Taylor, John V[ernon] (1914-2001)
Anglican missionary in Uganda and general secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS)
Taylor studied English literature and history at Cambridge and theology at Oxford. After two curacies in England he became a CMS missionary in Uganda, serving as warden of Bishop Tucker Memorial College (theological seminary) from 1944 to 1954. During his time there he encouraged his students in the creative arts, including the writing and performance of African passion plays. From 1955 to 1959 he was research assistant to the International Missionary Council, coordinating and pioneering a series of church growth studies. In 1959 he became Africa secretary of CMS and then succeeded Max Warren as general secretary from 1963 to 1974, also serving for a time as vice-chairman of the Theological Education Fund of the World council of Churches. From 1975 to 1985 he was bishop of Winchester and chaired the influential doctrine commission of the church of England (which published Believing in the Church: The Corporate Nature of Faith, 1981). In retirement in Oxford, Taylor continued to write, preach, and travel. He was elected honorary fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1987.
Taylor’s missiology is grounded in his experience of profound cross-cultural friendships. He was persistently ahead of his time on many issues that later became conventional, particularly in his sensitivity to politics, African traditional religion, and Pentecostalism. His Christianity and Politics in Africa (1957) was prophetic; The Growth of the Church in Buganda: An Attempt at Understanding (1958) was the fruit of grassroots field research; and The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion (1963) was a pioneering study on the immanence of God in Africa.
His beautifully written classic of twentieth-century mission theology, The Go-Between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission (1982), focused and developed many ideas already published in his monthly CMS News-letters (1963-1974). His major theological work in retirement was The Christlike God (1993).
Graham Kings, “Taylor, John V(ernon),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 658.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Mamillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Taylor, John Vernon. Bishops on the Bible: Eight Bishops on the Role and Relevance of the Bible Today. London: Triangle, 1994.
_____. Breaking Down the Parish. London: Church Missionary Society, 1968.
_____. Christianity and Politics in Africa. London: Penguin, 1957.
_____. The Christlike God. London: SCM Press, 1992.
_____. Enough Is Enough. Naperville, Ill: SCM Book Club, 1975.
_____. For All the World: The Christian Mission in the Modern Age. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.
_____. The Go-between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission. London: SCM Press, 1972.
_____. The Growth of the Church in Buganda; An Attempt at Understanding. London: SCM Press, 1958.
_____. The Incarnate God. Harrisburg, Pa: Morehouse, 2006.
_____. Kingdom Come. London: SCM Press, 1989.
_____. Let’s Join the Human Race: Mission in a Shrinking World. Cambridge: [s.n.], 1970.
_____. A Matter of Life and Death. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third, 1988.
_____. On Seeing the World Whole. London: Church Missionary Society, 1974.
_____. In Perilous Paths. Greenwich, Conn: Seabury Press, 1957.
_____. The Primal Vision; Christian Presence Amid African Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963.
_____. Processes of Growth in an African Church. London: SCM Press, 1958.
_____. See for Yourself. London: Highway Press, 1968.
_____. The Spiritual Equipment of the Local Church and Its Servants. 1950.
_____. Uncancelled Mandate: Four Bible Studies on Christian Mission and the Approaching Millennium. London: Church House Pub, 1998.
_____. Were You There? An African Presentation of the Passion Story. London: Highway Press, 1950.
Taylor, John Vernon, and Dorothea A. Lehmann. Christians of the Copperbelt. London: SCM Press, 1961.
Wood, David. Poet, Priest and Prophet: The Life and Thought of Bishop John V. Taylor. London: Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, 2002.
The Guardian posted an obituary.
Theodore Pratt (left) and John Taylor (right)