See biography by T. B. Buell (1974).
At age 20, Ames became a student at Ohio University at Athens. During his student years he united with the M.E. Church (August 1827). In 1828 he opened a high school in Lebanon, Illinois which later became McKendree University. He taught there until 1830, when he became a Pastor in the Illinois Annual Conference. He was Licensed to Preach by the Circuit Rider (and Presiding Elder), Peter Cartwright. Upon the organization of the Indiana Conference in 1832, Ames joined that body, serving the majority of his active pastoral life in the State of Indiana (with the exception of two years spent in St. Louis), until becoming a Bishop.
Ames was elected a Delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church held in Baltimore in 1840, and was there elected Corresponding Secretary of the M.E. Missionary Society, with responsibilities for the South and West. When the Church South broke with the Church North over slavery, he remained with the M.E. Church. The Rev. Ames was subsequently elected Delegate to General Conferences in 1844 and 1852.
Ames was a firm supporter of the Union during the Civil War. Though offered positions of influence, he declined them that he might be free for ecclesiastical duties. For example, when the United States government seized the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (in Southern United States), Ames was put in charge of the confiscated property by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Such confiscation resulted in complaints of unconstitutional governmental involvement in religion.