This week’s readings, more than anything, impressed upon me the fact that, when speaking of African-American religions and religious leaders, one can never be too specific. People are not uniform or easily described in broad strokes, and the differences in all four of the primary sources in this week’s reading easily fit that description. While I felt that the words of Richard Allen and Christopher Rush were less spirited, and, for me specifically, harder to follow, it was easy for me to relate to the words of Nathaniel Paul and Peter Williams, who, in my opinion, were more passionate and engaging. However, I try to acknowledge every bias that I might have in life, and having not been raised in a Christian community, I feel that my lack of familiarity with particular positions and traditions in certain Christian denominations might have caused me to get a bit lost in Allen and Rush’s writings. In fact, it was difficult for me to discern why the two denominations felt they had to be separate in the first place. Williams’s circumstance was a great deal more understandable to me, just based on historical context, as was Paul’s message.
However, out of curiosity, I decided to compare the mission statements of both the AME and AMEZ churches. Direct from their websites.
“The Mission of the AME Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people…The ultimate purposes are…make available God’s biblical principles, spread Christ’s liberating gospel, and provide continuing programs which will enhance the entire social development of all people.”
“The mission of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is to increase our love for God and to help meet the needs of humankind by “Loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with our entire mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” Implicit in this statement is the belief that the church should have a positive relationship to humankind horizontally…we actualize this mission by praising God, by being obedient to the demands of the Gospel, by telling the story of God’s gracious acts in creating and redeeming the world, by inviting persons to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, and by serving as ministers of God’s liberating and reconciling grace.”
In my opinion, these mission statements aren’t different at all. This matches the sense I got from the readings, and from Christianity as a whole. The reasons for splits aren’t in the missions or core ideals of the denominations. It’s in the comfort of individual methods of administration. Again, as an outsider looking in, I could have a skewed view of this, but the necessity of differentiating one another seems wholly extraneous, since they both serve to meet the same goals.