Members of a historic African-American denomination that was founded in 1796 as the Freedom Church will meet in Toledo Wednesday-June 22 for the Michigan Annual Conference.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which has three congregations in Toledo, was marked early on by its focus on freedom from slavery, said the Rev. O'Neil Wiley, pastor of St. Paul AME Zion Church and host pastor for the conference. Among its early members were Underground Railroad “Conductor” Harriet Tubman and abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
Today, the AME Zion Church embraces 3,000 churches and 1.5 million members on five continents. Zion was added to the name in 1848 to differentiate the denomination from other African Methodist churches.
Next week's Michigan conference will open at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Radisson Hotel downtown with a communion service celebrated by Midwest Conference Bishop Enoch B. Rochester, who also will speak at 1:30 p.m.
A welcome service at 7 p.m. Wednesday will feature Mayor Jack Ford, local NAACP President Willianne Moore, University of Toledo President Daniel Johnson, and Toledo Schools Superintendent Eugene Sanders, and will be followed by worship and a reception.
All sessions are open to the public.
More than 500 people from about 50 churches in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, including 100 ministers, two bishops, and three presiding elders, are expected to attend the four-day meeting.
- JUDY TARJANYI