Kenneth W. Taylor died on Saturday, August 11, 2018.
Obituary provided by the family.
Kenneth Warwick Taylor, 88, a leader in advancing LGBTQ rights within the United Church of Christ in Connecticut and nationally, passed away peacefully at Seabury Hospice in Bloomfield on August 11, 2018 with his extended and loving family by his side.
Ken was born on October 15, 1929 at the Women’s Lying-In Hospital in New York City. By the third grade, he preferred to say he was born at Yankee Stadium. Son of the late Walter and Ruth Marie (Smith) Taylor, he was also predeceased by his two brothers, Eugene and Mark.
After graduating from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1952, a Masters of Divinity from Virginia Seminary in 1957, followed by a Doctor of Ministry, conferred by Hartford Seminary in 1978.
On June 9, 1952, the day after he graduated from college, he married his childhood sweetheart, JoAnne Young, at the Wesleyan Chapel in Middletown, CT. Married for 66 years until his death, JoAnne survives him along with his daughter, Janet McCracken and her husband Jeff of New York City and New Preston; and sons, David Taylor and his wife Mary Lynn of Philadelphia, PA, Hon. Mark Taylor and his wife Barbara of West Hartford, Dr. Gregory Taylor of Bloomfield, and Andrew Taylor and his wife Joy of Farmington. These children and his grandchildren Joanna, Jacob, Dylan, Madeleine, Katie, Lindsay, Claire, Nathan, Juliette, Chloe, and Emerson; and great-granddaughter Bridget, were the joys of his life.
He began his ministerial career in 1958 as pastor of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in Shelton, CT and later chaired the Ministerial Association of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. His pastoral career was followed by a long career as what he termed “an ecclesiastical bureaucrat” beginning in 1964 with the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Conference office in Hartford, retiring in 1994 as Associate Conference Minister, specializing in the resolution of intra-church conflicts, motivated by his understanding of the gospel’s focus on reconciliation. He also initiated ecclesiastical procedures to address clergy sexual abuse. Following his retirement, he took great joy in serving as Interim Minister to UCC churches in Avon, West Avon and Windsor.
In his various ecclesiastical roles, he traveled to South Africa with his family in 1969-70 on behalf of the World Council of Churches and led immersion programs with students in China and Puerto Rico. After 9/11, and fearing escalating religious tumult in the middle east, at the age of 73 he joined the Connecticut Council for Inter-religious Understanding and participated in a three-month witness program under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, accompanying Christian Palestinians through check-points in the West Bank.
For many years, he was the President of the Connecticut Bible Society. He chaired the Connecticut Commission for United Ministries in Higher Education. He acted as the UCC representative to the Christian Conference, established for greater ecumenical understanding and, beginning in 1969, he chaired the Christian Unity and then Faith and Order Commissions, which he represented in 1998 at the World Council of Churches in Zimbabwe. He founded the New England Training Institute for Group Dynamics and, in collaboration with the Episcopal Church, established group dynamics training for clergy and lay leaders in New England. He established a UCC Think Tank for cutting edge issues, with diverse presenters, from the President of NOW (National Organization for Women) to the Chairman of General Electric Corporation. He also played an instrumental role in developing Christian youth summer programs at Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon, CT.
He was particularly proud of his work revolutionizing church policies on human sexuality in Connecticut, beginning in 1974 and focusing on education, leading to more open church membership, recognition of all committed couples and, ultimately, ordination of individuals within the gay and lesbian community of faith the 1980’s. He was assigned this responsibility after an anonymous Yale Theological student wrote to the UCC Conference Minister, asking if he would be ordained if openly gay.
After his leadership on sexual orientation issues in Connecticut, he chaired the Human Sexuality Task Force for the national UCC General Synod, opening the UCC as the first American denomination to approve and affirm the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.
“There are many reasons to be thankful for Ken Taylor, but in terms of history, one stands out. His determined pastoral conviction that discrimination against and failure to fully include gay and lesbian people way back in the early 70’s led to crucial and effective work that ultimately contributed to the United Church of Christ’s historic development of its Open and Affirming commitment. Without the depth of Ken’s careful and caring leadership, not only the UCC but many others would not have broken through the prejudices of the day and set a new pace for the Christian Church,” said the Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree, retired Conference Minister of the Connecticut UCC Conference.
He thoroughly enjoyed breaking away from the intensity of his work by vacationing with JoAnne at the family’s one-room schoolhouse in the Green Mountains near Randolph, Vermont. A skiing enthusiast since his days on the Ski Patrol while at Wesleyan, he particularly enjoyed his clergy member’s pass at Mount Tom, well into his 70’s. After nearly 41 years on Beverly Road in West Hartford, he and JoAnne have resided together at the Seabury Retirement Community in Bloomfield since 2004.
Memorial donations should be made to First Church of Christ, West Hartford, CT or to a charitable organization of the donor’s choice. A memorial service shall take place at the First Church of Christ, 12 South Main Street, West Hartford on September 8, 2018 at 11:00 a.m., where he and JoAnne have been members of the congregation for 54 years.
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