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Thomas Coke (1747-1814)

Thomas Coke was born in the Welsh town of Brecon, the son of a wealthy apothecary. He was educated at Jesus College Oxford and took Anglican Orders in 1772. Coke was driven from his curacy in 1776 because of his evangelical leanings and he then joined with the Methodists. He swiftly rose to become John Wesley's chief assistant and it was widely assumed that Wesley intended Coke to be his successor.

In 1784 Wesley appointed him to be 'Superintendent' of American Methodism and during his trip to the United States later that year, Coke ordained Francis Asbury to be his colleague.

Coke was to make repeated transatlantic visits during the next 25 years. He travelled extensively on preaching tours and while he was never fully accepted because of what Americans viewed as his divided loyalties, he nevertheless played a significant part in shaping the American Church.

Coke served two terms as President of the Wesleyan Conference and also presided regularly over the Irish Conference. His most significant contribution was however in the field of overseas missions. In addition to his work in the United States and Canada, he made four tours of the West Indies and promoted attempts to spread the gospel in West Africa and Gibraltar. Coke died while en route to India as the leader of the first Methodist mission to that country.

Source: Apostle of Methodism by John Vickers (1969), Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

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