Fraternal, Social Service, and Religious Organizations

What was the first black ecumenical organization?

Reverdy C. Ransom (1861–1959), bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, organized the Fraternal Council of Negro Churches in 1934; it was the first black ecumenical organization. It had an explicit agenda that included social change and racial uplift within a religious context. Concerned that the predominantly white Federal Council of Churches had failed to address black concerns in a substantive way, Ransom and other black church leaders saw the new council as the “authoritative voice” coming from a “united Negro church.” Sixteen predominantly black communions and six predominantly white churches formed the council. Two of the thirty-nine members of the executive committee were women: Belle Hendon of Chicago, who represented the National Baptist Convention of America; and Ida Mae Myller of Gary, Indiana, representing the Community Center Church. Ransom was born in Flushing, Ohio, and then moved to a small farm near Old Washington, Ohio. The family later moved to Cambridge, Ohio. Ransom attended a local summer normal school and later enrolled at Wilberforce University, where he came to the attention of Bishop Daniel A. Payne and Benjamin W. Arnett. He attended Oberlin College the next year, but returned to Wilberforce later and graduated in 1886 with a bachelor’s degree in divinity. Ransom edited the AME Church Review from 1912 to 1924. He was elected bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1920.


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