Before one can begin to realize how great an impact Francis Asbury had on Methodism in America, you must first take a moment to understand the context in which he was placed. Methodism was founded by John Wesley in England as a movement within the Church of England. To this end it was not technically its own denomination and maintained close ties with the Church of England1. It was brought over by evangelical pastors sent by Wesley and after some initial difficulty was able to take hold with a few thousand colonists2. American Methodism retained, for a time, strong ties with its parent organization in England and with the Church of England. How those ties were strained and eventually broken will be discussed later.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Methodism itinerant system of pastors. Pastors were placed on a district rotation and expected to travel to all congregations within their district. While settled pastors also were a part, it was mainly the itinerants that met for the governing Conferences. The main organizational body was the General Conference. The General Conference met every 4 years. Next were the annual conferences which met, as the name implies, annually to station pastors and deal with issues that affected Methodism in America as a whole3. A visual representation of the hierarchy and meeting times can be seen here.
|Early Methodism in America|
|Asbury's Early Life|
|Asbury before the Revolutionary War|
|Asbury during the Revolutionary War|
|Asbury after the Revolutionary War|
|Return to HIS338 Student Webpages|
1Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists
(Nashville: Abingdon Press,1995),180
2Frank Baker, From Wesley to Asbury (Durham: Duke University Press, 1976), 138
3James E. Kirby, Russell E. Richey, Kenneth E. Rowe, The Methodists Student Edition (Westport, London: Praeger, 1998), 69
Picture courtesy of The Library of Congress Religion and the Founding of the American Republic