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Thomas Coke: A Father of Methodism

 

There’s a star in the floor of historic Barratt’s Chapel to mark the place where Thomas Coke once stood. Coke is a central figure in depictions of Francis Asbury’s ordination. Born on Sept. 9, 1747, he is the “Coke” of Cokesbury, and this founding father of the denomination sowed the seeds of Methodism all over the world.

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He put the Coke in Cokesbury.

And he travelled so much for church missions John Wesley nicknamed him “the flea.”

Rev. Brian Milford, United Methodist Publishing House: “This name Cokesbury was first used for Cokesbury College which was the first American Methodist school in Abingdon, Maryland.”

Thomas Coke, a British lawyer turned preacher, was born on September 9, 1747.

His ministry shaped the structure of the current United Methodist Church, says Publishing House president Brian Milford.

Rev. Brian Milford: “He set up the General Conference, he initiated the Book of Discipline and he set up the Trust Deed or what we now know as the trust clause, which says that property is held by the denomination, not by local congregations.”

Coke was sent to America by John Wesley, where he joined Francis Asbury to begin the church in the new world.

Rev. Brian Milford: “These two guys were essentially the first Bishops in American Methodism.”

Historian Alfred Day reads from the letter penned by Wesley.

Rev. Alfred T. Day, Commission on Archives and History: “’I have this day set apart as superintendent by the imposition of my hands and prayer Thomas Coke, Doctor of Civil Law and Presbyter in the Church of England, a man whom I judge to be qualified for that great work.’ So, this letter presented at the Christmas Conference is pretty important.”

Coke journeyed to America nine times, connecting the newly-formed church to roots in England. But it was Coke’s passion for mission that planted the seeds of the global United Methodist Church of today.

Rev. Brian Milford: “Thomas Coke wrote the first plan for a missionary society in the church. He raised the funds and conducted a hugely successful mission to the West Indies.”

In 1814, Coke set sail for Ceylon hoping to open Methodist missions in the East Indies but died on the way and was buried at sea.

Coke is remembered as the “Father of Methodist missions.”

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The United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History and UMC.org have teamed up to share the life stories of early Methodists and interesting from the history of the denomination. Watch more videos here.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN. in partnership with the United Methodist Publishing House.
Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.
This video was first posted on September 6, 2018.