First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles

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First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles
First AME Church Los Angeles.jpg
Country  United States
Denomination African Methodist Episcopal
Website http://www.famechurch.org/
Clergy
Senior pastor(s) J. Edgar Boyd

The First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles (First A.M.E. or FAME) is a megachurch in Los Angeles, California, United States, part of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. It is the oldest church founded by African Americans in Los Angeles, dating to 1872. It has more than 19,000 members.[1]

History[edit]

The church was established in 1872 under the sponsorship of Biddy Mason, an African American nurse and a California real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, and her son-in-law Charles Owens. The organizing meetings were held in Mason's home on Spring Street and she donated the land on which the first church was built.[2]

The parent AME Church is a Methodist denomination founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816. The AME Church now has over 2,000,000 members in North and South America, Africa and Europe, and includes other major churches such as the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York with over 23,000 members and the Reid Temple A.M.E. Church in Glenn Dale, Maryland with over 7,500 members.[3]

The former location of this church was at 8th & Towne (1902 - 1968) and in 1971, while at that location, it was nominated as Los Angeles' "#71 Landmark." The location prior to that was on Azusa Street, a building that was rented to the Azusa Street mission. The 8th & Towne building was burned down July 4, 1972, and was razed.

The current church is located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of the West Adams district. It was designed by the renowned African American architect Paul R. Williams in 1968.

Leadership[edit]

In 1977 Dr. Cecil L. "Chip" Murray was assigned to the church as pastor. At that time it had 300 members. Under Murray's leadership the church grew during the next 27 years to a membership of 18,000 people. Going beyond worship services, the church created 40 task forces concerned with health, substance abuse, homelessness, emergency food and clothing, housing, training, employment and so on. President George H. W. Bush named the Church the 177th Point of Light for its courageous outreach in community services.[4][5]

In 1993 Federal authorities unearthed an alleged plot by young men associated with the "Fourth Reich Skinheads" to attack the First AME Church.[6] The accused, said to be planning to blow up the church to ignite a race war, negotiated plea bargains with prosecutors.[7]

In 2004 the Reverend Dr. John Joseph Hunter moved from Seattle to succeed Cecil Murray as senior minister. He had earned a reputation for free-spending, and in 2008 was reported to be negotiating with authorities to resolve tax obligations, including repayment of more than $100,000 spent for family vacations, clothes and jewelry.[8] Several church leaders accused him of "gross financial maladministration" and asked the responsible Bishop T. Larry Kirkland to remove the pastor and his wife, Denise.[9] In November 2009 a former employee accused Hunter in a civil lawsuit of forcing her into sexual service for four years and firing her when she finally refused to comply. Hunter denied the charge and counter-sued.[10][11]

In October 2012, in the face of continuing controversies about his ministry and the church's declining finances, Hunter was transferred to a San Francisco church, which refused to accept him.[12] His replacement was J. Edgar Boyd. In December 2012, the church filed a lawsuit against Hunter, his wife, and others, charging that the Hunters have improperly maintained their control of the church and its assets.[13]

Social involvement[edit]

The church is a center of political and social action in the city, which state and national political candidates often find important to visit during election campaigns.[14][15] In December 1989 city officials including Mayor Tom Bradley and First AME leaders broke ground for FAME Arms, a 40-unit apartment complex for physically disabled, low-income people in Southwest Los Angeles.[16] After an earthquake in January 1994 FAME Renaissance, the nonprofit economic development arm of First AME Church, helped provide loans of up to $25,000 for affected small and new businesses who could not get help otherwise.[17]

In September 2009 the church launched an open-air fresh produce market to bring healthful foods to residents of South Los Angeles.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About FAME". First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  2. ^ "Bridget "Biddy" Mason". The California Museum. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  3. ^ "About Us - Our History". African Methodist Episcopal Church. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  4. ^ "DR. CECIL L. 'CHIP' MURRAY CIRCLE". LA City Clerk Connect. City of Los Angeles. 08/10/2004. Retrieved 2010-08-06.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ "Cecil L. Murray". University of Southern California. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  6. ^ "Suspect in Alleged Hate Crimes Plot Released to His Parents". Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1993. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  7. ^ ERIC MALNIC (September 16, 1993). "Plea Bargains Reached in Skinhead Bomb Case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  8. ^ "Purpose driven spending". Los Angeles Times. December 6, 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  9. ^ Teresa Watanabe (August 2, 2009). "Besieged pastor of L.A.'s First AME Church touts his successes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  10. ^ Teresa Watanabe (November 5, 2009). "California Briefing / Los Angeles: Sex lawsuit targets pastor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  11. ^ John North (November 5, 2009). "Countersuits rock First AME Church". ABC Inc., KABC-TV/DT L. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  12. ^ Samaha, Albert (November 12, 2012). "Bethel AME, S.F.'s Oldest Black Church, Won't Appoint Controversial Pastor John J. Hunter". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  13. ^ Jennings, Angel (December 6, 2012). "First AME Church files lawsuit against former pastor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  14. ^ Larry B. Stammer (September 7, 2002). "Pastor Undergoes Prostate Surgery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  15. ^ JOCELYN Y. STEWART (March 11, 1990). "First A.M.E. More Than Just a Church". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  16. ^ JOCELYN STEWART (December 15, 1989). "Apartment Complex to Be Tailor-Made for the Disabled". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  17. ^ "Quake Aid Loans for Small Firms Offered". Los Angeles Times. October 23, 1994. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  18. ^ Teresa Watanabe (September 21, 2009). "Church lead the way to more healthful diets". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°02′03″N 118°18′22″W / 34.0343°N 118.3062°W / 34.0343; -118.3062