African American Methodist denomination formally organized in 1816. It originated with a group of black Philadelphians who withdrew in 1787 from St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church (see Methodism) because of racial discrimination and built Bethel African Methodist Church. In 1799 Richard Allen became minister of Bethel, and in 1816 he was consecrated bishop of the newly organized African Methodist Episcopal Church. Limited at first to the Northern states, the church spread rapidly in the South after the Civil War. It founded many colleges and seminaries, notably Wilberforce University (1856) in Ohio. In the late 20th century the church claimed 3,500,000 members and 8,000 congregations. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
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