This week in Christian history: Padre Pio, Papal infallibility disputed, first black Episcopal priest ordained

First African American Episcopal priest ordained – Sept. 21, 1802

Absalom Jones (1746-1818), the first African American to be ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church. | Public Domain

This week marks the anniversary of when Absalom Jones, a former slave and lay preacher, became the first black man ordained in The Episcopal Church.

A good friend of Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Jones was initially ordained a deacon in 1795 at the age of 49, before becoming a priest in 1802.

In addition to his position as a clergyman, Jones was also known for his philanthropic endeavors in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, such as organizing relief efforts during a yellow fever epidemic in 1793.

“Jones, mindful of his charge to keep, rallied the black citizens of Philadelphia to help the sick and dying of the city. These noble and unselfish men and women comforted the sick and buried the dead, sometimes at their own expense,” wrote Gerald S. Collins in 2003.

“In 1787, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen established the first benevolent society for African Americans. It was named The Free African Society (FAS) of Philadelphia. Its purpose was to provide assistance for the economic, educational, social, and spiritual needs of the African community.”

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