The church that Richard Allen founded in 1787 with Absalom Jones reached over three million members by the time the denomination celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1987. The massacre of innocent worshipers in Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina on June 17, 2015, is a horrible tragedy in the history of the church.
On May 30, 1987, South Carolina AME Bishop Frederick Calhoun James commissioned a 530 page history book to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1787 founding. Emanuel AME Church was included in the historic publication as one of the pillars of the church. The AME Church is a church of immense love and compassion.
No one could have ever imagined that on June 17, 2015, a lone gunman would enter the church and murder 9 people as they were down on their knees praying. Richard Allen did not act violently when he was rudely pulled from the floor of his church in 1787 . He taught his followers brotherly love. The members were reaching out to welcome the killer before he opened fire on them last night.
The man arrested for the murders, Dylann Roof of Eastover, comes from a peaceful community 15 miles from Columbia that has miles of farm land and hunting and fishing locations. It is a place where blacks and whites have lived in peaceful co-existence for over 100 years after slavery. Webber Elementary School integrated with its first two white students in 1968 amid a 100 percent black student population. The white students were welcomed without violence.
Bishop F.C. James has served the AME Church for over 90 years. The murders in Charleston took the lives of worshipers who were the followers of a faith that believed that all men are brothers. A faith that opened its doors and let a man in who ultimately killed the pastor and eight other worshipers. James dearly loves Emanuel AME Church and hosted the celebration of the publication of African Methodism in South Carolina: A Bicentennial Focus there in Charleston in 1987.
Richard Allen was a man of peace and dignity. In the 229 year history of the AME Church there has never been a massacre within the church walls where worshipers were murdered as they prayed until June 17, 2015. It is a day that will live in infamy. It is a day that will change the 229 years of a history of a peaceful, unmolested, house of worship that began when Richard Allen was pulled from his knees in 1787 while he prayed.
Senator Tim Scott said, “My heart is breaking for Charleston and South Carolina tonight. This senseless tragedy at a place of worship where we come together to laugh, love, and rejoice in God’s name is absolutely despicable and can never be understood,” United States Senator Scott said.
Violence against innocent human beings is never the answer. Racism is a sickness bred by generations of hatred. The nation prays for the victims of this senseless tragedy in South Carolina.