Asbury, Francis

Asbury, Francis

(ăz`bərē, –bĕ–), 1745–1816, Methodist bishop in America, b. England. The Wesleyan conference in London sent him in 1771 as a missionary to America, where he promoted the growth of the circuit ridercircuit rider,
itinerant preacher of the Methodist denomination who served a "circuit" consisting usually of 20 to 40 "appointments." The circuit system, devised by John Wesley for his English societies in their formative period and developed in America by Francis Asbury, proved
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 system that proved so eminently suited to frontier conditions. His powerful preaching, his skill in winning converts, and his mastery of organization had, by the end of the Revolution, established Asbury as the leader of American Methodism. In 1784, John Wesley ordained Dr. Thomas Coke as superintendent of the societies in America; Asbury was to be associate superintendent. At the American conference held that year, however, Asbury was the dominant figure and was made superintendent. He then assumed the title of bishop and took steps to institute a centralized church government. Although tormented by ill health, he maintained personal supervision of the expanding church, traveling on horseback over 5,000 mi (8,047 km) each year and strongly entrenching Methodism over the entire area of the new nation. His journal is valuable for its account of contemporary society as well of his personal life.

Bibliography

See his journal and letters (3 vol., 1958).

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Asbury, Francis

(1745–1816) Protestant religious leader; born in Handsworth, Staffordshire, England. He came to America in 1771 as a missionary. A powerful preacher, he toured the colonies and the Mississippi territory and developed the system of circuit-riding for the frontier ministry. Appointed superintendent of American Methodists in 1772, he fought for many years against British efforts to retain control of the American organization. He appointed himself bishop in 1785 and over the next 30 years established Methodism as one of the leading U.S. denominations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.