The legacy of William Taylor.
His travel and the expense of establishing churches was financed primarily through the sale of the seventeen books that came from his pen. The sales were encouraged by numerous periodicals that he edited, as well as by the weekly or monthly reports of his exploits, which he submitted to many Methodist and Holiness periodicals. These were read and provided models for ministry both within and outside of the Methodist tradition. Within the Wesleyan/Holiness traditions he became a crucial figure, but he was appreciated also by Baptists, Friends, Presbyterians, "Keswickian" evangelicals, and eventually Pentecostals both in North America and Europe.(1)
Despite this fame and influence, despite having spent the last twelve years of his career as missionary bishop (1884-96), and despite having established patterns for "self-supporting" missions, writers as diverse as official historians of Methodist mission and Robert Speer, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, sought to undercut the legacy of William Taylor.(2) As a result he disappeared from the historiography of mission; even Stephen Neill and William Hutchison are silent about him.(3) Who, then, was William Taylor, and what is his legacy?
Taylor as Missionary, to 1875
Taylor's father, Stuart (married Martha E. Hickman in 1819), was converted in a Methodist camp meeting in the hills of Virginia and became an evangelist. William Taylor attended the local one-room school, where he received all of his formal education. Like his father, who belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church, he also had a religious experience at the Panther Gap Camp Meeting (Virginia) and, after a few months of teaching school (1842), entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He married Ann Kimberlin in 1846. She accompanied him on his early travels but thereafter mostly stayed at home to care for their five children. The next seven years saw a slow, painful adaptation of a lower-class country youth to the demand of ministry. In 1845 he became a member of the Baltimore Methodist Conference. Under the influence of Walter and Phoebe Palmer, he became a lifelong advocate of "holiness." He pastored both in Georgetown and North Baltimore, where he attracted the attention of Bishop Beverly Waugh of the Baltimore area, who was the driving force of Methodist Episcopal missions to the West.
Waugh recruited Taylor as a missionary to California. With a portable church building and his family, Taylor sailed from Baltimore on April 19, 1849, rounded South America, and arrived in San Francisco after a stressful voyage (a child died on route). There he avoided the easier and more prosperous sites of ministry to focus on the central "Plaza" area. Here he nursed the sick, aided the impoverished, defended native Americans, ministered in Chinese labor camps, and built a church complete with a bookroom and a temperance hotel for seamen in the port area. In order to build the complex, a loan was taken out by the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1856, the uninsured facility burned; as he described it, "rents stopped; interest on money went on."
The disaster forced Taylor to return to the East, where he endeavored to raise money to repay the loan. He was successful as an evangelist, and his book describing his experiences in California sold well, but national financial crises worked against his purposes. After continuing his efforts in Canada, he went via England (where he wrote a treatise on the U.S. Civil War) to Australia (May 1863-March 1866). In Australia "California Taylor," as he was known, proved effective as an evangelist and raised significant funds for Australian Methodist schools but little for himself. His son's illness required a climatic change, and he had money only to move his family to South Africa (March-October 1866).
South African white Christians did not generally respond favorably to his American revivalist style and message, so he went to the black tribes, where he became an effective evangelist among the indigenous population. This success led to getting his family back to America and then to Ceylon (December 1866-October 1870). In each instance there were reports that thousands were "saved and sanctified," mission efforts were transformed, persons were "called" to ministry, and institutions were established. (We are never told whether the debt in California was repaid.)
Taylor arrived in India, typically penniless, in November 1870, at the invitation of the Methodist Episcopal missionary and Holiness advocate James Thoburn. Here, however, there was no success among the Indians in the shadow of the mission compounds. At loose ends and still impoverished after months of fruitless efforts, the disappointed Taylor struck out on his own. He preached in the large cities of southern India and established Methodist Episcopal churches, thereby breaking the comity agreements. Churches were founded in Bombay, Calcutta, and dozens of other centers. Drawing on his experiences in California and Australia, Taylor established the churches not as missions but as self-supporting churches equal, he argued, to any church in North America. He adapted Indian architecture, which, the entrepreneurial impoverished missionary noted, allowed churches to be built for a fraction of the price from available materials and also did not give offense to Indians. After the congregation was established, he appointed a pastor on site and moved on to another city.
This major expansion of Methodist Episcopal churches was not greeted with enthusiasm in the missionary community. The Methodist Episcopal mission was embarrassed by the breaking of the comity agreements with the (English) Wesleyan Methodists.(4) The mission board was angry that this expansion was done without permission and that the new churches, at Taylor's instruction, insisted on receiving no financial support. The board initiated a ten-year campaign to discredit the concept of self-supporting missions and to force the (eventual) South India Conference to accept American money and status structures as well as mission board control.
Taylor left India early in 1875 for England, where he was invited to preach in the Moody campaigns, often substituting for Moody himself in the main meetings. The British religious press gave him positive coverage, comparing his preaching favorably with that of Moody. After that brief sojourn, he was back in the swirl of controversy engendered by his concept of self-supporting mission. The Methodist Mission Board refused to send out the missionaries Taylor requested, and so he recruited volunteers, raised funds, and sent them himself, including the first Methodist Episcopal missionaries to Burma. Taylor countered mission board claims of irresponsibility, wastefulness, and insubordination with his first foray as mission theorist.
The Pauline Method of Missions
In the midst of the controversy over his activities in South India, Taylor wrote his first missiological essay? It was actually a revision of a diary kept during the years in India that described in detail the failures of the traditional approach to mission and Taylor's lack of success in the traditional mission context, and then chronicled the procedures and results in each city in which self-supporting churches were established. It was a powerful, passionate statement. Taylor universalized his claims, arguing that all mission should be done on a self-supporting model that gives immediate recognition to churches, irrespective of nationality, politics, or geography.
He lacked proof of the theory's viability in other arenas. South America became the site for his grand experiment. On October 16, 1877, Taylor sailed for South America in steerage to survey the situation. Economic, religious, legal, and political structures were studied. He secured pledges from South Americans to support missionaries he promised to send, found jobs for others as teachers of English and agricultural/industrial arts, and founded fledgling congregations. A Transit and Building Fund was established by Taylor and Holiness entrepreneurs in New York to provide for travel and initial capital expenses. Missionaries were recruited and sent.(6) This unauthorized mission effort again intensified the conflict with the Methodist Episcopal Mission Board. Holiness leaders and congregations, however, rallied to his support and fueled his South American missions (1878-84).
It was during this conflict that Taylor produced his principal volume on mission theory, Pauline Methods of Missionary Work. The book set forth the theoretical framework that undergirded Taylor's missionary enterprise, "a brief exhibit of Pauline methods of missionary work." The exposition of the mission theory is remarkably concise. Only the first six and one-half pages (about eight hundred words) are devoted to the "Pauline method of planting the gospel in heathen lands." This is followed by a short chapter arguing that the methods are "suited to the demands of this age." The third chapter, on the present outlook for Pauline self-supporting missions in foreign countries, draws an analogy between the mission opportunities afforded by the Roman and British Empires. There a re no recognizable sources other than the profuse citations of Pauline biblical texts. The rest of the volume describes the "practical tests" in India and South America before concluding with sixteen pages of lists of donors!
Taylor argued that the goal of Pauline mission is independent churches that are self-supporting, entrusted with their own governance, and committed to an evangelistic style that enables them to grow according to their own cultural patterns. Missionaries are to model and encourage that development. Paul's mission endeavors as reported in the Acts of the Apostles and the biblical Pauline literature were thereby construed as the paradigmatic basis for articulating a mission theory. Taylor presented the "Pauline plan" in the following list:
1. To plant nothing but pure gospel seed.
2. Paul laid the entire responsibility of Church work and Church government upon his native converts, under the immediate supervision of the Holy Spirit, just as fast as he and his tried and trusted fellow-missionaries could get them well organized, precluding foreign interference. His general administrative bishops were natives of the foreign countries in which he planted the gospel; such men as Timothy and Titus.
3. Paul "endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" with the home Jerusalem Churches by all possibilities short of corrupting his gospel seed, or allowing the home Churches to put a yoke of bondage on his neck, or laying any restrictions on his foreign Churches.
4. He went and sent, according to the Master, "without purse or scrip," or an extra coat, or pair of shoes above the actual requirements of their health and comfort.
5. In utilizing for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, and for the support of its ministers and institutions, all available agencies and resources, he uniformly commenced in Jewish communities which had become indigenous in all the great centres of population throughout the Roman Empire. . . . As fast as Paul and his fellow-missionaries could get those Jews to receive Christ . . . he organized them in the houses of their leading men and women, into self-supporting Churches and spiritually aggressive combinations of agency for the salvation of their heathen neighbors.
6. To give permanency and continued aggressive force to his organizings . . . he remained in each centre of work long enough only to effect a complete organization . . . (and) to develop the Christian character of each member up to the standard of holiness.(7)
Despite his favorable comparison of the Anglo-Saxon empires to that of Paul's Rome, for Taylor the British and American presence did not have inherent value. It was merely a historical accident that should be used to the advantage of proclaiming the Gospel. He harbored no illusions about the Christian identity of Anglo-Saxon culture. He felt it was in the process of contaminating the native populations, thereby giving Christianity a bad name. Mission work that did not address the problem posed by heathen expatriates was doomed to failure. The great cities of Asia, Africa, and South America with concentrations of Anglo-Saxons and their descendants were the scenes in which this battle should be fought.
Taylor also argued that one should avoid a confrontational style when relating to other cultural or religious traditions:
The modern method of most of the learned advocates of Christianity in dealing with Buddhists, Mohammedans, Hindoos, and unbelievers at home and abroad, is to set forth their tenets of belief in the form of dogmatic propositions, and proceed with their arguments to prove that those religions of their opponents are all wrong, and that theirs are all right; but unfortunately, their opponents do not admit the premises on which the attacking argument is based, hence the argument is worthless. . . . The Apostles, as sound logicians, always laid the major premise of their arguments in the region of admitted truth.(8)
His respect for Asian, African, and South American cultures is evident in his writings, and his descriptions of peoples and places has enduring ethnographic value. Contrary to most mission publicity efforts, he did not seek to portray others in an unfavorable light and urged his missionaries to adapt to and adopt the host culture. Those who did so needed no furlough, and those who refused to do so should be sent home as soon as possible!
Experience in California, Australia, and India had also taught Taylor that when missionaries insisted on establishing structures that were expensive to maintain, they made it impossible for a church to achieve independence and vitality. He notes that the churches established by the apostles were "purely self-supporting from the start. Its seems never to have entered the minds of the inspired apostles, nor of the people, that the great work of their high calling, the salvation of the world, required the construction of costly edifices, with their expensive appendages, to be called churches, involving a vast outlay of funds, making dependence on rich men a necessity."(9)
There are several recurring themes in Taylor's analysis. The desire for independence in the mission processes, both in recruitment and acculturation of converts, is primary. The missions are to be self-supporting with the efforts funded by resources raised among the target population. Missionary leadership is to be temporary but exacting, and missionaries are to model moderate asceticism. These issues were not new with Taylor. What gave these assertions a revolutionary ring in North American mission circles were the underlying assumptions. Perhaps the most provocative was the assumption of the centrality of indigenous economic resources to the mission process, and its corollary that North American or European resources have no advantage or priority over other resources and may even be counterproductive to the development of committed indigenous Christian communities in other cultures. His opponents claimed that the mission board structure was the modern approach to missions; they insisted that the mission agencies receive and channel all funds, maintain instructional control over converts, and directly supervise the missionaries. The American mission establishment was incapable of understanding the significance of Taylor's critique.
What was better understood was the shift in the reading of the biblical text. In Taylor's early writings, the biblical stories of Paul's exploits were used to illustrate concerns and techniques with special attention to theological content. In Pauline Methods of Missionary Work Paul's missionary activity is taken as a normative model for modern missions; the Pauline narratives become paradigmatic. Thus the biblical Paul became a battleground for competing mission theories.
Proving the Theory: William Taylor as Model
This small missiological essay by itself would not have made a long-term impact on mission theory. Taylor's Pauline Method achieved lasting significance because he was able to maintain a public discussion for nearly two decades. This discussion continued on two levels: (1) the dispute with the Methodist Mission Board and, more important, (2) the presentation of "scientific proof" that the method worked by narrating in detail his own experiences in many religious journals. The two foci were always closely related. Taylor, being unaware of the depth of the sociocultural gulf separating him and his supporters from the mission board and their nouveau riche urban constituency, naively thought that if he could only demonstrate that the method produced the results the mission board professed to seek, the board would legitimate and adopt the theory. The appeal to popular opinion kept those alienated by the embourgeoisement of American Methodism after the Civil War supportive of his Cause.
In 1882 the General Missionary Committee, in support of the mission board, forced Taylor and his missionaries to "locate" in local churches.(10) Taylor responded by becoming a member of a local church in the South India conference but stayed in South America, where he pastored in Coquimbo, Chile, and loosely supervised his missionaries. While there, he was chosen as a lay delegate to the 1884 General Conference by the South India conference, which was still struggling to resist mission board domination and funds. At the 1884 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Taylor was elected missionary bishop for Africa.(11) As part of a compromise arrangement the mission board agreed to continue the "self-supporting" tradition of the new Methodist Episcopal churches in South America. This arrangement was continued until Taylor's retirement, when the board asserted more direct control of local mission activity and churches, a move that led to the development of Pentecostalism in Chile and Peru.
As missionary bishop (1884-96), Taylor had more visibility but no success in changing the ecclesiastical and mission board structures. He also had no success in weaning the Methodist Church in Liberia from the board's supervision and financial infusions. Always clear, often strident, he continued to argue for the "Pauline Method." His books and articles describing mission work in India, Latin America, and Africa continued the discussion long after his retirement and death.
It was the life of William Taylor as narrated and interpreted by himself that provided the base for mission theories in the Holiness churches and, eventually, the European Pentecostal churches.(12) Paul's model received for thousands of missionaries its definitive exegesis in the intense entrepreneurial style that remained unwavering in its conviction and that sacrificed all else for the cause of the propagation of the Gospel.
There are myriad examples of individuals who became missionaries on Taylor's example and sought to accomplish the same goals. These individuals became the theorists and practitioners of the next generation of revivalist mission, including most Holiness and Pentecostal efforts, both in North America and Europe and in the so-called Third World. For example, Taylor served as model for Free Methodist Vivian Dake, the Pentecost Bands, and A. B. Simpson.(13) William Sherman and Anna Abrams established the Vanguard Mission, a mission organization based on Taylor's principles in St. Louis that influenced the Wesleyan/Holiness and Pentecostal movements.(14) Lela McConnell, convinced of Taylor's program, developed a self-supporting mission in eastern Kentucky.(15) Fort Wayne College was moved to Upland, Indiana, and renamed Taylor University, by which the board and administrators affirmed their independence from denominational controls on the model of Taylor's program of missional self-reliance. Within European(16) and Chilean(17) Pentecostalism, Taylor provided a theoretical basis for local autonomy and a model for indigenous mission activity. In the present generation he is being rediscovered in Latin American Pentecostal missiology.(18) He thus had a formative influence on the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, the eleventh and third largest Christian communions respectively. He also inspired numerous Methodist missionaries. Among Methodist missionaries to India, for example, he was the inspiration of, among others, J. and I. Thoburn, E. Stanley Jones, J. Waskom Pickett, Frederick Bohn Fisher, and E. A. Seamands. In many ways it was Taylor who is primarily responsible for the rapid expansion of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the late nineteenth century. It was the theory of Pauline methods modeled by his life that achieved that legacy. As a theorist who wrote before Nevius and Allen, William Taylor deserves attention as an eminent mission thinker.
1. For a detailed analysis of Taylor's life, ministry, and publishing history, see D. Bundy, "Bishop William Taylor and Methodist Mission: A Study in Nineteenth Century Social History," Methodist History 27, no. 4 (July 1989): 197-210; 28, no. 1 (October 1989): 2-21. Taylor's papers have not been located and probably no longer exist. Most extant letters and other relevant unpublished works are mentioned in the above article.
2. W. Crawford Barclay, The History of Methodist Missions, vol. 3: The Methodist Episcopal Church, 1845-1939: Widening Horizons (New York: Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, 1957); Robert E. Speer, Servants of the King (New York: Young People's Movement of the United States and Canada, 1910).
3. Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions, Pelican History of the Church, 6 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); William R. Hutchison, Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987). The only biography, the quaintly titled work of the Holiness scholar John Paul, The Soul Digger; or, The Life and Times of William Taylor (Upland, Ind.: Taylor Univ. Press, 1928), adds little to the works of Taylor. William Taylor contributed many autobiographical statements, the most comprehensive being Story of My Life: An Account of what I have thought and said and done in my ministry of more than fifty-three years in Christian lands and among the heathen, written by myself, ed. John Redpath (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1895); British edition, William Taylor of California, Bishop of Africa, an Autobiography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1897).
4. Taylor's breaking of the comity agreements was a major issue at the first Methodist Ecumenical Conference, held in London in 1881.
5. William Taylor, Four Years' Campaign in India (London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1875).
6. Taylor's account was published as Our South American Cousins (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1878; New York: Nelson and Phillips).
7. William Taylor, Pauline Methods of Missionary Work (Philadelphia: National Association for the Promotion of Holiness, 1879), pp. 5-9.
8. Ibid., pp. 31-32
9. Ibid., p. 33.
10. The hierarchy's intent was to reassert control over Methodist clergy, insisting that they would lose their Methodist ecclesiastical standing if they remained in missionary activity not approved, controlled, and funded by the Methodist Mission Board. This effort failed, as only one of the Taylor missionaries left the field of service to return to the United States. It is also worth noting that, contrary to the practice of the established mission boards, Taylor recruited women (including single women) without prejudice and appointed them to positions in which they were able to design, found, and direct their own mission programs.
11. The election of Taylor as missionary bishop was the result of a remarkable and unorganized coalition. The mission board attempted to control him with a salary and remove him from South America; Holiness advocates saw him as their representative; racist Methodist Episcopal clergy and laity used his election to avoid being forced to confront the idea of electing an African-American bishop. On this, see D. Bundy, "Bishop William Taylor," part 2, pp. 10-12. For the larger cultural context, see Victor B. Howard, Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870 (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1990).
12. This is explored in detail in "Pauline Methods: The Mission Theory of William Taylor," in D. Bundy, "Holiness unto the Lord: The Cultual Structure of Wesleyan/Holiness Evangelicalism" (typescript).
13. T. H. Nelson, The Life and Labors of Rev. Vivian A. Dake (Chicago: T. B. Arnold, 1894); A. B. Simpson, Larger Outlooks on Missionary Lands (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1893).
14. Detailed in the Vanguard, which is only partially preserved at the Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Mo.
15. Lela G. McConnell, The Pauline Ministry in the Kentucky Mountains (Berne, Ind.: Economy Printing, 1972).
16. See, for example, T. B. Barratt, "Bishop William Taylor," Kristelig tidende 18, no. 23 (June 7, 1889): 179; O. Nilsen, Ut i all verden (Olso: Filadelfiaforlaget, 1981); D. Bundy, "T. B. Barratt's Christiania (Oslo) City Mission: A Study in the Intercultural Adaptation of American and British Voluntary Association Structures," in Crossing Borders, Conference on Pentecostal and Charismatic Research in Europe (Zurich: n.p., 1991), pp. 1-15.
17. J. B. A. Kessler, Jr., A Study of the Older Protestant Missions and Churches in Peru and Chile, with Special Reference to the Problems of Division, Nationalism, and Native Ministry (Goes: Oosterbaan en Le Cointre, 1967).
18. Ruben Zavala Hidalgo, Historia de las Asambleas de Dios del Peru (Lima: Ediciones Dios es Amor, 1989). Much of the fabled Latin American Pentecostalism (as in China, India, and Africa) traces its origins back to European, especially Scandinavian and British, roots, the chief theorists and practitioners of which were influenced by Taylor through T. B. Barratt.
Selected Works by William Taylor
1856 Seven Years' Street Preaching in San Francisco, California: Embracing Indigents, Triumphant Death Scenes, etc. Ed. W. P. Strickland. New York: Carlton and Porter.
1858 California Life Illustrated. New York: Carlton and Porter.
1862 Cause and Probable Results of the Civil War in America: Facts for the People of Great Britain. London: Simpkin, Marshall.
1868 The Election of Grace. London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: Carlton and Lanahan.
1875 Four Years' Campaign in India. London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: Nelson and Phillips.
1878 Our South American Cousins. London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: Nelson and Phillips.
1879 Pauline Methods of Missionary Work. Philadelphia: National Association for the Promotion of Holiness.
1882 Ten Years of Self-Supporting Missions in India. New York: Phillips and Hunt.
1885 Africa Illustrated: Scenes from Daily Life on the Dark Continent, with Photographs Secured in Africa by Bishop William Taylor, Dr. Emil Holub, and the Missionary Superintendents. New York: Illustrated Africa.
1895 Story of My Life: An Account of what I have thought and said and done in my ministry of more than fifty-three years in Christian lands and among the heathen, written by myself. Ed. John Clark Redpath, engravings by Frank Beard. New York: Eaton and Mains. British edition: William Taylor of California, Bishop of Africa, an Autobiography. Revised with a preface by C. G. Moore. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1897.
1898 The Flaming Torch in Darkest Africa, with an introduction by Henry M. Stanley. New York: Eaton and Mains.
Taylor also edited a number of periodicals, the most important of which are African News (1889-94), Illustrated Christian World (1894-98), and Illustrated Africa (1891-96). There appears to be no significant collection of manuscript materials. Individual letters are scattered throughout the United States in the personal papers of his correspondents. However, much of his correspondence (together with appeals from his supporters) appears to have been published in various periodicals, including the Christian Advocate (various regional editions), the Gospel in All Lands, the Guide to Holiness, Zion's Herald, Divine Life, the Vanguard, and Indian Witness, as well as his own publications.
Selected Works about Taylor
Arms, Goodsil F. History of the William Taylor Self-Supporting Missions in South America. New York: Methodist Book Concern, 1921.
Barchwitz-Klauser, O. von. Six Years with William Taylor in South America. Boston: McDonald and Gill, 1885.
Bundy, David. "Bishop William Taylor and Methodist Mission: A Study in Nineteenth Century Social History. Part I: From Campmeeting Convert to International Evangelist." Methodist History 27, no. 4 (July 1989): 197-210.
-----. "Bishop William Taylor and Methodist Mission: A Study in Nineteenth Century Social History. Part II: Social Structures in Collision." Methodist History 28, no. 1 (October 1989): 2-21.
------. "Pauline Methods: The Mission. Theory of William Taylor." In "Holiness unto the Lord: The Cultural Structures of Wesleyan/Holiness Evangelicalism" (typescript).
-----. "Wesleyan Holiness Mission Theory." In "Holiness unto the Lord: The Cultural Structures of Wesleyan/Holiness Evangelicalism" (typescript).
Davies, E. The Bishop of Africa; or, The Life of William Taylor, D.D., with an Account of the Congo Country and Mission. Reading, Mass.: Holiness Book Concern, 1885.
Paul, John. The Soul Digger; or, The Life and Times of William Taylor. Upland, Ind.: Taylor Univ. Press, 1928.
David Bundy is librarian and associate professor of church history at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana. A United Methodist layman, he is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He taught at Asbury Seminary before coming to CTS.
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|Title Annotation:||Methodist missionary|
|Publication:||International Bulletin of Missionary Research|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1994|
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