James Taylor, Jr. (Exclusive Brethren)
James Taylor, Jr. (1899–1970), was the religious leader of the Exclusive Brethren.
Taylor was the son of Irish linen merchant James Taylor Sr, (1870–1953), leader of the Raven Exclusive Brethren from 1908 until his death, when Taylor, Jr., took over. J.T., Jr., lived in New York and was married with several children.
James Taylor junior has had five volumes of his letters published. Much of his oral preaching and Bible studies has been transcribed and is published in an extended series of green books. One feature of his conversational Bible studies is the frequency with which he answers a matter by suggesting he must "enquire," or "enquire in the temple," to secure an answer. His books were published by Gospel and Tract depot, now continuing at Greenford, Middlesex. At the present, this publishing house only sells these books to its members, and not to the general public.
Jim Taylor, Jr., exaggerated biblical teachings on separation from the world to an extreme. He decreed members could not eat or associate in any way with non-members. Membership of professional bodies was also forbidden. Under his teaching the Raven-Taylor Exclusives commenced "Breaking Bread" on Lord's-day at 6 am. Meeting rooms, though ostensibly public places of religious worship, were closed to the general public, unless the individual desiring to visit first be interviewed by two men from the group. His teachings and conduct were the source of much public interest in the UK and the national press occupied itself with, "Big Jim." This resulted in several things. (1) The consolidation of his position among a large section of his followers, (2) the secession of most of his Scottish assemblies and numerous elsewhere in Britain and beyond and, (3) the weakening of other Plymouth Brethren groups both "Open," Glanton and Kelly Brethren, as they moved away from any appearance of the extreme features of Taylorism. His extreme separatist pronouncements were maintained by his successors and followers.
The Aberdeen incident
Under the influence of alcohol, Taylor began to exhibit increasingly erratic behaviour, which came to a head in meetings at Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was heard using strong language, including calling other members, "bums," and, "bastards." Following one meeting, in July, 1970, Taylor was also caught with a naked, married woman in his bedroom. Taylor rejected both accusations but the incident divided the Brethren membership worldwide. 8,000 members left the movement as a result. Those members who were most closely involved and were witnesses or heard firsthand the testimony of the hundreds present at the Aberdeen meetings left the sect. Those members at a greater distance from the centre of the "incident," such as in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand generally stayed in the sect.
This account of the Aberdeen incident is disputed, however, by some researchers who have studied the brethren extensively. The Italian Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) has this to say about it:
(Translation from French) “The first episode relates to the previously mentioned Aberdeen conference in 1970, where a Taylor Jr., old and exhausted (he died the same year) was accused not only of criticizing some opponents but also of a moral fault. There is convincing evidence showing that these accusations are false and that they were launched as part of a campaign to destroy and usurp his authority. Some nevertheless believed these implausible accusations and thus there arose the “post-Aberdeen” Brethren 10 dissidents.”
(Original French) “Le premier episode se rapporte à la conference déjà mentionée d’Aberdeen en 1970, où un Taylor Jr. âgé et épuisé (il mourra dans la même année) est accusé non seulement de critiquer quelques opposants, mais aussi d’une faute morale. Il existe des preuves convaincantes démontrant que ces accusations sont fausses et qu’elles ont été lancées dans le cadre d’une campagne visant à détruire et à usurper son autorité. Certains n’en croient pas moins à ces accusations peu vraisemblables et c’est ainsi que naît une dissidence de Frères X « post-Aberdeen ».
James Taylor, Jr., died shortly after the "incident," the same year,.
"Big Jim," as he was called by many, was succeeded as leader of the Exclusive Brethren by James H Symington, a pig farmer from Neche, North Dakota, who in turn was followed by John S. Hales, an Australian accountant.
- The Aberdeen Incident The comprehensive and detailed story of James Taylor Jr complete with documentation and photos.
- Coad, Frederick Roy (1968). A History of the Brethren Movement. Paternoster.
- The "Brethren" Since 1870 by W. R. Dronsfield.
- The Aberdeen and New York Conflicts A letter concerning events in Aberdeen and New York during July and August, 1970, which led to about 8,000 brethren separating from JT Jr and his supporters.