The Bank of Faith and Works United – Dorothy Ripley
Dorothy Ripley was a British evangelist who came to America in 1801, where she died in Virginia. Although she was a Quaker by confession, she had been raised a Methodist. She traveled thousands of miles in both the United States and Britain on the camp meeting circuit. This book contains the letters she wrote on her missionary travels in 1805.
The Bank of Faith and Works United.
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Early Methodist missionaries to America (from Wikipedia):
In 1766, Reverend Laurence Coughlan arrived in Newfoundland and opened a school at Black Head in Conception Bay. In the late 1760s, two Methodist lay preachers emigrated to America and formed societies. Philip Embury began the work in New York at the instigation of fellow Irish Methodist Barbara Heck. Soon, Captain Webb from the British Army aided him. He formed a society in Philadelphia and traveled along the coast.
In 1770, two authorized Methodist preachers, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor, arrived from the British Connexion. They were immediately preceded by the unauthorized Robert Williams who quietly set about supporting himself by publishing American editions of Wesley’s hymnbooks without obtaining permission to do so. These men were soon followed by others, including Francis Asbury. Asbury reorganized the mid-Atlantic work in accordance with the Wesleyan model. Internal conflict characterized this period. Missionaries displaced most of the local preachers and irritated many of the leading lay members. During the American Revolution, „the mid-Atlantic work“ (as Wesley called it) diminished, and, by 1778, the work was reduced to one circuit. Asbury refused to leave. He remained in Delaware during this period.
Robert Strawbridge began a Methodist work in Maryland at the same time as Embury began his work in New York. They did not work together and did not know of each other’s existence. Strawbridge ordained himself and organized a circuit. He trained many very influential assistants who became some of the first leaders of American Methodism. His work grew rapidly both in numbers and in geographical spread. The British missionaries discovered Strawbridge’s work and annexed it into the American connection. However, the native preachers continued to work side-by-side with the missionaries, and they continued to recruit and dispatch more native preachers. Southern Methodism was not dependent on missionaries in the same way as mid-Atlantic Methodism.
Up until this time, with the exception of Strawbridge, none of the missionaries or American preachers was ordained. Consequently, the Methodist people received the sacraments at the hands of ministers from established Anglican churches. Most of the Anglican priests were Loyalists who fled to England, New York or Canada during the war. In the absence of Anglican ordination, a group of native preachers ordained themselves. This caused a split between the Asbury faction and the southern preachers. Asbury mediated the crisis by convincing the southern preachers to wait for Wesley’s response to the sacramental crisis. That response came in 1784.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, came to believe that the New Testament evidence did not leave the power of ordination to the priesthood in the hands of bishops but that other priests could do ordination. In 1784, he ordained preachers for Scotland and England and America, with power to administer the sacraments (this was a major reason for Methodism’s final split from the Church of England after Wesley’s death). At that time, Wesley sent the Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke to America to form an independent American Methodist church. The native circuit riders met in late December. Coke had orders to ordain Asbury as a joint superintendent of the new church. However, Asbury turned to the assembled conference and said he would not accept it unless the preachers voted him into that office. This was done, and from that moment forward, the general superintendents received their authority from the conference. Later, Coke convinced the general conference that he and Asbury were bishops and added the title to the discipline. It caused a great deal of controversy. Wesley did not approve of ‚bishops‘ who had not been ordained by bishops. The first annual conference of the newly organized Methodist Episcopal Church was held at Green Hill House near Louisburg, Franklin County, North Carolina, April 19, 1785. Four annual conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church were held at the house of Green Hill and Hill was their host.
By the 1792 general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the controversy relating to episcopal power boiled over. Ultimately, the delegates sided with Bishop Asbury. However, the Republican Methodists split off from the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in 1792. Also, William Hammet (a missionary ordained by Wesley who traveled to America from Antigua with Bishop Coke), led a successful revolt against the MEC in 1791. He opposed Bishop Asbury and the episcopacy. He formed his people into the American Primitive Methodist Church (not directly connected with the British Primitive Methodist Church). Both American churches operated in the Southeast and presaged the episcopal debates of later reformers. Regardless, Asbury remained the leading bishop of early American Methodism and did not share his „appointing“ authority until Bishop McKendree was elected in 1808. Coke had problems with the American preachers. His authoritarian style alienated many. Soon, he became a missionary bishop of sorts and never had much influence in America.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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