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The Life, Experience, and Gospel Labours of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen By: Richard Allen Simone Griffin Dr. Patrick Erben
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Griffin Early American and Colonial Literature Editorial Note The spellings have been retained form the original and all definitions of terms are from the Oxford English Dictionary. 2
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Griffin Introduction The African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E) Church is the oldest African-American Christian denomination in the Unties States of America. Richard Allen is the first African-American ordained Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Untied States of America. Allen’s primary goal was to garner freed blacks and slaves throughout the Untied States and introduce them to Methodism. Allen’s memoir, The Life, Experiences, and Gospel Labours of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen , is the basic and most important document relating not only to his own life, but also to the development of Methodism among African-Americans in the period from 1776 to 1816. Allen’s autobiography was discovered by chance by Bishop Daniel Payne (Payne17). Moreover, Allen’s history of black theology explains the people and circumstances that encouraged not only black Methodists, but other denominational groups as well, to develop and form separate churches throughout the United States. The start of Methodism began in 1735 when brothers John and Charles Wesley responded to an invitation to serve as chaplains and missionaries to the new colony, Georgia (Noll 192). However, their trip to Georgia was unsuccessful, and both returned to Britain by 1738. Although neither came back to America, their followers did and spread the teachings of Methodism to all in America. According to Cynthia Lyerly, author of Methodism and the Southern Mind, Methodism arrived in America in 1760 as more Methodists made the journey to America. Lyerly says that Wesley, “dispatched 3
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Griffin missionaries to guide them and seek out new souls to bring within the fold” (11). Methodists came to America with “distinct doctrines, values, and practices, a new vocabulary, and a unique method of organization,” which appealed to many people (11). The leaders of the movement were ordained ministers of the Church of England. They preached wherever they could gather an audience that could be introduced to the Methodism teachings. Methodism grew quickly, causing the need for preachers, such as Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, to come to America and spread the word, not only to whites, but to blacks as well. When Methodism came to America, “slavery had been well established in America as a social pattern and as an economic system” that would be hard to break (Lyerly 51). Harry Richardson’s Dark Salvation explains that the Methodists preached openly and freely to blacks. The Methodist preachers believed that even though blacks were slaves, they too, had a soul and needed to be saved (Richardson 51). An array of slaves began to convert to the teachings of Methodism because of its adamant attacks on slavery. Moreover, the Methodist teachings conveyed the message that God, who was
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