The dominant figure in the formation and growth of The Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. Asbury (1745-1816) was born in Birmingham, England and in his early life became a lay preacher in England. Responding to John Wesley's call for a preacher to go to America, he arrived in 1771. Wesley designated Asbury a "General Superintendent" of what was to be the first independent Methodist denomination. At the 1784 Christmas Conference, Asbury was unanimously elected and consecrated as a general superintendent, and he immediately began to travel throughout the church. In 1788 the words "general superintendent" were supplanted by the word "bishop," to the consternation of Wesley. Francis Asbury was the guiding hand in the development of the structure and polity of the new denomination.