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The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people.
The vision of our ministry is to build upon the whole person by providing theologically sound biblical teaching, effective worship, commitment to family, and an emphasis on understanding personal purpose.
Serving the Gainesville Community
Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, has a proud history, built not only by hard work, countless hours of planning, fundraisers and sacrificial offerings; but by Faith, Vision, Prayers and most of all the Members putting God first and asking for His guidance. In 1869, thirteen former members of Mt. Moriah Church with Rev. Ned Drier as pastor, started worshiping under a Brush Arbor structure on Northwest Lassiter and Pleasant Street on a site owned by one of the laymen, Rev. Ned Drier who served as Pastor. Worship Services were spiritually high and attended by large crowds, being an outside area, service could be heard for blocks away.
In 1881, the first wood frame building was constructed on the corner of Northwest Lassiter and Garden Street on a site purchased by the church. The building was started by Rev. Ellison and completed by Rev. Jenkins; the chosen was Bethel A.M.E. Church. The name of the church was changed from Bethel A.M.E. Church to Zion Temple A.M.E. Church. Reverend John Young was the first Pastor of the stone church. Pastors, Reverend A.C. Clark, Reverend H.M. Collins, Reverend T.M. White, Reverend T.D. Davis, and Reverend L.M. Moore followed Reverend John Young, as Pastor between 1920 and 1932. Worship service was held at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with dinner on the ground and at 6:00 p.m. The membership increased significantly during these years. In 1933 the church name was again changed from Zion Temple to Bethel A.M.E. under Reverend A.J. McCormick.
In August 1953, the second stone building was completed, Reverend J.C. Williams was the Pastor. The name changed was approved in 1957 to Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church. Greater Bethel has enjoyed a rich, spiritually blessed proud history over the years blessed to have had Reverend F. Jospehus Johnson as Pastor from 1991 to1993. Reverend Johnson later retired and made Greater Bethel his home Church under the Leadership of Pastor K. Smith.
In 1993, Reverend David Green was appointed Pastor to Greater Bethel, at the age of 29; he was the youngest minister ever to Greater Bethel. In 2000, Reverend Green continued his holistic ministry to meet the needs of all people. He continued to lead the Church in Spiritual growth and development. At the end of months of planning, construction due dates and deadlines, on Easter, Resurrection Sunday, April 20, 2003, Reverend Green and the members of Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church marched into a new worship facility located at 701 Southeast 43rd Street. On July 27, 2003, Bishop John Hurst Adams officiated the dedication and Cornerstone Service. Reverend David W. Green, Sr. left Greater Bethel to pursue a doctorate degree in the ministry.
In 2006, Reverend Karl V. Smith, Sr. was appointed Pastor of Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church, third Pastor at the 701 Southeast 43rd Street location. Under his leadership automation and technology updated and enhanced all ministries in a most effective way. We were Blessed to have a Spiritual Leader that led by example, doing and giving of himself, teaching that God’s people takes Ministries beyond these walls, showing Love and Compassion for all; God’s Grace and Mercy has no boundaries, no restrictions. Always remembering everything is a Ministry done to the Glory of God and should be to Honor God, continue to love one another, encourage one another and most important, talk to each other as we grow spiritually Touching, Teaching, and Turning lives to Christ.
On October 30, 2020 at the Virtual 145th Session of the East Annual Conference, the Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Right Reverend Adam Jefferson Richardson appointed The Reverend Ron Rawls as the Pastor of Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church. Rev. Ron Rawls and his wife, The Honorable Meshon T. Rawls received an overwhelming reception by the Greater Bethel Family. The work continues…
No Matter Where You Have Been, Where You Are or Where You Are Going
There Is A Place for You At Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church
“This church is the pillar and stable foundation of truth, because in it soundeth the voice of the Son of God”
Meet Our Pastor
The Reverend Ron Rawls is the pastor of Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church located in Gainesville, Florida, the same city where he was born and raised. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion. Reverend Rawls was ordained as an itinerant deacon in 1997 and an itinerant elder in 1999. He received his first pastoral appointment in 1999 and since, has served congregations in Chiefland, Trenton, Jasper, and St. Augustine, Florida.
As an itinerant elder, Reverend Rawls is fully aware that social justice is in the DNA of AMEs and he continues to exemplify the importance of the church being positioned in the forefront of the pursuit of justice. He is widely known for his intense and aggressive activism in St. Augustine, St. John’s County and the State of Florida. He is among a small group of civil rights leaders who challenged the city of St. Augustine and won. He follows in the footsteps of Presiding Elder F. D. Richardson, Dr. Robert B. Hayling and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in their pursuit of justice.
Being mentored by Dr. Robert B. Hayling, the father of the Civil Rights movement in St. Augustine, is an experience that Reverend Rawls values and relies on in expanding his work in the ministry. He approaches ministry from a three-legged perspective believing that our ancestors are pushing us forward by: (1) Confronting (2) Educating and (3) Building. He envisions us being the head and not the tail, being above and not beneath and having the discipline to leave an inheritance for our children's children and a legacy for our descendants.
Reverend Rawls is married to the Honorable Meshon T. Rawls, County Court Judge in Alachua County. They have three children and five grandchildren who completely occupy his heart. GranFriday is his brand.
Boards, Organizations & Ministries
*Board of Stewards
*Board of Trustees
*Class Leaders Council
*Young People's Division
*Christian Education Department
*Bible Discovery Hour
*Daughters of Sarah
*Debutantes and Masters Commission