Dr. Gardner Taylor, deemed by Time magazine as “dean of the nation’s black preachers,” turns 90 today. Happy birthday!
We wish him well and thank him for decades of stirring preaching and faithful ministry, including 42 years at Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dr. Taylor lives in Raleigh, N.C., now. In May 2006, I spent time with him while he was giving lectures (preaching, that is) during the Chester Brown-Hampton Baptist Church Preaching and Worship Conference hosted annually by Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.
(The interview is in the July 2006 issue of Baptists Today.)
Then approaching his 88th birthday, Dr. Taylor said he could “feel the spray of the Jordan in my face.” We are pleased he has been given more years to reach this milestone of age 90.
A civil rights activist who helped birth the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Dr. Taylor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000. But one hears no name-dropping or bragging — just moving messages of hope and grace — when around him.
“The Civil Rights Movement lifted from the nation an awful pall of shame and hypocrisy,” Dr. Taylor said in response to one of my questions. “It not only freed black people; it delivered the nation to be free from shame.”
On the need for preachers to keep their egos in check, he said: “‘I’ is the slenderest pronoun. I think a preacher should not try to hide behind it.”
“The strangest thing is the kind of meanness that can accompany supposed orthodoxy,” said Dr. Taylor, concerning fundamentalism. “The worse part of all of this is that it is not about orthodoxy; it is about power.”
Some of Dr. Taylor’s sermons are available in collections from Judson Press as well as from other sources. For several years I have enjoyed his book, The Scarlet Thread, very much.
Happy 90th birthday, Dr. Taylor, and many more!