Pilmore Methodists, Asbury Methodists

When Francis Asbury arrived in America he was distressed by the state of Methodism in the northern colonies. Joseph Pilmore and Richard Boardman – who Wesley had sent before – had confined their ministries to the urban centers of Philadelphia and New York and let Methodist discipline slacken.

In his biography of Asbury, John Wigger describes Pilmore as worried by the spectre of sectarian religion and loath to close the door to anyone. Asbury, on the contrary, thought that Methodist discipline about class meetings and love feasts were crucial to the spiritual work of Methodism. Only a disciplined society could foster the spiritual atmosphere necessary to nurture growth. Only in a love feast where all had proven their desire for higher spiritual gifts could true sharing and unburdening of hearts take place. When everyone was let in, the function of the feast was destroyed.

Pilmore looked over a church whose pews had been emptied by Asbury’s insistence on discipline and lamented the loss. Asbury said he would rather have a small but truly Methodist gathering than a large but undisciplined one.

Are we more like Pilmore or Asbury today?


8 thoughts on “Pilmore Methodists, Asbury Methodists

  1. Pilmore was ordained by the episcopate in Scotland and served in the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia for the rest of his life, in fact just a few blocks away from St. George’s Meth Epis. Pilmore was sacramental, Prayer Book oriented. I see none of this in the UMC today. Asbury won in most respects. Revivalist, pietism centered in on experience, with little respect for the church catholic. Yea, I think Asbury is more UMC than Pilmore is.

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