Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History

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Religion

II. WESLEY, AND THE ORDINATION OF SUPERINTENDENTS FOR AMERICA

John Wesley’s Letter to Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury and Our Brethren in North America. September, 1784

"Bristol, September 10, 1784

"To Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury, and our brethren in North America:

By a very uncommon train of providences many of the provinces of North America are totally disjoined from the mother country and erected into independent States. The English government has no authority over them, either civil or ecclesiastical, any more than over the states of Holland. A civil authority is exercised over them, partly by the Congress, partly by the provincial assemblies. But no one either exercises or claims any ecclesiastical authority at all. In this peculiar situation some thousands of the inhabitants of these States desire my advice, and in compliance with their desire I have drawn up a little sketch.

Lord King’s account of the primitive church convinced me many years ago that bishops and presbyters are the same order, and consequently have the same right to ordain. For many years I have been importuned, from time to time, to exercise this right by ordaining part of our traveling preachers. But I have still refused; not only for peace’ sake, but because I was determined as little as possible to violate the established order of the national church to which I belonged.

But the case is widely different between England and North America. Here there are bishops who have a legal jurisdiction. In America there are none, neither any parish minister. So that for some hundreds of miles together there is none either to baptize or to administer the Lord’s Supper. Here therefore, my scruples are at an end; and I conceive myself at full liberty, as I violate no order and invade no man’s right by appointing and sending laborers into the harvest.

I have accordingly appointed Dr. Coke and Mr. Francis Asbury to be joint superintendents over our brethren in North America; as also Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey to act as elders among them, by baptizing and administering the Lord’s Supper. And I have prepared a liturgy, little differing from that of the Church of England (I think the best constituted national church in the world), which I advise all the traveling preachers to use on the Lord’s day in all the congregations, reading the Litany only on Wednesdays and Fridays, and praying extempore on all other days. I also advise the elders to administer the Supper of the Lord on every Lord’s day.

If any one will point out a more rational and Scriptural way of feeding and guiding these poor sheep in the wilderness, I will gladly embrace it. At present I cannot see any better method than that I have taken.

It has indeed been proposed to desire the English bishops to ordain part of our preachers for America. But to this I object: 1. I desired the Bishop of London to ordain one, but could not prevail. 2. If they consented, we know the slowness of their proceedings; but the matter admits of no delay. 3. If they would ordain them now, they would expect to govern them. And how grievously would this entangle us! 4. As our American brethren are now totally disentangled, both from the state and the English hierarchy, we dare not entangle them again, either with the one or the other. They are now at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has so strangely made them free.

JOHN WESLEY."

Text—Wesley’s Works, Vol. VII, pp. 311, 312.

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Chicago: "John Wesley’s Letter to Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury and Our Brethren in North America. September, 1784," Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History 321–322. Original Sources, accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2B3SAITTY4F23I.

MLA: . "John Wesley’s Letter to Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury and Our Brethren in North America. September, 1784." Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp. 321–322. Original Sources. 19 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2B3SAITTY4F23I.

Harvard: , 'John Wesley’s Letter to Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury and Our Brethren in North America. September, 1784' in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History. cited in , Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp.321–322. Original Sources, retrieved 19 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2B3SAITTY4F23I.