Interior of St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia
The remainder of the FAS members joined Allen as he remained convinced of the Methodist communion and organized Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on July 29, 1794, under the initial oversight of Bishop Francis Asbury, who ordained Allen in 1799, making him the first “officially ordained” African-American Methodist pastor in the U.S. Within ten years, membership had climbed to more than four hundred fifty and by 1813, over twelve hundred. In 1816, Richard Allen combined a number of other black congregations in Pennsylvania and Delaware and formally separated into the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States, with the Rev. Allen as the first bishop.
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia
The preaching of Richard Allen, almost exclusively “evangelistic” in the beginning, was “never expository,” always extempore, and full of calls to action. The major themes of his preaching became abolition, education, temperance and colonization. His church became a stop on the “underground railroad” that ran through Philadelphia. Bishop Allen died in 1831, looking back to a time when there had been little or no hope of ever rising above being a field hand on a Delaware plantation. But God had plans otherwise and a calling that reached thousands of people in his own time.