Asbury was born at Handsworth, near Birmingham, England of Methodist parents. He became a local preacher at 18 and was ordained at 22. In 1771 he volunteered to travel to America. When the American Revolution broke out in 1776 he was the only Methodist minister to remain in America.
In 1784 John Wesley named Asbury and Thomas Coke as co-superintendents of the work in America. The American Methodists named them both "bishops". This marks the beginning of the "Methodist Episcopal Church of the USA". For the next 32 years, Asbury led all the Methodists in America.
Like Wesley, Asbury preached in all sorts of places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction the church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members.
- Index of Asbury's Journals
- Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury (1958) by Francis Asbury (ISBN 0687205816)
- America's Bishop: The Life of Francis Asbury (2003) by Darius Salter (ISBN 1928915396)
- The Story of American Methodism: A History of the United Methodists and Their Relations (1974) by Frederick Abbott Norwood (ISBN 0687396417)
- The Heritage of American Methodism (1999) by Kenneth Cain Kinghorn (ISBN 0687055008)
- From Wesley to Asbury: Studies in Early American Methodism (1976) by Frank Baker (ISBN 0822303590)