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Taylor, William George (1845–1934)

by Don Wright

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

William George Taylor (1845-1934), Methodist minister, was born on 18 January 1845 at Knayton, Yorkshire, England, son of John Shemelds Taylor, grocer and later mill-owner, and his wife Mary Ann, née Morton. From Preston Grammar School, Stokesley, in 1859 William was apprenticed to an accountant with Gilkes, Wilson, Pease & Co., local 'iron kings'. Converted at the age of 12 in a Wesleyan class meeting, Taylor began his own evangelical preaching career in 1861, winning his first convert in July. He was received as a candidate for the Wesleyan ministry in 1868 and trained at Richmond College, London.

In answer to a call for preachers in Australia, Taylor reached Sydney in the Patriarch on 18 January 1871. He was appointed second minister at Albert Street, Brisbane, then served at Warwick (1872-75) and Toowoomba (1876-78). Soon after her arrival from England, he married Ann Sarah Robey on 25 February 1874 at Kinellan, near Brisbane.

Appointed in 1879 to the Manning River, New South Wales, Taylor transferred to Glebe, Sydney, in 1882. In the midst of a successful ministry, he was removed in 1884 against his will to the failing York Street Church in the hope that he could save Wesleyan Methodism from the embarrassment of a near empty church in the inner city. To the consternation of many, Taylor resolved to employ unorthodox methods: street preaching, brass bands and the use of 'shocking pink' posters and handbills to advertise services. A singer of some ability, he also made imaginative use of choral and solo music in his services and after-meetings. He stressed the place of prayer and once held a ten-day prayer meeting. He also founded the 'United Methodist Holiness Association' to emphasize the Wesleyan teaching of 'entire satisfaction' or 'scriptural holiness'.

Worn out by 1887, Taylor visited Britain for his health. Back in Sydney he spent a year at William Street before returning in 1888 to York Street (Sydney Central Methodist Mission) where he remained, save for five years, until 1913. On special assignment he raised funds in Britain and the United States of America in 1893-94 and spent three years at Bathurst (1895-97). He was president of the New South Wales Wesleyan Methodist Conference in 1896 and of the New South Wales Council of Churches in 1899. Chaplain to the military forces (1900-06), he was also Methodist naval chaplain on the Australian Station until 1915.

Taylor gradually introduced a panoply of service organizations around his church; these included a mission to seamen (1886), a training college for evangelists (1889), a boys' brigade, Dalmar Children's Homes (1893), a shelter for 'fallen' women (1902), together with general philanthropic assistance. Most innovative of all, if a little provocative, since some thought it involved a step toward Rome, was his creation in 1890 of the Home for 'Sisters of the People', essentially the beginning of the Methodist deaconess movement in Australia. While many of these steps were taken in imitation of his English friends Charles Garrett of Liverpool and Hugh Price Hughes of London, the name Central Methodist Mission was probably first used in Sydney by Taylor.

A product of the fervent Methodism characteristic of Yorkshire, Taylor was essentially an evangelist and regarded any preaching that did not aim at winning converts as opportunity wasted. He possessed a fine voice, a commanding presence and a vigorous and picturesque preaching style. Revival followed him wherever he went and ailing Methodist causes were renewed in spiritual power, as well as in numbers and financial security. Taylor was a man of vision with the executive and administrative ability to implement his ideals. Able to inspire extraordinary loyalty in others who willingly co-operated in his plans, he combined the traditional spiritual life of the Church with Christian humanitarianism.

Becoming a supernumerary in 1913, Taylor published his autobiography, The Life Story of an Australian Evangelist (London, 1920), a lively account of Methodism in Australia. In 1924 he gave a collection of books to the Fisher Library and continued to take a vital interest in the work of the Church. Survived by his wife, three sons and five daughters, he died at his Lindfield home on 24 September 1934 and was buried in the Methodist section of Gore Hill cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. I. Wright, Mantle of Christ (Brisb, 1984)
  • Methodist Church of Australasia, New South Wales Conference Minutes, 1935, p 86
  • D. Wright, ‘W. G. Taylor and the Foundation of the Central Methodist Mission’, Church Heritage, 3, no 3, Mar 1984, p 226
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Mar 1920, 6 Feb 1924, 25 Sept 1934
  • Sun (Sydney), 25 Sept 1934
  • Methodist (Sydney), 29 Sept 1934.

Citation details

Don Wright, 'Taylor, William George (1845–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-william-george-8766/text15365, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 31 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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