Bishop William Taylor (1821-1902)
Our University’s Namesake
By Dr. Robert F. Lay
What comes to your mind when you hear the name Taylor University? Life-changing experiences you had on campus? Recent accolades of the University and its accomplishments? If you are like most people, you think of almost anything except Bishop William Taylor, the namesake of our University. This is hardly surprising.
Some ask if our University was named for Hudson Taylor, the legendary missionary to China. That’s a step in the right direction: both Hudson and William Taylor (no relation) burned with evangelistic zeal, and both believed in self-supporting missions and indigenous church leadership. But while Hudson Taylor remained in China for his entire career, William Taylor traveled and preached on every inhabited continent.
William Taylor was an evangelist, author and missionary who served the Methodist Episcopal Church for more than half a century (1842-1896). During this time, he pioneered independent missions to Australia, India, and Latin America. He also pioneered missions to Africa as its first American missionary bishop (1884-1896).
In the early 1890s, the Local Preachers Association saw our original college for just women located in Fort Wayne as a place to prepare Christian ministers and missionaries embodying their ideals. So they “founded” a new identity and mission for the college by (1) relocating the campus to rural, east central Indiana far from the corrupting influences of the city; (2) appointing educator and holiness evangelist Thaddeus Reade, thus aligning the school with the holiness movement; and (3) securing the endorsement, and renaming the college in honor of William Taylor whose life and self-supporting missions exemplified the historical values of the Methodist laity.
William Taylor was well known as a “self-made man” throughout America and the British Empire. His renown gift of preaching, his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and his dogged determination to follow the call of God no matter the cost, led him far and wide in the fulfillment of the great commission.
Taylor traveled hundreds of thousands of miles preaching the gospel, planting churches and schools, and founding missions on every inhabited continent. His great heart for the lost, as well as his maverick, entrepreneurial spirit endeared him to lay-Methodists everywhere, making him a representative figure for our University.
Read more about Bishop William Taylor by reading Dr. Lay’s book available at the campus store.