About Us

Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church is known as "The National Cathedral of African Methodism." Founded in 1838, Metropolitan was formed by two existing churches: Israel Bethel A.M.E., founded in 1838. The parent A.M.E. Church movement grew out of an anti-segregation protest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787. Similarly, both Israel Bethel and Union Bethel began as a result of dissatisfaction among African Americans over racial segregation here in Washington at Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church. On July 6, 1838, Union Bethel received the official sanction of the Baltimore Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Consequently, this date is recognized as the official date of the founding of Metropolitan.

The name Metropolitan was first applied to Union Bethel in 1870, and became official in 1872, when the Baltimore Conference authorized construction of a new "Metropolitan Church in Washington, D.C." The name was officially changed to "Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church" by that same Baltimore Conference.

In addition to officially designating the church name, the Baltimore Conference made two decisions that even then noted the national character of Metropolitan. The conference gave instructions for the new church to be built "in close proximity" to the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Additionally, in a meeting of the A.M.E. Church Episcopal Districts in the continental USA, each Annual Conference was requested to donate at least $100 for the building project. In gratitude, Metropolitan recognized this generosity by dedicating a stained glass window to each contributing Annual Conference. Construction began in 1880, and the cornerstone was laid in 1881.

Metropolitan is well known in stature and influence both locally and nationally. From anti-slavery leadership in the mid-19th century, and in the harboring of runaway slaves, to AIDS education and voter registration projects today, Metropolitan has been not just a major center of worship, but also an institution in the forefront of the civic, cultural, and intellectual life of African Americans. The pioneering Bethel Literary Society began in the Church in the 1850's under the leadership of Rev. Daniel A. Payne who later became an A.M.E. Bishop. The Society's purpose of spreading literacy began a continuing tradition of sponsoring outstanding literary talent.

A Beacon of Light for African Methodists

Senator Blanche Bruce Kelso
Senator Blanche Bruce Kelso, the first African American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate (by Simmie Lee Knox)

Over the years, Metropolitan has featured renowned speakers that included Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joel Elias Spingarn, E.E. Just, Alain Locke, Mordecai W. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Charles H. Wesley, Jesse L. Jackson, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Gwen Ifill, Dorothy I. Height and Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Frederick Douglass attended church regularly, and his funeral was held at Metropolitan in 1895, as was the 1898 funeral of Blanche Kelso Bruce, the first African American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. Beginning with William Howard Taft, several American Presidents have either worshiped or spoken at Metropolitan. President William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton held the official pre-Inaugural prayer services at Metropolitan in 1993 and 1997. following These services were the first official services ever to be held at an African American church. In 2005, Metropolitan hosted the National Memorial Service for Mrs. Rosa Parks, mother of the modern American Civil Rights movement.

Ten bishops of the A.M.E. Church were former pastors of Metropolitan. Four of the last seven ministers were elected bishops from the Metropolitan pulpit: G. Dewey Robinson, Frank Madison Reid, Jr. Robert L. Pruitt, and William P. DeVeaux.

In 1938, historian Charles H. Wesley, a Metropolitan member and choir director, wrote "Metropolitan A.M.E. has been a beacon of light for African Methodists in the United States. It has been the center of important local and national assemblies of representative Negroes throughout the nation, and its officers and members have been among the leading citizens of the District of Columbia." This tradition continues.

  1. National Park Service Listing.
  2. African American Heritage Trail