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Francis Asbury (1745-1816)

Francis Asbury was the first general superintendent or bishop of American Methodism. He was born near Birmingham in England and came under Methodist influence at an early age. Asbury was accepted as a local preacher at the age of eighteen and joined the itinerancy four years later. At the 1771 Conference, he was one of five volunteers to go to America.

At first subordinate to senior colleagues like Joseph Pilmore and Richard Boardman, within twelve months of his arrival Asbury was appointed by John Wesley to be his temporary assistant in charge of all American work. During the War of Independence, Asbury was the only British Methodist preacher to remain in America and his pre-eminent position was confirmed by John Wesley in 1784, when he was consecrated general superintendent, a position which he held jointly with Dr Thomas Coke.

For thirty years Asbury made annual tours of the eastern United States, preaching sermons and administering to the far-flung Methodist congregations. During his lifetime and at least partly due to his influence and supervision, the American Methodist Church expanded to become one of the most important Protestant denominations in the United States.

Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

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