Thomas Coke letters
A Guide to the Collection
Thomas Coke was born in Brecon, Wales in 1747 to Bartholomew and Anne Coke. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, earning a B.A. (1768), M.A. (1770), and Doctor of Civil Law (1775). In 1770 Coke was ordained a deacon in the Church of England, and two years later was ordained a priest. Coke served as a curate in South Petherton, Somerset, between 1771 and 1777. He married Penelope Goulding Smith in 1805, and his wife traveled with him and funded several of his missionary projects. After her death in January 1811, Coke married Ann Loxdale in December of the same year. She also traveled with her husband until her death in 1812.
Thomas Coke first met John Wesley in August 1776. Coke joined the Methodist movement the following year upon being dismissed from his Anglican curacy due to his increasingly Methodist style. Considered by many to be John Wesley’s chief assistant, Coke is credited with aiding the settlement of the “Conference plan” as well as drafting the Deed of Declaration (1784). Coke presided over Ireland’s first annual conference in 1782 and regularly thereafter until 1813. He also served as President of the British Wesleyan Conference in 1797 and 1805. He was a prolific writer, publishing numerous works including Commentary on the Bible (1801-1807) and History of the West Indies (1808-1811).
John Wesley consecrated Thomas Coke to the office of Superintendent on September 2, 1784. Over the next nineteen years, Coke made nine journeys to the United States of America to oversee the work of the Connection and to ordain ministers. Coke presided at the Christmas Conference of 1784, at which the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was formed, as well as at the first General Conference of the MEC in 1792. Together with Francis Asbury as Joint Superintendents (called “Bishops” beginning in 1787), Coke led the fledgling church. However, Coke’s loyalty to Britain and his troubled relationship with Asbury created a stressful relationship with the American Methodists, leading the General Conference of 1808 to request that he remain in Europe and refrain from exercising the office of bishop in the United States unless recalled to the position.
Thomas Coke has been called the father of Methodist missions. Beginning in 1790 he served as head (later president) of the Methodist missionary committee. Under his leadership, and funded in part by Coke, the committee sent missionaries to the British West Indies, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, Nova Scotia, and France. On May 3, 1814, while en route to India with six other Methodist preachers, Coke died and was buried at sea.
Drew, Samuel. Life of the Rev. Thomas Coke, LL.D. London: Thomas Cordeux, 1817.
Smith, Warren Thomas. Thomas Coke: The Foreign Minister of Methodism. Lake Junaluska, NC: World Methodist Council and American Association of Methodist Historical Societies, 1959.
Spellman, Norman W. “Thomas Coke and American Methodism” in The Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1974.
Vickers, John A. Thomas Coke and World Methodism. Sussex: World Methodist Historical Society, 1976.
Vickers, John A. Thomas Coke Revisited. Evesham, U.K.: Wesley Historical Society, 2010.
Vickers, John A. and Frederick Jeffrey. “Coke, Thomas” in The Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1974
This collection comprises fifteen late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century letters written by Thomas Coke after he joined the Methodist movement. The letter to John Fletcher appears to be a nineteenth-century facsimile. All others are original manuscript documents.
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[Identification of item], Thomas Coke letters, [box number], Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Processed by Timothy S. G. Binkley, 2014. Biographical note written by Rebekah Rochte.
Timothy S. G. Binkley and Rebekah Rochte, 2014.
Encoded by Ada Negraru, 2014.
Detailed Description of the Collection