Francis Asbury and the Imitation of Christ:
Comparing the Leadership of Francis Asbury to a Mimetic Christological Model
Bryan R. Easley
The Methodist Episcopal Church was one of the most significant socioreligious forces in post-Revolutionary America. Methodism shaped American culture and conceptions of social, ecclesial, and political organizational structure. Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist Church in America, was the keystone figure in Methodism's rise to significance. Francis Asbury represents the epitome of the Episcopal bishop and the itinerant missionary. His life and ministry shaped the very fabric of early Methodism. The key to Asbury's significance lies in understanding his theological and spiritual commitments as the source for his leadership behavior and thinking. An exploration of Asbury's leadership provides valuable insights into the relationships between a leader's moral character, theological and scriptural framework, and use of power as well as the tensions between popular freedom and centralized control inherent in most Western organizations. What is a theological explanation for how Asbury's leadership emerged in early Methodism? One possibility is an alternative interpretation of Asbury's leadership based on a theological rather than organizational or historical framework. This historical study uses deductive content analysis of primary sources to explore the extent to which Francis Asbury's leadership corresponds to a mimetic Christological model. The results of the study suggest that Asbury's pattern and perspectives of leadership closely correspond to this mimetic model. Thus, Asbury represents a significant and valuable example of mimetic Christological leadership whose experiences and posture are relevant to contemporary organizational theory and Christian leadership.
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