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Brooklyn joins nation in mourning Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor

Longtime Brooklyn Pastor Called ‘A Prince of Preachers’

April 13, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rev. Dr. Gardner Taylor. AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File
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The Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, widely considered to be the dean of the nation’s black preachers and “the poet laureate of American Protestantism,” died on April 5 at the age of 96. The Rev. Carroll Baltimore, past president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, confirmed that Taylor died on Easter Sunday, which many Christians also call Resurrection Sunday.

A prominent and courageous civil rights leader, Dr. Taylor was also the pastor of Brooklyn’s renowned Concord Baptist Church of Christ, which spans a block in Bedford-Stuyvesant, along a street that was named in his honor during his lifetime.

Concord Baptist Church of Christ, the prominent brick church that Dr. Taylor led for 42 years, already had a long abolitionist history dating to 1847 — before the Civil War. An online church history recounts that Dr. Taylor became pastor in March, 1948, just a year after the church’s centennial, and nurtured Concord to become a beacon of hope and vitality for many African-Americans in Brooklyn and a model for the nation. When the church was destroyed by fire in 1952, Dr. Taylor defied naysayers by not only rebuilding the edifice, but also doubling its size.

Concord still operates its own elementary school, nursing home, credit union and million-dollar endowment used to invest in the community. However, it was Dr. Taylor’s preaching for more than four decades that made Concord’s pulpit “the most prestigious in black Christendom,” proclaimed author and scholar Michael Eric Dyson. He became so renowned that an academic series, the Gardner C. Taylor Lectures in Black Preaching at Duke Divinity School, bears his name.

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Dr. Taylor will also be remembered for his leadership during a rancorous time in black Baptist history, particularly in the National Baptist Convention, USA. In 1960, Dr. Taylor, civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other black ministers split from this denomination after a fierce debate over King’s civil rights agenda, which many black clergy members of the day deemed too politically liberal. Dr. Taylor and other King supporters seceded from the convention and formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention, of which Dr. Taylor was once president. He later recalled that he had lost friends over the split. Yet, he remained steadfast in his commitment to God, his ministry and impassioned preaching.

Dr. Taylor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000 from former President Bill Clinton.

The Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, national presiding minister of House of the Lord Churches, with a congregation based in Boerum Hill, stated in a written eulogy that he knew and worked with Dr. Taylor for more than 40 years.

“I join countless admirers who are mourning the passing of the Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, the former pastor of the historic Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was known the world over. He was one of a kind. He was compassionate, humble and caring,” Dr. Daughtry said. “Rev. Taylor was a prince of preachers, a superlative administrator, a sagacious organizer, an astute politician and a wise businessman. He was a passionate fighter for justice — indeed, a father of the civil rights movement. But, most of all, he was a man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ, his family and his people.”

Dr. Daughtry continued, “I knew and worked with him for over 40 years. The last major venture in which we were involved — indeed, before his retirement in 1990 — was the election of Mayor David Dinkins. He called me and suggested that we should co-chair with the then-Assemblyman Al Vann a gathering of clergy and elected officials to support Mr. Dinkins. We assembled at my church, The House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and developed our strategy to elect Mr. Dinkins. On the night before the elections, hundreds gathered at Concord Baptist Church, including the leading ministers and elected officials. The rest is history. Among his many achievements, Rev. Taylor can lay claim to the election of Mr. Dinkins as the first black mayor of New York City.”

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) released the following statement on the passing of the Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor: “The Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor was an iconic preacher for the ages. His sharp intellect, legendary oratory and unmatched understanding of the gospel led to a well-earned reputation among many as the greatest preacher of the 20th century. Dr. Taylor emerged as a spiritual force and transformational civic leader. While he has left us, Dr. Taylor’s powerful life and legacy will never be forgotten.”

 


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