1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coke, Thomas

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COKE, THOMAS (1747–1814), English divine, the first Methodist bishop, was born at Brecon, where his father was a well-to-do apothecary. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, taking the degree of M.A. in 1770 and that of D.C.L. in 1775. From 1772 to 1776 he was curate at South Petherton in Somerset, whence his rector dismissed him for adopting the open-air and cottage services introduced by John Wesley, with whom he had become acquainted. After serving on the London Wesleyan circuit he was in 1782 appointed president of the conference in Ireland, a position which he frequently held, in the intervals of his many voyages to America. He first visited that country in 1784, going to Baltimore as “superintendent” of the Methodist societies in the new world and, in 1787 the American conference changed his title to “bishop,” a nomenclature which he tried in vain to introduce into the English conference, of which he was president in 1797 and 1805. Failing this, he asked Lord Liverpool to make him a bishop in India, and he was voyaging to Ceylon when he died on the 3rd of May 1814. Coke had always been a missionary enthusiast, and was the pioneer of such enterprise in his connexion. He was an ardent opponent of slavery, and endeavoured also to heal the breach between the Methodist and Anglican communions. He published a History of the West Indies (3 vols., 1808–1811), several volumes of sermons, and, with Henry Moore, a Life of Wesley (1792).