Francis Asbury was the first American bishop of the Methodist Church and was influential in making the American Methodist Church one of the most important Protestant denominations in the U.S. He is called the "Father of Methodism in the United States."
Francis was born in Handsworth, England, in 1745, to Joseph and Elizabeth Asbury. Inspired by his mother’s devotion to religion, he came under Methodist influence at an early age. At the age of 18, Asbury became a local preacher and was ordained at the age of 22. In 1771, he was sent to America as one of five missionaries by Anglican Methodist John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement of Protestantism. Asbury remained the sole British Methodist minister in America during the American War of Independence in 1776.
Regarded as the moving force behind American Methodism, Asbury promoted the circuit rider system in America, personally traveling more than 100,000 miles to spread the Gospel, and enduring many hardships. On December 24, 1784, Asbury was ordained a bishop by Wesley. That marked the beginning of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America.
Asbury never returned to his homeland. He preached for nearly 50 years and died in 1816. As a tribute to Asbury, an equestrian statue of him was unveiled in Washington, D.C., in 1924. At the time of his death, Methodism had grown from 5,000 members in 1776 to 214,000.
Asbury Park, one of the prominent cities in New Jersey, is named in honor of Francis Asbury. Also named after him are Asbury College, Asbury Theological Seminary, and Indiana Asbury College. Further, Bishop Asbury Cottage, his childhood home in England, is now a museum.