200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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Blacks were among the earliest Methodist converts in America. When Thomas Taylor wrote to John Wesley in 1768 asking for preachers, he said that "within six months" after Captain Thomas Webb began preaching at Jamaica on Long Island, "about twenty-four persons received justifying grace, near half of them whites, the rest Negroes." Bishop Richard Allen (1760-1831). Engraving published by P. S. Duval, Philadelphia, ca. 1830."Black Harry" Hosier, considered by many a gifted preacher, was one of Bishop Asbury's traveling companions. Early records, while pointing to a significant number of black members--there were 1,890 in 1786--also suggest the presence of segregation. At a large meeting the whites filled the benches, while the blacks looked in at the doors and windows. "We have about twenty Black women that meet in one Class," wrote Joseph Pilmore, "and I think upon the whole they are as happy as any Class we have got." Such distinctions led to a desire among blacks for churches of their own, with the result that several black Methodist churches came into being: the African Union Church in 1813, led by Peter Spencer; the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, with Richard Allen as its first bishop; and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, whose leaders wrote in 1821 to the Philadelphia and New York conferences, saying, "When the Methodist Society in the United States was small, the Africans enjoyed privileges among their white brethren in the same meeting-house, but as the whites increased very fast the Africans were pushed back." Many blacks, however, remained loyal to the Methodist Episcopal Church in spite of segregation, establishing such congregations as Zoar (1794) in Philadelphia.

All these churches--Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical, black and white, German-speaking and English-speaking--sailed on the tide of nationalism and sought to make people who refused to bow to King George, "reverent of a King of kings."

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