Francis Asbury and George Whitefield, Evangelists, 1816, 1770

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

Two of the great figures to emerge from out of the religious fervor of colonial and post-revolutionary America, George Whitefield and Francis Asbury, shared a common tie to the Methodist movement of John Wesley.

George Whitefield entered Pembroke College, Oxford as a servitor, one unable to pay tuition and who thus served higher ranked students in exchange for free tuition. There he came under the influence of John and Charles Wesley and was a member of the “Holy Club.” In 1736, he was ordained a deacon, and in 1738, he followed John Wesley to Savannah, Georgia. He returned to England in 1739 to obtain priest’s orders to raise funds for his Bethesda orphanage in Georgia.His preaching attracted a wide following in England, Wales, and Scotland. Whitefield, who subscribed to the Calvinist position then prevalent in the Church of England, broke with the Wesleys, the latter being theologically drawn to Arminianism. Whitefield formed and was president of the first Methodist conference, but left that position after a short time to focus on evangelistic efforts.

Whitefield returned to America several times, and his preaching sparked the Great Awakening of 1740. Whitefield preached to thousands throughout the colonies, riding from New York to Charleston on horseback.

Like Whitefield, Francis Asbury was also renowned for his preaching, and also like Whitefield, he rode many miles on horseback each year and preached throughout the colonies. Asbury was sent to America by John Wesley in 1771 and was the only Methodist minister to remain in America when the War for Independence broke out. When the newly independent Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, he and Thomas Coke served as its first two bishops.

Like his mentor John Wesley, Asbury preached in courthouses, public houses, tobacco fields, or wherever a large crowd could be gathered to hear him. Among those he ordained was Richard Allen (March 26), the former slave and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


I. Holy God, who didst so inspire 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 thy Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share thy Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II.  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.

Psalm 97:8–12


Numbers 11:24–30

1 Thessalonians 5:13b–24

John 17:5–13

Preface of the Epiphany

16 thoughts on “Francis Asbury and George Whitefield, Evangelists, 1816, 1770

  1. Title. George Whitefield died first. Should he be listed first?

    Psalm. Only 5 verses are suggested. There are only 12 in the whole Psalm. Let’s go for it and read all 12!

    Bio. Whitefield’s bio information is first, then Asbury’s – opposite from the Title. The bio should follow the Title, IMO.

    Each was born when?

    2nd paragraph: ‘… to obtain priest’s orders …’ This is inconsistent with other bios in HWHM. Perhaps the sentence could read: ‘He returned to England in 1739 to be ordained a priest and to raise funds ….’

    Both need a ‘He died in …’ statement.

    Asbury’s bio paragraphs both begin by comparing him to others (Whitefield and John Wesley). His first bio paragraph would be strengthened by dropping the comparison.

    • Re: Martin of Tours

      The holy man is still AWOL. He is probably out looking for someone to share the other 1/2 of his cloak. 🙂

      • Michael — I just noticed Martin listed with “Most recent Posts.” Evidently, the tour bus has re-tour-ned..

  2. I think the entire entry on Asbury should be re-written.

    Asbury went to America in 1771 as a licensed Methodist preacher and missionary. After the Revolutionary War, John Wesley appealed to The Bishop of London to ordain Presbyters to go to America so the (Anglican) Methodists could receive Holy Communion. The Bishop declined because he no longer had any jurisdiction there. So, Wesley felt this was an extraordinary situation demanding extraordinary ministers of the Sacraments. In 1784, Wesley and other Presbyters ordained Asbury and sent him and Thomas Coke, who was already a Presbyter, to America as “Superintendents” for the Methodist work. In 1787, Coke and Asbury led the Methodists to form The Methodist Episcopal Church, of which they were the first two Bishops. Coke eventually returned to England. Asbury remained and at the time of his death on March 31, 1826, there were 212,000 Methodists in America.

  3. To the BLOG person: My computer used to open each day to the current day’s commemoration, but has recently started opening, instead, to prior days’ commemorations. It began with Leo the Great. Today it opened to Seabury’s page. I haven’t chaned my computer settings in any way. Can you help? (Thank you.) –John LaVoe

  4. The bios show these men in the order of their death. Was someone of the opinion that it was better to show them in the title in alphabetical order? I suggest that the names be reversed in the title and the collects.

    No explanation is given for the choice of this date to honor these men: what was the reason?

    The birth dates and places for both men should be shown. Whitefield was born on December 16, 1714 at Gloucester, England. He died on September 29, 1770, in New Hampshire, in or near Exeter Green.

    Francis Asbury was born at Great Barr, near Birmingham, England, on August 20, 1745. He died on March 31,1816, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

    Line 6 of the second paragraph: either insert “, jn order” after”orders”, or (better, to avoid the clumsy juxtaposition) rephrase to read “for the purpose of raising”.

    Line 7 of the second paragraph: substitute “for an orphanage he had founded at Bethesda, Georgia” for “his Bethesda orphanage”. (We have heard nothing about this earlier.)

  5. Is there a minimal way to explain what is meant, in the bio’s references to “Armenianism” and “the Calvinist position”? Not everyone will know what these references are about.

  6. As an Evangelical, I’m probably the only one who can say this without arousing suspicion of prejudice, so I suppose it’s my duty to say it: I question whether Whitefield should be on the calendar at all. Having read his entry in the Oxford DNB, which is generally a well-respected objective academic reference work, it seems to me that he exemplifies everything that has brought evangelicalism into such disrepute in recent years.

    He treated his ordained status as his own personal property for which he was accountable to no one—his famous comment about the world being his parish was in response to an inquiry by his bishop about why he was not settled in the Georgia parish for which he was ordained. He never listened to anyone who criticised him except those with money or who could be of some other use to him. He abused the orphans he was supposedly raising money for, on one occasion kidnapping some of them and claiming their few possessions as his own. When the directors of the orphanage tried to call him to account for this and various financial irregularities, he refused all co-operation. He was an open supporter of slavery, even in his preaching. His preaching was emotionally manipulative and artificially dramatic, and the surviving texts of his sermons do not justify his reputation as a preacher, unless arousing an emotional response is the only test. He was scathing in his denunciation of Anglican clergy who questioned his sincerity, and was twice inhibited from the exercise of his ministry, not because of his doctrine but because of his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the bishop’s commissary, who had previously supported him. He refused to recognise the inhibition. Even Jonathan Edwards was ‘deeply disturbed by his unqualified appeals to emotion, his openly judging those he considered unconverted, and his demand for instant conversions’. Edwards tried to discuss his concerns with Whitefield, but was refused.

    I know everyone on the calendar is a vessel of clay, and that God can use the worst of us, but it’s not clear to me that anyone but Whitefield was glorified in anything he did. The list above is an abbreviated one—read the material for yourselves. No doubt he said some true things, and perhaps did some good things, but as far as I can see nothing that provides any reason to ignore the immense range of his negative accomplishments.

    How about Bishop Ryle instead?

  7. Without having the source Philip cites, I nevertheless hope his comments will be taken into consideration. I know nothing of Bishop Ryle, so my response is only about Whitefield.

  8. Dear Sir,
    I wish to use the picture of George Whitefield for a student lesson. Kindly inform if its permission is required and from whom ?

    Dr. Devesh vijay
    Fellow in History
    Institute of LiveLong Lerning
    University of Delhi

    • Dr. Vijay,

      I am not sure where the original poster of this entry obtained the image of George Whitefield, but I believe it to be public domain. Use it as you find helpful.

      Callie Swanlund

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