African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Church formed by black members of the John Street Church in New York City. Increasing tension with white members led some black members of the John Street Church to ask Bishop Francis Asbury for permission to conduct separate ser vices in 1796. Although officially autonomous, the African Chapel remained within the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1820, when a group led by William Stillwell, a supporter of the in de pen dent black church movement, broke away. After failing to win in de pen dence within the white church, blacks formed the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1821; congregations were or ga nized in Manhattan, Philadelphia, and New Haven, Connecticut, and on Long Island. James Varick was elected the fi rst superintendent in 1822 and reelected in 1826; Christopher Rush succeeded him in 1828. At the urging of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during preparations for a merger in 1864, the church replaced its superintendency with a lifetime episcopacy. Although the merger failed, the superintendents of the church became bishops in 1868. From 1880 they served without term restrictions. Congregations formed in New En gland and the Middle Atlantic states, and the church became associated with abolition through the work of such noted members as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jermain Loguen, and Frederick Douglass. After Emancipation missionaries opened churches in the South. Expansion was most rapid in North Carolina and Alabama; many congregations were also formed in other parts of the South, the Midwest, and the West. Membership increased from 13,702 in 1864 to 349,788 in 1890. Well- known members of the church in New York City during these years included T. Thomas Fortune, who between 1881 and 1907 launched the newspapers the Freeman, the Globe, and the Age, and Bishop Alexander Walters, an important black spokesman in the Demo cratic Party, especially during the presidential election of 1912. At the beginning of the twenty- fi rst century the church had more than 1.2 million members in 13 episcopal districts in the United States, South America, the Ca rib be an, West Africa, and En gland and 13 bishops, who oversaw missions, publications, pension funds, and evangelical efforts. Its principal educational institutions were Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, North Carolina.