AME founder Richard Allen honored with US Postal stamp

The Philadelphia Tribune reports on a new postage stamp honoring the Rev. Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church:

The United States Postal Service will pay tribute to Richard Allen next month with a Forever stamp.

Allen founded Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794, a time when Black worshipers felt disconnected from the city’s predominantly white churches.

The issuing of the stamp marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the AME church, which occurred in 1815 after a series of lawsuits to separate from the American Episcopal (sic) Church, according to an official AME history. (Editor’s note: The AME separated from the Methodist Church not the Episcopal Church.)

From Wikipedia on Bishop Richard Allen:

Elected the first bishop of the AME Church in 1816, Allen focused on organizing a denomination where free blacks could worship without racial oppression and where slaves could find a measure of dignity. He worked to upgrade the social status of the black community, organizing Sabbath schools to teach literacy and promoting national organizations to develop political strategies

PBS included Allen in their black history series:

After his own religious conversion, Richard joined the Methodist Society, began attending classes, and evangelized his friends and neighbors. Richard and his brothers attended classes every week and meetings every other Thursday. When white neighbors complained that such indulgence of “Stokeley’s Negroes would soon ruin him,” the brothers decided that they “would attend more faithfully to our master’s business, so that it should not be said that religion made us worse servants.”

Their strategy proved effective; Stokeley boasted “that religion made slaves better and not worse,” and granted Richard permission to “ask the preachers to come and preach at his house. When the charismatic white preacher Freeborn Garretson preached that slaveowners were “weighed in the balance, and… found wanting,” Stokeley “believed himself to be one of that number, and after that he could not be satisfied to hold slaves, believing it wrong.” Richard took up his master’s suggestion that he purchase his freedom. He set out to earn the money by working for the Revolutionary forces, eventually taking the surname “Allen” to signify his free status.

As the group grew in number, Allen “saw the necessity of erecting a place of worship for the colored people,” an idea rejected by “the most respectable people of color in the city,” but embraced by “three colored brethren … the Rev. Absalom Jones, William White and Dorus Ginnings [who] united with me as soon as it became public and known.” …


The Episcopal Church includes Allen in Holy Women Holy Men, now called A Great Cloud of Witnesses:

“A Great Cloud of Witnesses,” is a further step in the development of liturgical commemorations within the life of The Episcopal Church. These developments fall under three categories. First, this volume presents a wide array of possible commemorations for individuals and congregations to observe. Recognizing that there are many perspectives on the identity and place of exemplary Christians in the life of the church, this volume proposes that the metaphor of a “family history” is a fitting way to describe who is included. As such the title of this volume is drawn from the Epistle to the Hebrews, that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Those people found in this volume are not all definitively declared to be saints but are Christians who have inspired other Christians in different times and places.

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