It was not on the Anglican calendar today, nor was it on the standard lectionary calendar, but there was mention of two Methodist pioneers in the Holy Women, Holy Men blog for November 15. In other sources, November 15th is a commemoration for these two Anglican priests, who were Methodist preachers, that made a difference in the USA and in England.
Francis Asbury, at the age of 26, was sent to America by John Wesley in 1771 to minister to the early Methodists who came over before the Revolutionary War. He was the only Methodist minister to stay in America when the war broke out because of the Methodist ties to the Anglican Church . When the independent Methodist Episcopal Church formed in 1784, he and Thomas Coke were the first two bishops.
(From Wikipedia) “Asbury preached in myriad places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction, the church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers. Among the men he ordained was Richard Allen in Philadelphia, the first black minister in the United States.”
George Whitefield was an early Methodist and a member of Wesley’s Holy Club at Oxford. He was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1736 and followed John Wesley to Savannah in 1738. He returned in 1739 to be ordained a priest and to raise funds for an orphanage in Georgia. He was known for his preaching, and like Wesley (and Asbury), he would preach in the open-air and was often ridiculed by his Anglican peers. He returned to America in 1740 and preached a series of revival meetings that became known as the Great Awakening of 1740. His ride on horseback from New York to Charleston was thought to be the longest ride by a white man in history.
Whitefield, though he was one of the early Methodists, disagreed with John Wesley theologically. Wesley was an Arminian and believed in free-will, and Whitefield fell more in line with Calvinist thinking and predestination. His work in England was quite astounding with crowds of 20-30,000 people hearing him preach in the open air.
(From Wikipedia) “The Anglican Church did not assign him a pulpit, so he began preaching in parks and fields in England on his own, reaching out to people who normally did not attend church. LikeJonathan Edwards, he developed a style of preaching that elicited emotional responses from his audiences. But Whitefield had charisma, and his voice (which according to many accounts, could be heard over vast distances), his small stature, and even his cross-eyed appearance (which some people took as a mark of divine favor) all served to help make him one of the first celebrities in the American colonies. Thanks to widespread dissemination of print media, perhaps half of all colonists eventually heard about, read about, or read something written by Whitefield. He employed print systematically, sending advance men to put up broadsides and distribute handbills announcing his sermons. He also arranged to have his sermons published.”
Methodism in America would not be the same without the two of them. The Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the USA still recognize their work and its importance to their history. May we find inspiration today in their witness.
Prayer for the Day:
Holy God, you so inspired Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a Great Awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by your Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share your Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.