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Oral history interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985

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Creator:Taylor, J. Randolph (John Randolph), 1929-
Creator:Kalk, Bruce H., 1963-
Title:Oral history interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985
Date:1985 May 23

At the time of this 1985 interview, J. Randolph Taylor was just leaving his Charlotte pastorate to assume the presidency of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Taylor begins by explaining the influence his parents, particularly his father, had on him. Until his mother died when he was three, his family lived in China's Kiangsu province. At that point, his father moved the family back to the United States, but Taylor values his early exposure to the non-Western church. After college, Taylor and his wife Arline went to Scotland so he could study the works of James Denney under New Testament theologian Archibald M. Hunter. After he earned his degree, the Taylors returned to America, where he took a pulpit at the Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. During that time, Taylor became aware of his own racism and decided that "guilt is not an adequate response." With the Reverend Jefferson Rogers, he helped launch the Washington Branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and through that organization, he met Martin Luther King Jr. Shortly before King's death, Arline and Randolph moved to Atlanta to lead Central Presbyterian Church, and he formed a partnership between his congregation and King's church. These experiences convinced him only interracial cooperation would solve America's racial problems, but he was one of the only whites involved in the SCLC. He helped found A Fellowship of Concern, a Presbyterian anti-racism organization, as a way to increase the participation of white churchgoers in these efforts. At this point in the interview, Taylor examines how various church organizations, especially seminaries, congregations, and Presbyterian denominations handled desegregation. Taylor believes that his immersion in southern life was an advantage because he not only attacked injustice, but also helped heal the wounds that the civil rights movement left. By 1985, Taylor believed the American church needed to address more than racial inequality, and he explains which areas remain and the theological reasons for choosing those areas. Moving from that topic, he expounds upon his foundational beliefs. One of Taylor's most important denominational roles was when he co-chaired the Joint Committee on Presbyterian Union, and he clarifies how the committee reconciled the doctrinal, structural, philosophical, and racial differences between the church's northern and southern branches. He offers his perspective on the ecumenical movement and its benefits. Over the last half of the twentieth century, conservative evangelicalism grew in influence among the mainline churches, and Taylor considers why it spread, what its benefits are, and what pitfalls denominations must avoid. He ends the interview by looking forward to his new post at SFTS, explaining what he hopes to accomplish there.

The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the aggregation and enhancement of partner metadata.

Types:Transcripts | Sound recordings | Oral histories
Subjects:King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 | Taylor, J. Randolph (John Randolph), 1929- | Southern States--Race relations | Presbyterian Church--Clergy--North Carolina | Southern Christian Leadership Conference | Presbyterian Church--Southern States--Clergy | Civil rights workers--Southern States | Southern States--Race relations--Religious aspects | Segregation--Southern States | Civil rights movements--Southern States | Church and social problems--Presbyterian Church | Presbyterian Church in the U.S. | Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) | North Carolina | Southern States
Collection:Oral Histories of the American South: The Civil Rights Movement
Institution:Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Contributors:Southern Oral History Program | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project) | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library | Oral histories of the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project))
Online Publisher:[Chapel Hill, N.C.] : University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. | 2007
Original Material:

Title from menu page (viewed on Oct. 26, 2008).

Interview participants: J. Randolph Taylor, interviewee; Bruce Kalk, interviewer.

Duration: 01:39:23.

This electronic edition is part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South. It is a part of the collection Oral histories of the American South.

Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner. Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers.

Related Materials:

Forms part of Oral histories of the American South collection.

Persistent Link to Item:http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/C-0021/menu.html