Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1902, began in the home of two lay persons in ministry – Mr. and Mrs. John Pryor – in South Central Los Angeles with a small number of faithful Christians. The members’ enthusiasm for “doing as God had ordained” brought about an increase in what became first known as The Los Angeles Mission.
The LA Mission acquired property at Santa Fe and 16th and changed its name to Calvary Mission. Over the next 12 years, the congregation was available for what God would do with its mission:
* Calvary Mission merged with Bethel Mission (Reverends W. Howard and F.A. Harris) * This mission church was “admitted” to the California Conference (PEJH Wilson) * Then named Ward Chapel in honor of Rev. A.M. Ward and moved to Channing and 14th * Ward Chapel relocated to 1250 East 25th Street (Rev. J.H. Green)
In 1919, the first pastor assigned to Ward Chapel was Rev. Duncan. Others who followed were Reverends Herron, Moten, J.W. Price, McCorkle, Ghant, Gray, and B.R. Guy. In 1926 under the pastorate of Rev. A.E. Lyles, a new building was erected with completion and cornerstone laying in 1928.
In 1937, under the re-assigned pastor Rev. J.W. Price, the church experienced its greatest growth since its beginning in 1902. Its membership increased to 1,412. Symbolic of its “new walk” Ward Chapel was re-named Ward AME Church. In 1948, Ward received a new pastor, Rev. Henry White. Rev. Fredrick D. Jordan, assigned in 1950, in a few weeks raised funds to purchase a new facility and re-located Ward to its present location at 25th and Magnolia Streets in 1951. The Ward Church family raised money to renovate the new facility and entertain the AME Church Council of Bishops. Ward then supported its pastor as he sought and was elected a bishop in 1952.
Over the next 10 years, Ward was led by experienced pastors including Reverends Fred Stephens, Jerry Ford, and Larry S. Odum. In 1962, Rev. C. Wayne Love was assigned. His legacy of debt liquidation, facility remodeling, expansion of the connectional ministry, and purchase of the parsonage on St. Andrews Place is noteworthy. Rev. Love’s most enduring mark is that of identifying the congregation as the “Ward family” while at the same time proclaiming, “Love has brought love.”
In 1972, Ward welcomed Rev. C. Garnett Henning, Sr. (later elected bishop), who spoke truth to power, and took the message of salvation and justice to the streets. Following this period of activism, Rev. Frank M. Reid, III (also later elected bishop) brought anointed teaching, preaching, and tremendous growth in membership and ministry. During his pastorate, Ward gave birth to the city’s Cold Weather Program for the Homeless, brought national attention to the plight of Black foster children via Room For One More, housed the Free South African Movements, and encouraged the founding of Ward Economic Development Corporation to help revitalize the community.
In 1988, Ward was prepared to address the physical infrastructure of its building. The membership rallied, and under the leadership of Rev. Howard S. Gloyd, they not only corrected the safety issue but also beautified the sanctuary.
In 1994, Rev. Norman D. Copeland came to Ward and dedicated himself to the work of administration, interfaith work, and outreach ministries – Ward Family Life Center. The Education Building was renovated and other physical improvements were made.
In 2004, Ward welcomed Rev. Sylvester Laudermill, Jr. Under his shepherding, Ward was known as “the friendly church – the Holy Ghost headquarters” filled with the love of God. Ward was committed to the work of the Church and the liberating mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In June 2006, Ward welcomed Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Williams, a preacher and teacher whose focus was on evangelism, maintenance, and stewardship, titling Ward as “The Five Star Church with The Three Star Plan.” During his tenure, the parsonage was refurbished and rented as income property; an Hispanic church, Rehobooth, was temporarily relocated in Ward’s Margaret Murray Fellowship hall and, finally, the sanctuary for afternoon services; and our adjacent rental properties were retro-fit as student housing.
After the Southern California Annual Conference of 2010, Rev. Joseph C. Nixon was appointed to lead the Ward congregation. Rev. Nixon facilitated the initiation of E.P.I.C. – Endless Praise In Christ – a young adult’s alternative ministry centered around musical praise. First Lady Charlezetta Nixon, a fiery orator, focused on ministries for women, and entertained regular series between her travels as a highly sought evangelist and speaker.
In November 2012, Rev. Taurus Myhand was warmly welcomed to Ward. He is a gifted singer, an anointed preacher, a skillful teacher, and an accomplished writer.
On March 13, 2015, Ward proudly welcomed The Reverend John Edward Cager, III, First Lady, Kinette Cager and family. Pastor Cager reconnected Ward to its community based outreach roots, coupling Ward with Rev. Rick Reed’s ‘First To Serve‘ Rehabilitation program and other meaningful ministries.
On October 24, 2022, Rev. Barry Settle, D.Min., Rev. Rochelle Settle and the Settle family were warmly welcomed to Ward.
AME Church History
African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. When officials at St. George’s MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although most wanted to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church, Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodists.
In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel’s independence from interfering white Methodists, Allen, a former Delaware slave, successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an independent institution. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities encountered racism and desired religious autonomy, Allen called them to meet in Philadelphia to form a new Wesleyan denomination, the AME.
The geographical spread of the AMEC prior to the Civil War was mainly restricted to the Northeast and Midwest. Major congregations were established in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and other large Blacksmith’s Shop cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, and, for a few years, South Carolina, became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s with churches in Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, and other places in California. Moreover, Bishop Morris Brown established the Canada Annual Conference.
The most significant era of denominational development occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oftentimes, with the permission of Union army officials AME clergy moved into the states of the collapsing Confederacy to pull newly freed slaves into their denomination. “I Seek My Brethren,” the title of an often repeated sermon that Theophilus G. Steward preached in South Carolina, became a clarion call to evangelize fellow blacks in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and many other parts of the south. Hence, in 1880 AME membership reached 400,000 because of its rapid spread below the Mason-Dixon line. When Bishop Henry M. Turner pushed African Methodism across the Atlantic into Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1891 and into South Africa in 1896, the AME now laid claim to adherents on two continents.
While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written important works which demonstrate the distinctive theology and praxis which have defined this Wesleyan body. Bishop Benjamin W. Arnett, in an address to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, reminded the audience of the presence of blacks in the formation of Christianity. Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner wrote in 1895 in The Color of Solomon – What? that biblical scholars wrongly portrayed the son of David as a white man. In the post civil rights era theologians James H. Cone, Cecil W. Cone, and Jacqueline Grant who came out of the AME tradition critiqued Euro-centric Christianity and African American churches for their shortcomings in fully impacting the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.
Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has membership in twenty Episcopal Districts in thirty-nine countries on five continents. The work of the Church is administered by twenty-one active bishops, and nine General Officers who manage the departments of the Church.