Father John's brother, Charles strongly disapproved of his brother's action, and put his protest in verse,
How easily are bishops made
By man or woman's whim!
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?
Wesley himself never intended that Thomas Coke or anyone else so consecrated take the title of bishop, but not too long after Coke consecrated Francis Asbury as a General Superintendent, Asbury was being referred to and soon referred to himself as bishop. This prompted a letter from Wesley to Asbury:
LONDON, September 20, 1788.
[MY DEAR BROTHER], -- There is, indeed, a wide difference between the relation wherein you stand to the Americans and the relation wherein I stand to all the Methodists. You are the elder brother of the American Methodists: I am under God the father of the whole family. Therefore I naturally care for you all in a manner no other persons can do. Therefore I in a measure provide for you all; for the supplies which Dr. Coke provides for you, he could not provide were it not for me, were it not that I not only permit him to collect but also support him in so doing.
But in one point, my dear brother, I am a little afraid both the Doctor and you differ from me. I study to be little: you study to be great. I creep: you strut along. I found a school: you a college! [Cokesbury College, so called after its founders Coke and Asbury, was twice burnt down.] nay, and call it after your own names! O beware, do not seek to be something! Let me be nothing, and 'Christ be all in all!'
One instance of this, of your greatness, has given me great concern. How can you, how dare you suffer yourself to be called Bishop I shudder, I start at the very thought! Men may call me a knave or a feel, a rascal, a scoundrel, and I am content; but they shall never by my consent call me Bishop! For my sake, for God's sake, for Christ's sake put a full end to this! Let the Presbyterians do what they please, but let the Methodists know their calling better.
Thus, my dear Franky, I have told you all that is in my heart. And let this, when I am no more seen, bear witness how sincerely I am
Your affectionate friend and brother.What I find interesting is that Wesley is OK with being called names by others, and perhaps sees such derision as a sign of faithfulness to the gospel, but warns against the "study to become great." Of course, one could chide Wesley at this point for starting the whole process in the first place with his decision to go around the church law he covenanted to obey by consecrating people he had no authority to consecrate. But Wesley, who said he would do everything in his power to save as many souls as possible before his death, believed that to be somehow beside the point.
Thus, while Wesley's act of insubordination to the church seemed to stem from his passion for the gospel, Asbury's acceptance of the title of bishop perhaps came from lesser and more vain motives. That does not mean that Bishop Asbury was not himself committed to his calling. He was deeply committed. One cannot conclude otherwise from his way of life; but one does wonder where the acceptance of the title of bishop fit into his calling, his mission. It's not that there is anything wrong with being a bishop; it's the motivation for why one should be a bishop, or a district superintendent, or a pastor, in the first place.
Like John Wesley, do we bishops, district superintendents, and pastors study and work to be little? Or is it about our own greatness? Jesus himself had a few warnings on this matter.