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Religious Leaders Of America's Past-Francis Asbury

Updated on August 4, 2017

John Wesley

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Bishop Asbury

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His leadership

Asbury led all the Methodists in America for the next thirty-two years. His leadership was opposed when some prominent members challenged his idea for a ruling council. Thomas Coke advised that a General Conference be established to send delegates.His is the story of a leader of the Methodist religion, It is an important chapter in the history of religion in America.

Courthouses, public houses, Tobacco houses, fields and public squares were Asbury's preaching domain. Anywhere a crowd would assemble was where he would go. He was following the ways of John Wesley, by preaching in unconventional places. He rode about 6000 miles a year to preach, conduct meetings and conferences. The Methodist church in America grew from 1200 to 214,000 members. There were 700 ordained ministers including Richard Allen the first black minister in the United States.

In addition to Asbury riding the circuit there were circuit riders and local ministers who help another full time jobs. Many circuit riders were laymen who traveled by horseback to preach the gospel and establish churches and covered most of the United States of that time.

Rode and preached until his death

Asbury’s himself, between 1772 and 1776 preached in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia During the year of the Revolutionary War until 1780 was partially retired in Maryland and Delaware.

In addition to circuit riders he advocated camp meetings and made them an important part of American Methodism. Camp meetings and made them important to American Methodism.

 Bishop Asbury was still on a preaching tour when he died, on March 31, 1816 in Spotsylvania, Virginia. He is buried at mount Olivet Cemetery.

First Methodist Bishop

Francis Asbury was the first Methodist Bishop in America. He was born August 20, 1745 in Hamstead Bridge, Staffordshire, England. He along with a number of circuit riding preachers spread the Methodist faith on the frontier. For many the circuit riders and lay preachers were the only religious contact they had.

John Wesley, an English Anglican, was the founder of Methodism. It was by and large a movement within the Anglican Church, which was not originally intended to be a separate entity. For example members took sacraments at the Anglican churches. In America the pattern changed. At the Baltimore conference in 1784 it got its official beginning. The tendency was to ignore the established Anglican parishes. It became the Methodist Episcopal Church and had its own chapels. Now it has been absorbed into the United Methodist Church.

His parents were poor so he got his education in common school. The family was He became a local preacher at eighteen and was ordained in the Methodist Church when he was twenty-two. In 1771 he volunteered to go to America. When the American Revolution broke out in 1776 he was the only Methodist Minister who stayed. In 1784 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, made Asbury and Thomas Coke co-superintendents of the work in America. Thus the “Methodist Church of the USA” was started

Asbury statue

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Some of the Tributes to Bishop Asbury:

  • Asbury and George Whitefield are honored with a feast day on the calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA)
  • Three schools are named for Asbury.
  • Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky
  • Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.
  • Francis Asbury Elementary School in Hampton, Virginia.
  • DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana was originally Indiana Asbury College.

Asbury Park, N.J. was named for him.In 1921 a statue of him was put in Washington, D.C.In the National Park a hiking trail follows the path Asbury took when crossing the mountains in the early 1800’s.The home he grew up in is now a museum in West Branch, England.


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      The circuit riders always fascinated me, whether clergy, judges, or whatever. They were an important part of the frontier experience. I think it was Asbury who estblished that tradition in religion here.

      Thanks for you comments.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This was very interesting. I had read a book about John Wesley but did not know about Francis Asbury. My mother-in-law used to attend Asbury Methodist Church in San Antonio when she lived there. Now I know why the church was so named.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback. I've been interested in ecumenism since Vatican II in the 1960's. It was supposed to be the ecumenical and I think some progress has been made for better understanding between churches.A few years ago I attended an ecumenical gathering and found that the movement is still in progress but on the higher levels, that is church leaders and such. I would like more grass roots participation.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      I have enjoyed your articles in the past, but I really really like this article!! In this modern world you never hear anything about the history of the church which did play a HUGE role in this nation and others too. it is so nice just to see names like John Wesley and Richard Allen mentioned. Thank you for my introduction to Francis Asbury. I enjoyed this article and hope you get enough postive feedback to create more articles on this subject.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      I appreciate your reading it and commenting. I'm glad you found it informative and interesting.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      I think it may be one reason they are losing members. The large evangelical churches seem to be the growing trend.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you dahoglund,for a very interesting hub and informative hub, thank you for sharing. Godspeed.creativeone59

    • Robwrite profile image


      9 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I'm a former Protestant who doesn't really know much about the Methodist church. This was an interesting article. I guess modern churches feel the need to be more easy-going with the rules since most mainstream churches in America are losing members.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the input. The Methodist are not alone in becoming liberal. Most of the Protestant churches seem to think they had to give up principle in order to keep members. I think it is just the opposite. The Catholic Church since the sixties has a strong liberal faction.

      Interestingly in some areas the Catholic Church has to have one priest for several scattered churches that are sometimes administered by nuns or laypeople. Only the priest can give the sacraments, so they are sort of modern day circuit riders.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      9 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      Good hub on the Methodist Church founding in America. I can remember circuit ministers when I was a young boy. The Church has gone down hill in my estimation in recent times since it merged with the United Church and became The United Methodist Church. Way to liberal for my taste.


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