We Will Be Sharing Stories of Black Methodist Bishops, Pastors, Preachers,

Missionaries & Members from Yesterday & Today

*stories will be posted each week during February

  • Week 3:

    Meet rev. joseph lowery

    United Methodist Minister and Leader in the Civil Rights Movement; Founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Joseph Echols Lowery (October 6, 1921 – March 27, 2020) was an American minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the civil rights movement. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. and others, serving as its vice president, later chairman of the board, and from 1977 to 1997 its president.

    Lowery participated in most of the major activities of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and continued his civil rights work into the 21st century. He was called the "Dean of the Civil Rights Movement." In 2009, Lowery received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama.

    Joseph Lowery was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the twentieth century, continuing the fight for civil rights into the twenty-first century, preaching for the freedom and rights of all people. Coretta Scott King once said Lowery had “led more marches and been in the trenches more than anyone since Martin.” At age 69, he was named by Ebony as one of the 15 greatest black preachers, and described him as, "the consummate voice of biblical social relevancy, a focused voice, speaking truth to power." He argued that to discriminate against a person because of the color of their skin or their faith is to discriminate against God, because it was God who made that person and God who called them to their faith.

    After Rosa Parks' arrest in 1955, he helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott. Lowery headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. In 1957, along with Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and others, Lowery co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), being elected its first vice-president. In 1957 he was named chairman of the SCLC board, and in 1977 he succeeded Ralph Abernathy as its president, serving in this position until 1997.

    Along with his fellow activists, Lowery was subjected to violence and imprisonment. Lowery's car and other property, along with that of other civil rights leaders, was seized in 1959 by the State of Alabama ...

    Continued Here: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Joseph_Lowery

    Learn More:

    UMC.ORG VIDEO: Rev. Joseph Lowery Shares MLK's Dream


    UMNEWS ARTICLE: Rev. Joseph Lowery Dies at 98


  • week two: 

    Meet The Rev. Absalom Jones

    America's First Black Priest, 1746-1818

    This famous image of Jones was rendered by Philadelphia artist Raphaelle Peale in 1810.

    Absalom Jones was America’s first black priest. Born into slavery in Delaware at a time when slavery was being debated as immoral and undemocratic, he taught himself to read, using the New Testament as one of his resources. At the age of 16, Jones’ mother, sister, and five brothers were sold, but he was brought to Philadelphia by his master, where he attended a night school for African-Americans operated by Quakers. Upon his manumission in 1784, he served as lay minister for the black membership at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church with his friend, Richard Allen, and together they established the Free African Society to aid in the emancipation of slaves and to offer sustenance and spiritual support to widows, orphans, and the poor.

    The active evangelism of Jones and Allen greatly increased black membership at St. George’s. Alarmed by the rise in black attendance, in 1791 the vestry decided to segregate African Americans into an upstairs gallery without notice. When ushers attempted to remove the black congregants, the resentful group exited the church.

    In 1792 Jones and Allen, with the assistance of local Quakers and Episcopalians, established the “First African Church” in Philadelphia. Shortly after the establishment that same year, the African Church applied to join the Protestant Episcopal Church, laying before the diocese three requirements: the Church must be received as an already organized body; it must have control over its own affairs; and Jones must be licensed as lay-reader and if qualified, ordained as its minister.

    Upon acceptance into the Diocese of Pennsylvania, the church was renamed the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. The following year Jones became a deacon but was not ordained a priest until 1802, seven years later. At 56 years old, he became the first black American priest. He continued to be a leader in his community, founding a day school (as African Americans were excluded from attending public school), the Female Benevolent Society, and an African Friendly Society. In 1800 he called upon Congress to abolish the slave trade and to provide for gradual emancipation of existing slaves. Jones died in 1818. 

    Source: https://www.ube.org/Resources/absalom-jones-day-2017.html

    To read more about how you can participate in Black History Month, go to:


  • Week One:

    Meet Rev. Francis Burns

    First Black Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church

    The Rev. Francis Burns was the first Black bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Elected in 1858, he served as a missionary bishop in Liberia. 

    His early life was spent in Greene County, NY. His family was poor, and at the age of four he was indentured to a farmer. At age eight, he was indentured to the Atwood family. Mrs. Atwood was a Methodist class leader. She permitted Francis to attend school with her children during the winter season.

    Francis joined the Methodist Episcopal Church at age fifteen and at seventeen showed interest in preaching. However, the term of his indenture prevented him from pursuing his calling at that time. His indenture would not expire until he reached twenty-one.

    After the end of his indenture, Francis worked as a teacher and became licensed to preach in the Catskill Hudson District. Others took notice of his preaching skills and encouraged him to study to become a missionary. His opportunity to do this came in 1834, when he accompanied the Rev. John Seys to Liberia.

    After ten years as a missionary teacher and leader in Liberia, he traveled to New York to be ordained by Bishop Edmund Janes. Returning to Liberia, Rev. Burns taught in Monrovia Seminary and in 1845 succeeded Rev. Seys as editor of Africa's Luminary, the quarterly publication of the Missionary Society in Liberia. Rev. Burns also served for many of these years as president of the Liberia Conference.

    In 1856, the General Conference approved the election of a missionary bishop in Africa. The Liberia Conference elected Rev. Burns as their first bishop in 1858. The importance of this action for Methodism, especially Methodism in Liberia, cannot be overestimated.  

    To read more & to access more historical references from the UMC, go to: