By unknown artist, Early 1800s
Thomas Coke (1747-1814) was the first Methodist bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Americas and is sometimes referred to as the Father of Methodist Missions.
Born in Brecon, South Wales, Coke met John Wesley in 1776, becoming one of his closest assistants. Wesley called Coke "the flea" because he seemed always to be hopping around from one place to another.
Controversially, John Wesley consecrated Coke for the work in the Americas which, theoretically, only bishops were able to do. Then, in December 1784, a conference of Methodist preachers was held at Baltimore. At this Coke, together with Francis Asbury, was elected superintendent and the Church was constituted as an independent body under the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1787 the American Methodist Conference formally endorsed the title of 'bishop' instead of superintendent.
Coke later returned to England and hoped to open Methodist missions in the East Indies. He set sail for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on 30 December 1813 but died after four months at sea.