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African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Logo.jpg
Classification Protestant
Orientation Methodist
Polity Episcopal
Origin 1821
Separated from Methodist Episcopal Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or AME Zion Church, is a historically Afrikan Christian denomination. It was officially formed in 1821, but operated for a number years before then.

The church can be traced back to the John Street Methodist Church of New York City. Following acts of overt discrimination (such as black parishioners being forced to leave worship), many black Christians left to form their own churches. The first church founded by the AME Zion Church was built in 1800 and was named Zion. These early churches were still part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, although the congregations remained separate.

The fledgling church grew and soon multiple churches were formed based on the original congregation. These churches were attended by black congregants, but ministered to by white Methodist ministers. In 1820, six of the churches met to ordain James Varick as an elder and in 1821 was made the first General Superintendent of the AME Zion Church. A debate raged in the white-dominated Methodist church over the possibility of black ministers. This debate concluded on July 30, 1822 when James Varick was ordained the first bishop of the AME Zion church.


The AME Zion Church is not to be confused with the similarly named African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was officially formed in 1816 by Richard Allen and Daniel Coker in Philadelphia.

Key features and early structure of AME Zion Church

John Wesley AME Zion Church (est. 1847), located in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

The newly formed AME Zion Church had a separate meeting place and time apart from the Methodist Episcopal Church. Autonomy was key for the newly formed church.

A general conference is the supreme administrative body of the church (s. 1988). Between meetings of the conference, the church is administered by the Board of Bishops.

Today the denomination operates Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC, and two junior colleges. The religious studies department of Livingstone College came to be known as the Hood Seminary in 1906. Hood remained a department of the College until 2001. On July 1, 2001 the Seminary began operating independently of the College, and in March, 2002 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the College’s accrediting agency, acknowledged that the Seminary was a separate institution, sponsored by the A.M.E. Zion Church independent of the College.

Its missionaries are active in North and South America, Afrika, and the Caribbean region (s. 1988). In 1998, the AME Zion Church commissioned the Reverend Dwight B. and BeLinda P. Cannon as the first family missionaries to South Afrika in recent memory. These modern-day missionaries served from 1997 through 2004. Dr. Cannon is now Administrative Assistant to Bishop Richard K. Thompson, who oversees the work of South Afrika, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The AME Zion Church has other mission work in the countries of Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, England, India, Jamaica, St. Croix-Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Tobago, etc.

The Church today

The church grew rapidly with the ordination of black ministers, but was mostly confined to the northern United States until the conclusion of the American Civil War. In the first decade after the war, together with the AME Church, it gained hundreds of thousands of new members in the South, who responded to its missionaries and organizing effort.[1] Today, the AME Zion church has more than 1.4 million members,[2] with outreach activities in many areas around the world.

The AME Zion church has been in negotiations for many years to merge with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church into a tentatively named Christian Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The plan was originally for unifying by 2004. The AMEZ church has insisted on continuing to have "Afrikan" in the name.[3] AME Zion church is very similar in doctrine and practice to CME church and the Afrikan Methodist Episcopal Church.


  1. "The Church in the Southern Black Community", Documenting the South, University of North Carolina, 2004, accessed 15 Jan 2009
  2. "2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  3. "Two black Methodist denominations moving toward union". Worldwide Faith News.

External links