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A white man walked into a historic African-American church in Charleston and opened fire during a Bible study class, killing nine people Wednesday evening.The gunman was still at large early Thursday. And the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South, is being investigated as a hate crime.

#1 It answered the call to give faith to slaves.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. When officials at St. George’s MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although most wanted to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church, Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodists. In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor.

#2 It started primarily  in the Northeast and Midwest. 

They moved into the south after the Civil War. Major congregations were established in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and other large Blacksmith’s Shop cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, and, for a few years, South Carolina, became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s.

#3 The denomination is Methodist in terms of its basic doctrine and order of worship.

It was born, through adversity, of the Methodist church and to this day does not differ in any major way from what all Methodists believe. The split from the main branch of the Methodist Church was not a result of doctrinal differences but rather the result of a time period that was marked by man’s intolerance of his fellow man.  They do the believe in the Holy Trinity, Resurrection, and Holy Scripture.

Interesting fact found earlier this year by Pew Research found 38% of Protestants (including 36% of evangelical Protestants, 35% of mainline Protestants and 53% of those in the historically black Protestant tradition) gave a vague denominational identity, necessitating the use of their race or their born-again status (or sometimes both) to categorize them into one of the three major Protestant traditions.

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