James Taylor Jr. (Exclusive Brethren)

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James Taylor Jr. (1899–1970) was the religious leader of the Raven-Taylor-Hales Brethren.


Taylor was the son of Irish linen merchant James Taylor Sr (1870–1953), leader of the Raven Exclusive Brethren from about 1908 until his death. After a period of six years during which leadership was in question, Taylor Jr. took over in 1959.[1] James Taylor Jr. lived in New York and was married with several children.

Literary output[edit]

Five volumes of Taylor's letters have been published. Much of his oral preaching and Bible studies has been transcribed and 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. The publishing house only sells these books to its members, and not to the general public.


Taylor emphasised biblical teachings on separation from the world to his followers.[citation needed] He encouraged his members not to eat with non-members. Membership of professional bodies was also discouraged. Under his teaching the Raven-Taylor Exclusives commenced "Breaking Bread" on Lord's-day at 6 am. 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:

  • The consolidation of his position among a large section of his followers.
  • The secession of many of his Scottish assemblies, others in Britain and beyond.
  • The weakening of other Plymouth Brethren groups, both "Open," Glanton and Kelly Brethren, as they moved away from any appearance of the "separate" features of Taylorism.

His "separatist" pronouncements were maintained by his successors and followers.

The Aberdeen incident[edit]

Under the influence of alcohol, Taylor began to exhibit increasingly erratic behaviour, which came to a head in meetings at Aberdeen, Scotland in July 1970, where he was heard using strong language, including calling other members "bums", "boobs", "bastards", and "sons of bitches".[2] In the evening after the meeting he was also caught with a naked, married woman in his bedroom.[3] Taylor rejected both accusations but the incident divided the Brethren membership worldwide.


Taylor died three months after the Aberdeen incident.[3]


Taylor was succeeded as leader of the Exclusive Brethren by James H Symington, an American from Neche, North Dakota, who in turn was followed by John S. Hales, an Australian accountant.


  1. ^ Reachout Trust article detailing some Brethren history
  2. ^ A recording of one these meetings can be found on the internet, and a transcript is also available.
  3. ^ a b The Exclusive Brethren
  • 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 James Taylor, Jr. and his supporters.