George Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor. When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940. He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941. He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry. He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.
Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942 and to this marriage, four children were born.
After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the B.D. degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948. He was also ordained in 1948. He served as pastor of Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia for two years and then became pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina. In 1950 he then entered Duke University for graduate study. Later he was awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.
Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959. He became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles, and wrote A Sober Faith in 1953. His book St. Luke’s Life of Jesus was published in 1954.
In 1959 Dr. Taylor became editor of The Presbyterian Journal, an independent weekly with an international circulation and with offices in Asheville, North Carolina. He served in this capacity for twenty-four years, and during that time was active in the conservative movement in the PCUS which eventuated in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), formed in 1973. He was a leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of its General Assembly in 1978.
In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and was inaugurated in December of that year. However, three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly. Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, and funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina. Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.
The first issue of The Southern Presbyterian Journal appeared in May of 1942. Dr. L. Nelson Bell, Dr. Henry B. Dendy and a handful of like-minded men had founded the magazine to combat the liberalism that was beginning to influence the Southern Presbyterian Church [the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., or PCUS]. The Journal began in Weaverville, North Carolina, but later moved to Asheville, North Carolina. The magazine continued under the name The Southern Presbyterian Journal until 1959, at which time the name was changed to The Presbyterian Journal. This name change coincided with a change of editors. Henry B. Dendy had originally signed on as editor at Bell’s urging. As he stated at his resignation, “the temporary position stretched out to over seventeen years.” Dendy continued to serve as managing editor and business manager as the post of Editor was handed over to the Rev. G. Aiken Taylor. That change was effective with the October 7, 1959 issue (Vol. 18, No. 23). Taylor was committed to continuing Nelson Bell’s agenda: awakening Southern Presbyterians to the decline of their church. However, Taylor had a different result in mind. He despaired of reforming the PCUS and set about working toward a large, non-regional, conservative Presbyterian denomination.
No one was more instrumental in organizing the Presbyterian Church in America, and making it a national denomination, than Aiken Taylor. Ironically, the formation of the PCA—the Journal’s main goal as far as Taylor was concerned—caused the beginning of a long decline in circulation. As more and more Journal readers became PCA members, there was decreasing need for a periodical designed to warn of liberalism in the PCUS. Dr. Taylor left the Journal in 1983 [to serve as president of the Biblical Seminary of Hatfield, PA], and he died shortly after his departure. Dr. William S. Barker became editor, but the Journal continued for only a few more years. Its last issue was that of March 18, 1987.
Pictured above right—the original home of the Southern Presbyterian Journal.
At left, Dr. G. Aiken Taylor.
Words to Live By:
While Presbyterian newspapers and magazines have rarely been financially viable, there remains a place for denominational and trans-denominational news services. The PCA has byFaith;the OPC has NewHorizons; the RPCNA has the RP Witness; and the Associated Reformed Presbyterians have the ARP Magazine. Whether in print or digital format, these services provide a much-needed connectionalism between a denomination’s churches and members. They can make us aware of ministries and opportunities for service, as well as informing our prayers. In short, they strengthen the necessary connections that undergird each denomination. And for this reason, these publications deserve your prayers and support. Subscribe if you can to the print format, and encourage your church to make issues available to its members. Bookmark the web link and visit weekly to stay abreast of the news within your denomination. Better, visit the other links provided above and get to know your brothers and sisters in other denominations. Pray for them too, for they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, engaged with you in this great spiritual battle to proclaim the Gospel and extend God’s kingdom across the whole earth.
Today’s post looks at the life of G. Aiken Taylor, and so provides a good place to first announce that the PCA Historical Center will again be sponsoring a contest for the best essay on American Presbyterian history. The contest will be open to currently enrolled seminary students who are members in good standing with any of the NAPARC denominations. Entries must be received by July 15th this year. More information to follow very soon!
Very Much the Churchman
George Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor. The influence of that upbringing was clearly manifest in later years, for one of Dr. Taylor’s adversaries once said of him, “Dr. Taylor was born of missionary parents in Brazil, and I happen to know that he is ‘not conscious of color…'”
When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940. He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941. He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry. He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.
Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942. Together they raised four children.
After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948. He was also ordained that same year and installed as pastor of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia, where he served for two years before becoming pastor of the Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina. In 1950 he entered Duke University for graduate study and was later awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.
Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959, and during those years he became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles. His book, A Sober Faith, was one result of that work and was published in 1953. A second book, St. Luke’s Life of Jesus, was published in 1954.
When Dr. L. Nelson Bell stepped down as editor of The Southern Presbyterian Journal in 1959, it was Aiken Taylor who took on those duties, serving as editor until 1983. It is interesting to note that one of Dr. Taylor’s conditions for taking the job entailed a name change for the magazine, which now became simply The Presbyterian Journal. This name change was a reflection of Taylor’s own ecumenical aspirations. Taylor was instrumental in the formation of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (NPRF), which in turn led to the formation of another conservative ecumenical organization, the North American Presbyterian & Reformed Council. During his tenure as editor, he was also active in the conservative movement within the Presbyterian Church, US (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church), an effort which eventually led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973. Subsequently Taylor was a key leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of the General Assembly of that denomination in 1978.
In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where he succeeded the founding president of the school, Dr. Allan A. MacRae. Taylor was inaugurated in December of that year, but just three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly. Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, with funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina. Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.
Words to Live By: I have been told that it was Francis Schaeffer who coined the phrase “split P’s” when speaking of all the many divisions among Presbyterians. But for all those divisions, the latter half of the twentieth century turned out to be largely a time of focus on union and cooperation. Among the conservative Presbyterian denominations, merger talks were actively underway between various groups from 1956 until about the close of the century. Sadly, since that time the silence has been deafening. Dr. Taylor had the right idea in forming the NPRF, where conservatives of all denominations could fellowship together and thus overcome distrust and distance. Leaving all talk of mergers entirely aside, for the cause of Christ we as conservative Presbyterians need to be creating opportunities to work and fellowship alongside one another. Some might say that the many para-church groups now provide this function, but is that really enough, and are they effective for this purpose?
For Further Study:
In his years as editor of The Presbyterian Journal, Dr. Taylor was no stranger to debate and even controversy. One of the more (in)famous incidents involved his editorial titled “Lo, the TR!” and the many responses that followed. Our readers may be familiar with the term “TR” but to get the full story in context, click here.
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