Founder’s Day 2017: “Let’s Not Forget”
An Extraordinary History – An Incredible Future
The African Methodist Episcopal Church: The oldest traditionally Black Protestant denomination founded on American Soil! As we reflect and celebrate Founder’s Day 2017, we cannot afford to have a memory lapse about our extraordinary beginning. Will and Ariel Durant wrote, “We are the best-informed people on earth as to the events of the last 24 hours; we are not the best informed as to the events of the 60 centuries.”
The African Methodist Episcopal Church began in 1787 when Richard Allen, a former slave, refused to accept white Methodists’ racist and un-Christian behavior at St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia. In April 1816, 29 years after Allen and others walked out of St. George’s, Allen and numerous black Methodists met in Philadelphia and formally organized the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Our founding fathers and mothers bequeathed us a great legacy. Their work and witness in our collective past gave birth to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, our inheritance. As we celebrate Founder’s Day 2017, we may need to remind ourselves that the past is the foundation on which we build. It was our forebearers who opened the paths and blazed the trails we now travel. They organized the churches in which we pray, preach, and fellowship; they composed the songs that got many of us over; they erected the schools where some of us studied.
Given our extraordinary history, our future is incredible. We are called to transform the world, in Jesus’ name. We are called to share our extraordinary history at every level of our Zion with a vision to ensure that our future is Incredible. Who would ever have thought that our Zion would be in India, Brazil, and 40 other countries around the world with a motto of “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family?”
Let’s not forget:
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last.
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
(James Weldon Johnson)
As we celebrate our extraordinary history, our Incredible future is greater than our proud past—for the best is yet to come for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the month of February, as we celebrate Black History Month in the United States and Canada and Founder’s Day of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I invite the entire membership to read the book Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen by Richard S. Newman. It is my hope that the words from this inspired reading will both enlighten and enhance your knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of our founder and the great legacy of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Bishop John F. White
President Council of Bishops
Presiding Bishop, 4th Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church