Union American Methodist Episcopal Church Inc. Our nation’s history is replete with stories of people who fought for freedom. Peter Spencer, along with the founding of the Union Church of Africans, is one of those stories.
Richard Allen and the beginning of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia often overshadow Peter Spencer and the beginning of the Union Church of Africans. However, the independent church movement of the Spencer’s Union Church of Africans predates the AME church by three years. Peter Spencer and co-worker William Anderson founded the Union Church of Africans as an independent church movement in 1813. Although Allen’s AME Church started earlier as a single local church, it wasn’t until 1816 that the church sought independence and freedom from the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Spencer, born into slavery in Kent County, Maryland, was set free when his master died, and he then moved to Wilmington. The account of the Union Church of Africans, which is quite extensive and deserving to be widely told, began in 1805 in the Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. Spencer and about 40 persons left Asbury to start the Ezion Methodist Episcopal Church. Still, they remained associated with the Methodist Episcopal denomination until it became clear in 1812 that the congregation of blacks would not be allowed to select their own preachers or trustee leaders of the church. With a series of moves towards independence, in 1813, “by the first week of September, …the Union Church of African Members was fully organized with due forms and ceremonies.” They purchased a lot and built a church at Eighth and French Streets. They organized the first independent church of blacks in September 1813, with the following incorporated trustees: Rev. Peter Spencer, Scotland Hill, David Smith, Jacob March, Benjamin Webb, John Simmons, and John Kelly.
Also worthy of note was the beginning of a festival in Wilmington by, for, and with African Americans in 1814 called the Big Quarterly, which brought persons of African descent together in a sense of solidarity and freedom one weekend annually, making Wilmington a kind of mecca for religious freedom. As abolitionist movements increased, simultaneously, so did the Big Quarterly in Wilmington until thousands were in attendance, quite a feat for the 1800s. The Big Quarterly, generally known as it exists today and has, continuously since its inauguration in 1814.
Rev. Peter Spencer organized thirty-one churches and erected a schoolhouse for each church. He completed his work and entered into rest on July 25, 1843.
1865, there was a denominational split, and the Union Church of Africans became two separate bodies. The AUMP Church (African Union Methodist Protestant Church) and the UAME Church (Union American Methodist Episcopal Church)
Our Church History (Footnotes)
Bishop Matthew Simpson’s History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, page 876, says:
“Union American Methodist Episcopal Church was organized June 1813 by Rev. Peter Spencer of Black Members of Asbury M.E. Church, Wilmington, Delaware, as the first independent Balch Church in America. It was originally called Union Church of Africans, but in 1852 was changed to the present name.”
Lewis V. Balwin states in “Invisible” Strands in African Methodism. Page 93:
“To avoid confusion caused by the bodies, a special convention was held in January 1865 of all the congregations that organized under Barney and Saunders which did not break with the Spencer Tradition chose the name Union American Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America and Elsewhere.”
We currently have Five (5) Episcopal Districts and fifty (53) Churches in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Liberia, West Africa.
Our Battle Hymn
(Tune: Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus)
Our Watchword now is forward
A greater church we want
A church that’s looking onward,
Perfection’s goal to haunt
A church that’s not affrighted
But standeth firm and strong
With forces all united
To fight against the wrong.
Spencer, our glorious Founder,
With vision tried and true,
Saw churches filled with power
And men and women, too.
He’s left the work to others,
His battles fought and won,
And now O friends and brothers,
Our fight has just begun.
We want tried men and women
Who know no doubt or fear,
Believing in old union
And feel success in near
With Jesus as our Captain
Our Leader, Guide and Friend,
For our beloved union
Will fight until the end.
Our Headquarters is located at 3101 N. Market St. Wilmington DE 19802