Excerpts from my upcoming new book (Summer 2017), Kenotic Leadership and the Movement that Changed America (working title), that looks at the imitation of Christ in the life and leadership of Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist church in America.
(A condensed version of this subject is covered my chapter “The Leadership of Francis Asbury” in Leadership the Wesleyan Way [2016, Emeth Press].)
Francis Asbury: “It is for holiness my spirit mourns. I want to walk constantly before God without reproof.”
The Christian life was a call to the complete yielding out of love to the call of God and a full, willing obedience to go where God led, no matter how hard the circumstance. This theological understanding was foundational to Asbury’s life. His motive for coming to America was “to live to God, and to bring others so to do.” Asbury believed that in carrying out the office of bishop the way he did, he was being faithful to the primitive vision of the apostolic office and to his own calling to serve in America. His sole object was the kingdom and church of God.
Asbury molded his life around a wholehearted pursuit of the sanctified life. This was his ultimate goal for himself, for his preachers, and for the Methodist movement. First and foremost, Asbury pursued a holy walk with God in his own life. His leadership rose out of his relationship with God. He sought to draw others in to what he had experienced. The wholehearted embrace of holiness meant yielding his life totally to God.
Asbury’s theology shaped how he viewed the world, the Church, himself, and his followers. It gave rise to his attitudes, values, sense of purpose, and responses to others; governed his views of conflict, sacrifice, love, and ministry; and guided his decision-making, planning, and vision for the Methodist Episcopal Church. The theological paradigm of optimistic grace and free salvation for all, holiness, and sanctification forms the core of the mimetic value of obedience in Asbury’s leadership.