by Robert Earl Houston
A tall cedar has fallen on the preaching landscape of the United States, as the Lord has called home his servant, the Rev. Dr. Gardner Calvin Taylor on Easter Sunday, April 6, 2015. He was 96 years old.
Dr. Taylor was world-reknown for his preaching gifts and was dubbed “The Dean of American preaching” by Time Magazine. He was born June 18, 1918 and graduated from Leland College and Oberlin Graduate School of Theology.
He was called a “National Visionary” by the National Visionary Leadership Project for “his use of metaphor, dramatic timing and biblical truths to weave a seamless narrative in his sermons exhibit(ed) his mastery of the technical aspects of preaching that have inspired both laymen and clergy alike. Many have been entranced and transformed by Taylor’s oratorical gift.”
Dr. Taylor was the only child born to Reverend Washington and Selina Taylor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father died when he was 13, however, he influenced his son’s preaching style. As a young man, he had hopes of becoming a lawyer and it wasn’t until he survived a serious car accident that he experienced his call to ministry and realized God’s claim on his life.
Instead of attending the University of Michigan Law School, he went to Oberlin in 1937 where he met his wife Laurabelle Scott. They married in 1940 and had one daughter. While in school, he pastored Bethany Baptist Church in Oberlin from 1938 to 1941; the Beulah Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA, 1941-1943; the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, LA, 1943-1947. In 1948 he became pastor of Concord Baptist Church at the age of 30, which at the time had 5,000 members. By the end of his tenure, church membership exceeded 14,000. Under his leadership, the church build a home for the aged, organized a fully-accredited grade school and developed the Christ Fund, a million-dollar endowment for investing in the Brooklyn community.
As a denominational leader he sought the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. He ran against the incumbent president, Dr. J.H. Jackson, who had differing views about the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters, of which Dr. Taylor was one. Following very controversial proceedings, Dr. Jackson was declared president and in Cincinnati, the other faction organized that Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Several years later, Dr. Taylor became President of the Convention and was honored as the President Emeritus unto the time of his passing.
He received numerous awards and honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to his by President William Jefferson Clinton.
He served as the senior pastor of Concord for 42 years and retired 25 years ago in 1990. He was in demand as a preacher world-wide and authored several books, include the six-volume series, “The Words of Gardner Taylor.” HIs wife Laura Bell passed away on February 5, 1995. He later married Phillis Strong. His daughter is Martha Taylor Lacroix.
I had the privilege to serve as the Webmaster of the Progressive National Baptist Convention during the 50th Anniversary of the Convention in Washington, DC, and Dr. Taylor was present at the Convention. He gave words of wisdom and I stood there in awe as he sat in his wheelchair and dispensed wisdom to a crowd that was completely in awe and in silence, soaking up his wisdom. He shared a great line: “Some young pastor asked me Dr. Taylor what should be my goal as a young pastor? I looked at him and said, live to be an old pastor.”
At the time of his passing he was residing in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Phillis. I wrote this on Twitter: “Dr. Gardner Taylor was to preaching what paint was to Picasso, what a needle was to a record album, and what a lyric was to a song.”
HOMEGOING ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED AS FOLLOWS:
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Christian Faith Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
Viewing 6 – 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Concord Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York
Wake 5 – 8 p.m.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Concord Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York
Viewing 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Homegoing Service 11:30 a.m.
– Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
– National Ministries.org
– National Visionary Leadership Project