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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. "Discipline" here can be thought of in one of the registers offered by the Oxford English Dictionary: "instruction as given to disciples, scholars, etc.; schooling, teaching." It is a slim but definitive guide to the history, beliefs, teachings, and practices of the early A.M.E. Church. It begins with a brief history of that Church, and moves into a presentation of the "Articles of Religion," including: the Trinity, the Word of God, scripture, original sin and free will, works, sacraments, baptism, Lord's Supper, church ceremonies, and government. Some of the articles in this first section are quite specific, for example, the rejection of speaking in tongues in church. 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," specific qualifications and duties of superintendents, elders, and preachers, along with advice for the education of children. 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 controversies at the time of its writing.

Instructions for 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 considers concerns of the moment, a "Temporal Economy" that provides guidelines for preachers' salaries, fundraising for home missions, the operation of a publishing venture (the A.M.E.'s Book Concern) and the proscription of slaveholders in the A.M.E. Church.

Christopher Hill

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