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Benj. T. Tanner (Benjamin Tucker), 1835-1923
An Apology for African Methodism
Baltimore: s. n., 1867.


Benjamin T. Tanner's An Apology for African Methodism is both a history of the rise and progress of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church and a defense against the criticisms African Methodists were facing within American society. Tanner cites two main reasons for his work: 1) To defend his denomination against ignorance and false judgments, and 2) To educate others about the A.M.E. Church so that they can make more informed judgments. Part I traces the development of the A.M.E. Church as a reform movement motivated by the conflict between physical slavery and the possibility of spiritual freedom. Tanner argues that the separation of the A.M.E. Church from mainline Methodism was a necessary and inevitable act of freedom for black Methodists. Before the separation of the A.M.E. and white Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) churches, black Methodists were unable to share in church property ownership and voting rights, to be ordained in positions of regional or national authority, or to receive the level of education enjoyed by their white contemporaries. Tanner maintains that, due to white prejudices, black Methodists could not fully be involved in Church life until they formed their own separate denomination. Tanner frequently quotes scriptural passages to support his arguments and to put the history of the A.M.E. Church in a biblical context.

Tanner also defends the A.M.E. Church and Methodism theologically. He explains the importance of blending intellectual and emotional impulses in Methodist life. Also, for Tanner, Methodist theology, structure, and values work to counter injustice. He distinguishes the A.M.E. Church from the M.E. Church by its recognition of the full humanity and rights of its black members.

Part II is invaluable for scholars of A.M.E. Church history. It offers biographical sketches of church officials, from the officers and bishops of the General Conference down to the local ministers in each district. These sketches often include direct quotes taken from the church members' autobiographical writings, poetry, sermons, and addresses. A notable section includes sketches of influential women in the A.M.E. Church. Part II also provides a comprehensive history for each of the conferences and districts, including statistical tables with information on church membership and finances, etc.

Maryellen Davis

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