Asbury, Francis (ăzˈbərē, –bĕ–) [key], 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 rider 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.
See his journal and letters (3 vol., 1958).
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