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A.M.E. Church Celebrate Founder, Refocus Its Mission

African American news from Pasadena - A.M.E. Church Founder's DayAfrican Methodist Episcopal Church pastors are celebrating its founder, tweaking the mission, while continuing to grapple with the stereotypical view of the church. February is more than Black History Month for the A.M.E. Church it's an opportunity to praise the achievements of founder Richard Allen.
 
Allen was more than just the founder of the A.M.E. Church, but the most influential Black leader of his era. His organizing of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was a rebellion with a specific social and religious agenda.

According to Rev. Allen L. Williams, Sr. D. Min, Pastor of First A.M.E. Church Pasadena, "The stand that Richard Allen took was important for what's right. It has allowed us to have desegregated worship services without the threat of intimidation." Rev. Williams adds the A.M.E. Church could be considered a good liberation theology church and be that voice for the least, lost, oppressed, as well as progress.

Established in 1887, the A.M.E. Church is the oldest Black church in the United States. Its contributions to society have included social justice, education, self-help, and preparing black people for leadership.

The Africa Methodist Episcopal Church has made a marvelous contribution to our society, and we are proud to be members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church", says Rev. T. Larry Kirkland, Bishop for the Fifth Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church. "We have been in the fore-front of justice every since our inception."

The rise of the A.M.E. Church parallels the social advancements of Blacks in America.

As some question the relevance of denominational churches, the A.M.E. leaders contend that their church is still strong in the African American community.

"I have great precious memories of the A.M.E. Church, I have great sorrows," says Ira Woodfin Dickason, Parks Chapel A.M.E. Church, San Fernando, CA. "You cannot expect the church to be a perfect institution."

The church leaders assert with pride the richness of contributions that African Methodist have made to the struggle for peace and justice for people of color.

Many throughout the A.M.E. Church are concerned because a bi-product of its casualty success has been the migration of African Americans to other churches.

"Integration has had the reverse affect on the A.M.E. Church," says Rev. John Cager, Pastor of Second A.M.E. Church, Los Angeles. "There are a significant number of Black people leaving the A.M.E. Church but not a substantial amount of Whites joining."

The church leadership is confident. It can use its rich tradition as a springboard to remembering our glorious heritage. Changing demographics as well as a generational gap has created some anxiety among church leaders.

"There's more competition today from other churches but the A.M.E. Church still remains relevant," says Rev. Williams.

"It is my belief that the denominational church can still be affective," says Bishop Kirkland. "There are three things that attract people the message, music, and ministry.

The Southern California Conference of the A.M.E. Church hosted its annual Founder's Day celebration at F.A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles on February 14th. The speaker was Bishop John White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer for the A.M.E. Church.
 

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