What is A.M.E. Zion?
African Methodist Episcopal Zion
African – This church is to be controlled by descendants of Africa in the interest of humanity, regardless of race, color, sex, or condition.
Methodist – Our doctrine (see What We Believe)
Episcopal – Governed by bishops. (Episcopal = bishops) We are led by 12 active bishops.
Zion – This is the name most frequently used in the Bible to designate the church of God (153 times in King James Version)
Methodism first came to America through New York City. About the year 1765 a plot of ground on John Street in lower Manhattan was leased and two years later purchased and the first chapel built. During the entire early struggle of the new organization, Black people figure prominently in Methodism, even in the construction of the first church building.
Between the years 1765 and 1796 the number of Black members increased greatly. So much so that caste prejudice forbade their taking communion until the white families were all served. This and the desire for other church privileges denied them induced them to organize among themselves. The first church of A.M.E. Zion organized in 1796 and was built in 1800. It was called Zion. Today Mother Zion Church is located in Harlem. Among the leaders of the movement was James Varick, who was the first Bishop and to whom is attributed the founding father of the Zion Church.