- Coke, Thomas
- ( 1747-1814 )early Methodist missionary leaderMethodist leader Thomas Coke initiated the worldwide spread of Methodism in the decades after the American Revolution. He was born in Brecon, Wales, on September 9, 1747. He attended Jesus College at Oxford University and following completion of his work was ordained as a deacon (1770) and priest (1772) in the Church of England. As curate in South Petherton, Somerset, he encountered Methodism and in 1776 he met Methodist founder John Wesley. In 1777, he was expelled from his parish, and he joined the Methodists.As one of the few ordained ministers among the Methodists, Coke quickly became a trusted assistant, used by Wesley for important affairs outside of England. In 1782, he went to Ireland to preside over the first annual conference meeting of the Methodists. In 1784, having been "set apart" as a superintendent, he traveled to the United States, where he helped organize the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was designated a BISHoP.Also in 1784, Coke published a Plan of the Society [of Methodists] for the Establishment of Missions among the Heathen. He led the British Methodists to sponsor missionary activity first in Antigua and then on the remaining Caribbean islands, dedicating much of his own inheritance to that cause. He also helped Methodists open centers on Gibraltar and in Sierra Leone.During the early years of the 19th century, Coke's vision became increasingly focused on India. Following the opening of the subcontinent to missionaries in 1813, he organized the first team. He died en route on May 3, 1814, and his body was buried at sea. Shortly after his death, the British Methodists organized the Missionary Society to continue his pioneering efforts. That society would take British Methodism around the world during its first century of activity.Further reading:■ Warren A. Candler, Life of Thomas Coke (New York: Abingdo-Cokesbury Press, 1923)■ Samuel Drew, The Life of the Rev. Thomas Coke, Ll. D. Including in Detail His Various Travels and Extraordinary Missionary Exertions, in England, Ireland, America, and the West-Indies (New York: J. Soule & T. Mason, 1818)■ John Vickers, Thomas Coke Apostle Of Methodism (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1969).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.