Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pioneer Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury; A Builder of America

300,000 miles on horseback, from the Atlantic to the Appalachians, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, for forty-five years, he spread the gospel. This was Francis Asbury, Methodist Circuit riding preacher who was born this day, August 20, 1745. When the Revolution started, he refused to return to England: "I can by no means agree to leave such a field for gathering souls to Christ as we have in America."

He befriended Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution, who converted, freed his slaves and paid them as hired labor. Francis Asbury dedicated the first African Methodist Episcopal Church and met personally with George Washington, congratulating him on his election. By the time he died, the Methodist Church in America had grown from 300 members to over 200,000. Unveiling the Equestrian Statue of Francis Asbury in Washington, D.C., 1924, President Calvin Coolidge stated: "Our government rests upon religion It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty... This circuit rider spent his life making stronger the foundation on which our government rests...Francis Asbury is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation."

The picture above is a statue of Francis Asbury at 16th and Mount Pleasant streets NW. Many black churches, including the one shown at left, at 11th and K streets NW, bear the early evangelist's name.

Here is an article on Bishop Asbury that appeared in the Washington Post earlier this year entitled A Preacher's Journeys Over the Color Line.

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