and its second presiding bishop. He founded Emanuel AME Church in his native Charleston, South Carolina as well as conferences of AME churches in the American Midwest and Canada.

Racial segregation of churches in the United States

Racial segregation of churches in the United States is a pattern of Christian churches having segregated congregations based on race. As many as 87% of Christian churches in the United States are completely made up of only White or African-American parishioners.

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Further reading