Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Asbury, Francis

ASBURY, FRANCIS (1745–1816), Wesleyan bishop, was born 20 or 21 Aug. 1745, at Hamstead Bridge, in the parish of Handsworth, Staffordshire, four miles from Birmingham. He was the only son of Joseph Asbury and Eliza Rogers, both methodists. He began to preach, as a local preacher, at the age of eighteen, and was admitted as an itinerant preacher at the age of twenty-one. In August 1 771 , when preachers were wanted by the Bristol conference to go to America, Asbury oftered himself; he embarked in September, and landed at Philadelphia 27 Oct. 1771. The American methodists, especially after the war of independence, were troubled by the want of the sacraments and of confirmation. Wesley, then in his eighty-second year, with the Revs. Thomas Coke, D.C.L., and James Creighton, ordained at Bristol, in 1784, Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as presbyters for America; subsequently Wesley, by himself, ordained Coke as superintendent, explaining his views in a mandate dated 10 Sept. 1784. Following its terms. Coke and Asbury were elected joint superintendents by the Baltimore conference at Christmas, 1784. Coke and the two presbyters ordained Asbury deacon and elder on Christmas day; and superintendent, with the further assistance of the Rev. William Philip Otterbein, a Lutheran clergyman, on 27 Dec. Coke suggested the use of the title of bishop, and the conference agreed to constitute the 'Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States of America.' The remainder of Asbury's life was spent in organising and extending the church thus formed. Its germ had been planted by the emigration of Philip Embury and Paul and Barbara Heck from Ireland to New York. Its existing constitution dates from 1786, its form of discipline from 1787; its two superintendents have since grown to thirteen bishops. Asbury's 'Journal' shows him to have been a man of simple and winning character, administrative power, and pithy expression; his piety is both frank and deep. He died unmarried, 31 March 1816.

[Asbury's Journal, N.Y., 1852; Janes's Character and Career of Francis Asbury, N.Y., 1872, with portrait; Larrabee's Asbury and his Coadjutors, Cincinnati, 1854; Strickland's Pioneer Bishop, London, 1860, with portrait; Briggs's Bishop Asbury, London. 1874, with portrait.]

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