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
A Beacon of Light for African Methodists
|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
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
National Park Service Listing.
African American Heritage Trail