February is Black History Month! Each week this month, we’ve shared about a famous Black minister in American history that helped preach the Gospel and renew the world for Christ. This final week, we’ll be honoring Richard Allen.
One of the major American denominations would not exist today without Richard Allen. Allen was born in 1760 to a life of slavery. After converting to Christianity during his teenage years, he began to grow in his faith and his capacity to teach and preach the gospel. He joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, where he was considered a rising star by many. Soon after, he began to preach occasionally and lead prayer meetings for Black Americans.
Allen began to grow disenchanted with the state of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as he believed there were far too many restrictions in place for Black Christians. In 1787, Allen withdrew from the denomination and subsequently started an independent Methodist denomination: the African Methodist Episcopal (“AME”) church. He served as its first presiding bishop.
The AME church was the first denomination in the United States that was primarily an African American denomination. Unlike other denominational splits during that time, the AME church was borne out of a desire to dignify and honor Black Christians instead of over any irreconcilable theological differences. They experienced tremendous growth throughout American history, particularly during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The AME church is still vibrant and alive today with roughly 7,000 congregations around the nation.
Let’s remember Bishop Richard Allen for all that he did to uphold the Black Christian experience. This Black History Month, we honor him.