A Brief History
The African Methodist Episcopal Denomination
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was established in 1796 in New York City by James Varick, Abraham Thompson, William Miller and others. Zion Methodism grew out of the merciless enslavement of our African forefathers. They were kidnapped from their native land, chained, shackled, and shipped as beasts in deplorable conditions to a strange and distant land, having no family, no culture and no language. Yet, our fathers and mothers were comforted by the Lord God, through Jesus Christ, in the cotton fields and every place of their humiliation and degradation revealing to them that He would always be with them as He had been with them in the past.
When Jesus, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord has descended, was preached at John Street Methodist Church, they united with that fellowship. However, bigotry and oppressively cruel barriers confronted them. The Spirit of the Lord led them in the establishment of Zion Chapel (which later became the Mother Church of Zion Methodism) where the gospel of His redeeming grace could be experienced. Taking with them the doctrines, discipline and polity of The Methodist Church, they proceeded in the establishment of Zion Methodism. They believed that God had called them out of their bondage and had chosen them to be His people and a channel of His redeeming love for all people.
We believe and understand today that, in the Divine Economy, Zion Methodism is to make disciples of all persons throughout the earth, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.
The Zion denomination is Blessed to have a succession of astute and powerful men of God as Bishops; and a legacy of noted members such as: James Varick, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and many, many others.
Rev. Sharon Sanderlin Cheek
Reverend Sharon Sanderlin Cheek, a native of Norfolk, VA, is the first of five children born into the union of Bernette Sanderlin and the late Douglas Sanderlin Sr. She is married to Reverend Dr. Heath L. Cheek, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Washington, D.C. They are the parents and grandparents, respectively, of three daughters and four grandsons. She was educated in the Norfolk Public Schools, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Norfolk State University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC where she graduated magna cum laude, and a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling Degree from Loyola College in Baltimore, MD.
She is a Cognitive Mental Health Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and a National Approved Clinical Supervisor. She holds Clinician Supervision Certifications in Virginia and Maryland and qualifies to practice and train Clinical Professional Therapists. Her clinical experience comprises counseling victims of domestic violence, juvenile sexual offenders, abused children with behavioral and emotional challenges, substance abuse and addiction, and sexual, anxiety, mood, and stress disorders. She is the founder and CEO of The Healing Tree Group, LLC and The Trilogy Center, Inc., offering mental health and treatment services that promote healing through complementary healing methods and experiences. In addition, she is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her academic scholarship, leadership, and community service.
On June 18, 2017, she was appointed Pastor of First A.M.E. Zion Church in San Francisco, CA, the first female ever to serve in that capacity in the Church’s 165 year history, by Bishop Staccato Powell, Presiding Prelate of the Western Episcopal District.
Reverend Cheek is a gifted leader who excels in reaching people from all walks of life and teaching them to enhance their total being by becoming more loving, joyful, and peaceful in their personal, family, and professional relationships. She is committed to guiding communities as well as individuals in their pursuit of emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, relational, and economic self-development. She compiles extensive theological writings and maintains a weekly blog, ‘Destiny.’ She also ministers through motivational speaking, as an anointed vocalist and psalmist, and is in the process of certification as an International Prayer Trainer. Currently, she is studying for the acquisition of a Ph D. in Naturopathic Medicine toward the realization of her dream of becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.
Her vision is to communicate to the world the message that “it is never too late to dream of a better way and a greater life experience.” It is her desire to restore to the Body of Christ an understanding of what God meant when He spoke through the Apostle John in Revelations 22:2 that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Rev. John Jamison Moore
The Rev. John Jamison Moore(affectionately known as "J.J. Moore") established the First A.M.E. Zion Church, San Francisco, California in August 1852. Rev. Moore was born in Berkeley County, West Virginia, about 1804, to slave parents. His mother whose maiden name was Riedoubt, was born free but was kidnapped at the age of fifteen in Maryland and sold into slavery in West Virginia, where she married a man named Hodge. A change of owners caused the family to adopt the surname of Moore. He was born a slave, and his freedom was procured through the bravery of his mother who ran away from her master and carried her child with her. It was indeed a heroic flight. Reverend Moore always took an active part in contending for the rights of his people. His entire life is a story of thrilling interest. He was a remarkable man who traveled on foot to the most remote areas to bring the Gospel of life and salvation. He would walk 30 miles by day and preach at night.
Rev. Moore later held distinguished positions in the A.M.E. Zion Connectional Church and pastored some of Zion's greatest churches before he came west (before The Emancipation), and established First A.M.E. Zion Church, in San Francisco. Rev. Moore also organized the first Negro School on the Pacific Coast and he became the first teacher and principal. The school was set up in the basement of St. Cyprian A.M.E. Church in San Francisco. He also took an active part in the fight for funds to educate African American children. Rev. Moore was the founder and editor of the newspaper "The Lunar Visitor". This publication promoted civil rights and advocated developing institutions for educational, social and political skills useful in working toward a full participation in American Society.
According to Bishop William J. Walls (author of "The Reality of the Black Church"), Rev. Moore was universally acknowledged to be one of the greatest preachers of his time, and one of the half-dozen greatest leaders our Zion has produced. Rev. Moore's knowledge of scripture was remarkable; and to the time of his death he could quote passages, without notes or manuscript, with an ease and facility that was astonishing.
He was consecrated a Bishop in the A.M.E. Zion Church on May 27, 1868. Bishop Moore wrote the catechism for use in the A.M.E. Zion Sunday Schools that was adopted by the General Conference in a semi-annual session in September 1888. He edited the A.M.E. Zion Sunday School Banner for several years and wrote a major publication that was published in 1884; The History of A.M.E. Zion Church of America.
Rev. Moore loved and took great interest in young men of promise. He delighted to encourage them to be men in the highest sense of the term. Rev. Moore was married to Mrs. Frances Moore of Salisbury, North Carolina.
Rev. Moore died on December 9, 1893, on the train on his way home to Salisbury after closing the Western North Carolina Conference in Greensboro, having preached to within a few days of his death in the full triumph of the Christian faith. He was funeralized at Zion Chapel (Sunset Memorial) A.M.E. Zion Church and laid to rest in Salisbury, North Carolina.