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African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Doctrines and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Philadelphia: J. H. Cunningham, 1817.


Published in 1817, The Doctrines and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was the first Discipline published by the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. It is a small but definitive guide to the history, beliefs, and practices of the early Church. It begins with a brief history of the A.M.E. Church, and moves into a presentation of the "Articles of Religion," including: the Trinity, the Word of God, resurrection, Holy Spirit, scripture, original sin and free will, justification, works, church, purgatory, sacraments, baptism, Lord's Supper, marriage, church ceremonies, and government. Immediately following the articles is an extended four-part catechism that more fully explicates the meanings and implications of the doctrinal statements.

The rest of the document is concerned with the practical matters of denominational organization. It gives guidelines for the composition and agenda of the "General Conference" and "Yearly Conferences." It provides specific qualifications and duties of superintendents, elders, and preachers, also providing advice for preaching and the education of children. Public worship and singing are taken up, to provide for orderly services and pleasant music. The book also takes up various kinds of "united societies," providing both guidelines for duty and pitfalls to be avoided in class meetings and band societies. Proper practice and beliefs concerning marriage, dress, and liquor are covered—apparently in response to some difficulties the churches were having at the time of this writing.

Sacramental services follow, and the book provides scripture, text, prayer, and order of service for "Lord's Supper," baptisms, weddings, funerals, and ordinations. The final section of the book concerns "Temporal Economy," providing guidelines for preachers' salaries, fundraising for home missions, the operation of the Book Concern, and dealing with slaveholders.

Christopher Hill

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