The idea of Christian Education is deeply rooted in the traditions and history of African Methodism.
Christian Education in the form of Sunday School work was organized in 1794. Richard Allen, founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, organized the first African American Sunday School at Mother Bethel, Philadelphia. A formal plan for a Sunday School Union did not develop until 1884 when the General Conference, adopted it and elected Charles S. Smith, M.D. as its corresponding secretary.
Bishop Daniel A. Payne, bishop and founder of Wilberforce University in 1856, established Christian Education in the form of higher education. Bishop Payne is called the Apostle of Education in the AME Church.
The Department of Education was established in 1876; and the Secretaries were J. Embry, B. F. Watson, W. D. Johnson, John R. Hawkins, A. S. Jackson, E. A. Adams, William Alfred Fountain, Jr., and Sherman L. Greene, Jr.
Rev. B. W. Arnett organized Christian Education in the form of youth fellowship in 1900 as the Christian Endeavor Society. In 1904, the name became the Allen Christian Endeavor League led by Rev. Gregg, subsequently led by Dr. J. C. Caldwell in 1908 and Rev. S. Morris in 1920.
Christian education in the form of a connectional organization was established at the 1936 General Conference; and, Rev. Solomon S. Morris, Sr., was elected to serve as its first General Secretary. The new Christian Education department now combined the functions of the Sunday School and Allen Christian Endeavor. Under the leadership and direction of Rev. S. S. Morris, Sr., the Richard Allen Youth Council experienced rapid growth among youth leaders and workers. Rev. Morris served as general secretary until 1956.
Dr. Andrew White, who served as assistant to Rev. S. S. Morris, Sr., became general secretary in 1956. Dr. White’s writings on the tradition and heritage of African Methodism expanded significantly and likewise did printed curriculum resources for our Zion. Dr. White held office until 1980.
Dr. Edgar L. Mack became general secretary in 1980. Dr. Mack’s passion for ecumenism led him to strengthen interdenominational relationships and to build enduring church partnerships. Dr. Mack held office until his death in 1991.
Dr. Kenneth H. Hill became executive director in 1991. Dr. Hill’s pursuit of excellence led to the establishment of the scouting and music ministry networks in the connectional church as well as the Fellowship of Church Educators and the expansion into broader use of technology in the church through several innovative programs. Dr. Hill held office until 2004.
Dr. Daryl Ingram was elected the fifth executive director in 2004. Dr. Ingram continued Dr. Mack’s passion and involvement in ecumenical endeavors, which advanced the teaching ministry of the church, serving as the last chair of the Education and Leadership Ministries Commission of the National Council of Churches, USA and on the World Methodist Council’s Education Commission. It was under his leadership that there was the establishment of a Department of Christian Education Scholarship to seminarians training for the teaching ministries. He also established the Vincent F. Foster Trust and Teach, Inc. to support and expand the work of the Department.
While the executive leadership has been a group of committed men, the department has served the church all these years through the service and leadership of many gifted and committed women and men. Many have been Sunday School teachers, superintendents and curriculum writers, Directors of Christian Education at local, presiding elder, conference, and episcopal district levels, musicians, scout leaders and debutante-masters administrators, and youth workers. Dedicated Christian Educators such as Mrs. Edith White, Mrs. Micha Mack, Dr. Roberta Hill and Dr. Patricia Ingram served as partners in the teaching ministry with their husbands as they gave leadership as general secretaries and executive directors.
Rev. Garland F. Pierce was elected at the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference as the sixth executive director. He returns to the department, having served as staff under Dr. Kenneth Hill. He has served as Associate General Secretary for Education and Leadership Ministries of the National Council of Churches, USA and Senior Assistant to the General Secretary, World Council of Churches. It is hoped that his experience in Christian Education and global leadership will help the department to expand it resourcing capacity to serve the global AME Church in the work of faith formation and discipleship.
The Book of Discipline charges the Department of Christian Education with responsibility for “Developing standards, preparing programs, offering classes, teaching Christian education, publishing material, training people for pastoral ministry and other church vocations” in accordance with the tradition and doctrine of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Monthly meetings held for ALL auxiliary and organizational heads, every 2nd Saturday at 10 AM.
For more information please email Christian Education Director, Sis. Danielle Wilson at email@example.com
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A Brief History of the Teaching Ministry and the Department of Christian Education