William McKendree

Chapter 3
WILLIAM McKENDREE, THE FIRST AMERICAN-BORN METHODIST BISHOP
Bishops Coke, Asbury, and Whatcoat were all born in England. The American preachers
were much pleased when William McKendree was elected bishop at the General Conference of
1808. He was led into the kingdom of God by the Rev. John Easter in 1787, and taken by him to the
Annual Conference in 1788. For twelve years Virginia was the scene of his labors. The following
eight years he was the presiding elder of the Western Pioneers.
For nearly twenty-seven years he served as a bishop. He was not only distinguished as a
preacher but was noted for his ability as a presiding officer. To him we owe the introduction of
parliamentary law into our General Conference, and the Annual Conferences. This was done with
infinite tact and diplomacy.
Henry Smith, a preacher of the Baltimore Conference, wrote about it in the year 1855.
Bishop McKendree introduced the new method in the General Conference of 1812. As it was new,
Bishop Asbury arose, and addressing Bishop McKendree, said, “I have something to say to youbefore the Conference.” Bishop McKendree arose to his feet and the two men stood facing each
other. Bishop Asbury continued: “This is a new thing. I never did business this way and why is this
new thing introduced?” Bishop McKendree promptly replied, “You are our father we are your
sons, you never had need of it. I am only a brother, and have need of it.” Bishop Asbury sat down
with a smile on his face He was satisfied.
Bishop McKendree was a splendid business man, and very painstaking. Bishop Morris
was very fond of telling a story which well illustrates this trait: “Many years ago,” he wrote in a
letter to Bishop Soule, “the precise time not recollected, one day in Conference, Bishop
McKendree asked me for the loan of a pencil. I handed him the only article of the kind I had. It was
a very small cedar pencil, perhaps two inches and a half long, and less in diameter than a common
ryestraw, with a plain brass head. It was used primarily as a pin to fasten a small pocket
memorandum book, and to make notes on the same. The original value of the article could not have
been more than three cents. Of so little importance was it to me that I did not miss it at all, nor
remember the transaction again until a year afterward, when the bishop, one day in Conference,
beckoned to me, and on my approaching him, handed me the pencil, which he had kept for me on a
tour of some thousands of miles, having perhaps forgotten to return it at the proper time. As the
business of Conference was in progress, he gave no explanation, but the sight of the pencil and a
moment’s reflection brought the whole transaction to my mind, and afforded a theme of profitable
meditation upon the character of a man who, amid the trials and perils of his extended journeys,
and his numerous and daily cares respecting the church over which he exercised his general
superintendency, could still charge his mind with so small a matter.”
He took great care of his papers and his clothing. In society he was always dignified, but
never stern.
The first bishops, with the exception of Bishop Coke, were unmarried men. They were all
lovers of children. Bishop McKendree was especially fond of them. At one place he often visited
he would allow the little girl in the home to comb his “beautiful black hair.” Then he would
reward her with his thanks and a sweet kiss. She would count the buttons at his knees. There were
five at each knee, and he wore buckles on his shoes. He was at this home on one occasion when a
thunderstorm arose. The little girl’s mother told Mr. McKendree how frightened the little girl was
during a thunderstorm. He called the child to him, took her on his knees, and laid her head on his
breast and soothed her. When the sharp lightning came she would hide her face in his bosom and
feel perfectly safe.
He not only loved children, but animals as well. Like Bishop Asbury, he was fond of the
faithful horses who carried him. His last horse was old “Grey,” and in his will he made provision
for his care.
As a preacher few surpassed him in his insight into spiritual matters. Sometimes great
results followed his efforts, and many were converted as the result of his preaching. He was not at
all vain of his ability. On one occasion he was asked to preach before the House of
Representatives at Washington but declined. He said that “his mission was to those who were
found in the mountains and valleys and waste places of the earth; and especially to the poor.”Few men loved the church more or were more useful in it. Bishop Asbury founded the
church, and Bishop McKendree organized it for efficient work.
* * * * * * *

METHODIST HEROES OF OTHER DAYS
By Samuel Gardiner Ayres
The Methodist Book Concern
New York — Cincinnati
Printed Book Copyright, 1916
by Samuel Gardiner Ayres
* * * * * * *
Digital Edition 11/28/97
By Holiness Data Ministry
* * * * * * *

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