History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“Methodism in Hoofprints”
In 1984, a little book was produced by Robert L. Hilten and Marvin Kincheloe based on the Journal of Bishop Francis Asbury. The following are excerpts of that publication.
The main facts of Francis Asbury’s life are familiar. Joseph and Elizabeth Asbury were humble working people in Staffordshire near Birmingham, England. His sister’s death mellowed him greatly. He had no brother. He never returned to England, but did help support his parents in their later years.
His formal schooling was meager, cut short by a cruel schoolmaster. Fortunately, he came into an apprenticeship to a godly Methodist iron worker. Converted while praying in a barn, he was drawn to Methodist itinerancy. His muscles had been hardened in the forge and his heart warmed with Methodist fervency.
He answered the call to go to America. John Wesley sent him and Richard Wright in the fall of 1771. Friends bought clothes and gave him ten pounds for his equipment. The enticement of wealth he never knew. He did know Wesley’s circuit plan developed in England. He was a circuit-riding evangelist and, he lifted it to a continent size. Soon he was its leader, as he pushed the ministers out of the coastal cities to follow and find people.
The Revolutionary War storm soon broke over him. He sided with the colonies, though under suspicion because he was British. He had to refugee about twenty months under the protection of Judge Thomas White and other friends in Delaware. Forced to hide in a swamp and the woods a few times, still he was active in home worship services and winning souls. He didn’t like for these years to be spoken of as inactive years. From there he emerged as the recognized leader of Methodism in America. He felicitated George Washington on his position as President of the United States with all of its responsibilities and pledged support for the highest interests of the New Nation.
An Imposing equestrian statue of Asbury was placed in Washington, D.C. in 1925. The rider in colonial garb with hat drawn tightly looks forward despite the elements and wilderness hazards, into new lands and new tomorrows, astride a tired horse. Wesley said he looked on the whole world as his parish, Asbury believed and fulfilled those words.
The Christmas Conference, in 1784, in Baltimore set Asbury free. He was appointed by Wesley, but he would not accept the superintendence until duly elected by his brethren. The church spilled out the coastal towns of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Norfolk. Pastoral assignments were short, and Asbury was the leader.
In the 1785-1789 period, Asbury tried a Council for governing the new church. He said it was impractical, so he concluded that a delegated general conference would be best. This grew up under his skilled directive hand. The efficiency of holding fewer conferences, with wider range and greater number of preachers, was accepted in 1792-1795 period.
(To be continued next month)
Last month’s question: The house of Allen Kirklin, who donated land for the original church and early cemetery, is still standing. Where is it located? The house is located just south of the historical church and occupied by Lynn and Catherine Allen.
Next month’s question: In the old part of Chapel Hill Cemetery is the grave of Bill Emery. Why is his burial significant?