1929  — 2009

James Hudson Taylor III

Dai Shaozeng , 戴绍曾

Great-grandson of J. Hudson Taylor; founder of China Evangelical Seminary, Taiwan; General Director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship; founder of Medical Services International.

James Hudson Taylor III, great-grandson of the founder of the China Inland Mission, will be remembered as a mission statesman who brought a sense of legacy to each role he held. He was a warm man, and a master storyteller; and his love for history enriched his sharp grasp of mission trends. Having been born and raised in China, he imbibed its language, thought forms and literature like the Chinese themselves. He won the respect of senior Chinese government officials and of church leaders alike.

In 1988 James Taylor discovered the tombstone of Hudson Taylor in Zhenjiang Museum, kept, unknown to him, by the museum after the destruction of the city’s Foreign Cemetery. The remainder of the memorial (which had been erected by the China Inland Mission in 1905) was discovered later, intact. It gave James Taylor a deep sense of satisfaction, accompanied by his son Jamie and grandson “JT,” to see it re-erected inside a nearby church in 1999.

James Hudson Taylor lll was born on August 12, 1929 in China’s ancient city of Kaifeng, situated in Henan province on the south bank of the Yellow River. His parents served here as missionaries of the Free Methodist Church.

Conditions in 1930s China were harsh and disease was rife, but as the decade progressed a new threat emerged - rising tension between China and Japan. The Taylors returned to America in 1935 for a brief home assignment, but there was no question in their minds about staying in the West. They arrived back in Kaifeng in 1936, and the feared Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1937.

Images of genocide in the Nanking massacre, in December 1937, were to become seared on everyone’s minds, invoking great fear as the Japanese began to invade more cities. In 1939 James Hudson Taylor ll managed to secure a sea passage back to the United States for the whole family; plans were set in motion to leave China. Then one day, nine-year-old Jim was asked by his father if he would like to accompany him to the shipping office. This was not, as the boy thought, to collect the tickets. It was instead to cancel them. James Taylor recalled the episode in his booklet God’s Grace to Nine Generations.[1] It was to leave a deep mark on his life and ministry. His parents had resolved that this was no time for missionaries to leave China; instead they would move to the North West to train church leaders; the cost would be high as they would need to leave their four children as boarders at the China Inland Mission’s Chefoo School in eastern China.[2]

So when news broke of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1940, ten-year-old Jim Taylor was separated from his parents by 700 miles. The Allies were now at war with Japan which made citizens of Allied countries particularly vulnerable. The Nanking massacre, exactly three years earlier, played over again in his mother’s mind. Should they have foregone the passage home to safety, for their children’s sake? As she pored over Matthew 6:33 she recalled the paraphrase used by her pastor in Virginia ‘If you will take care of the things that are dear to God, he will take care of those that are dear to you.’ It was to be a five-year-long separation.

In 1942 the four Taylor children and their grandfather Herbert Taylor were taken, with the whole of Chefoo School, into internment in Weihsien. Eric Liddell, the Olympian who won the 400 metres Gold Medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics, was also there. He taught games to the boys and became a surrogate father to them. Eric Liddell was separated from his own family, who had returned to Toronto at his own urging. He, like Jim Taylor’s parents, had sensed that he should not leave China, and he died during the internment.

Camp life was a tough and cramped existence. Summers were often blisteringly hot, and the children had to contend with swarms of rats, flies and bed bugs. The teachers formed them into squads of rat-catchers, fly-catchers. Jim Taylor, in his early teens, was always to remember his grandfather’s sure faith during this testing time. He wrote ‘I saw in Grandpa how the patterns of life had been set. Every day began with praise.’ [3] The teenager had learned much scripture in childhood as his mother would set whole chapters to music, and the children bellow out the words, keeping the beat. Now he could see at close quarters how faith would stand under trial, for in Weihsien his grandfather and Eric Liddell, along with the Chefoo staff, modelled the life of faith. The camp was liberated on 17 August 1945, and the Taylor family reunited on 11 September 1945.

James Taylor returned to the US for college education at Spring Arbor College, Michigan; Greenville College, Illinois; and Asbury Theological Seminary. He would later pursue further study at Yale University and Yale University Divinity School. In 1951 he married Leone Tjepkema, a fellow student at Spring Arbor and Greenville Colleges. Their marriage was to prove a strong partnership for service in each sphere ahead of them.

In June 1955 James and Leone arrived in Taiwan to begin their missionary service in Kaohsiung. They joined James’ parents just as Holy Light Bible School, founded by his father, began its first year of classes. James and Leone’s three children (Amelia [1955], Signe [1957], and Jamie [1959]) were born during their first term. Both James and Leone taught at the Bible School.[4] James was also involved in youth work, as well as mountain ministry (often accompanying his mother). When James’ parents returned to America for home assignment in 1960, James was invited to serve as the principal, an office he held for ten years. During their Kaohsiung days, James also served as Free Methodist Church Taiwan Field Mission Chairman and Taiwan Conference Superintendent.

With the founding of China Evangelical Seminary (CES) in 1970, James and the family moved to Taipei. CES was an expression of the Chinese church’s desire to provide theological education for university graduates. James was invited to serve as the founding President, and Leone served as Librarian. As President, James travelled extensively among the Chinese churches worldwide to impart the vision and need for graduate theological education in the Chinese church. With three children in school, Leone kept the ‘home fires’ burning. As ten years of service was drawing to a close, James expressed to the CES Board the need to pass leadership into the hands of a Chinese colleague. Dr. Timothy Lin was approached and graciously accepted the challenge to lead CES into its next phase of development.

In 1979 James Taylor received an unexpected invitation to become the seventh General Director of what was by then the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, succeeding Michael Griffiths. It was not an easy decision to leave theological education, but after much heart-searching, he and Leone sensed God’s call, and he took up the position on July 1, 1980, the first descendant of the mission’s founder to serve in this role. The Fellowship was by this stage well established outside China in 14 East Asian regions, the China Inland Mission having made its reluctant exodus from Mainland China 30 years previously. Its senior leaders had however continued to follow news of China closely through the writing and research of Leslie Lyall, David Adeney, Anthony James Broomhall and others. By 1980 China had not only now emerged from the Cultural Revolution, but its most able scholars were studying in the West.

The 1980s brought consolidation and growth across all OMF International fields. It was particularly striking in Japan and in The Philippines, and in specialist areas like literature ministry in The Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. New initiatives in evangelism were developing among Taiwan’s factory workers and in Hong Kong’s new towns. China was welcoming professionals to contribute to its policy of “Four Modernisations.” Under James Taylor’s leadership, OMF was encouraged to continue in their concerns for China and the Chinese people. China Awareness seminars became established across the UK and North America, and new energy went into the creation and distribution of apologetic literature in Chinese.

When James Taylor handed the leadership to David Pickard in 1991, he and Leone relocated to Hong Kong to seek opportunities to serve the Chinese people. In 1993, with Dr. Reggie Tseng, a Professor of Pediatrics from America, and Brother Richard Chen, a businessman from Hong Kong, James Taylor formed Medical Services International (now MSI Professional Services), to serve in Sichuan province where Jim Broomhall, a descendant of Benjamin and Amelia (Hudson Taylor’s younger sister) Broomhall had served as a medical doctor among the Yi people in the early 1950s. That same year, 1993, also saw the marriage of James and Leone Taylor’s son, Jamie, to Ke Yeh Min from Taiwan, bringing Chinese blood into the family line.

MSI would bring skilled surgeons on regular visits, who would train local medical staff. It was soon to diversify into Accounting, English teaching, community development, livestock rearing, and Vocational training and Business/ Management. Invitations would be extended to skilled teams willing to commit long term to these educational, training and development projects. These invitations to professionals in needed spheres would be issued in full partnership with the provincial government.

News that officials of the Sichuan Bureau of Public Health were keen to collaborate came in May 1994 and was immediately relayed by James Taylor to the very frail Jim Broomhall, then in hospital in Pembury, Kent, UK. Hearing it brought Jim Broomhall his heart’s longing that service among the Yi people would continue, and he died the following day. The first pioneer team of seven went into Sichuan in the ensuing months.

While serving alongside the local government in development work - good in itself - greater goals were being achieved. The lend-and-return-a-sheep scheme, which enabled subsistence farmers to move out of their hand-to-mouth existence, soon became very popular. Farmers would borrow healthy young sheep to breed and “return” the same number of offspring. The scheme was led by New Zealanders invited by Dr. Taylor, and run in partnership with the local Animal Husbandry Bureau.

After a three-and-a-half year loan, on a fine and sunny day up in the mountains of Liangshan, the official handover ceremony took place, as borrowed animals were returned. Matthew Koh, now President of MSI, writes:

“A farmer chosen to represent the village declared his appreciation for MSI and the local authorities. His speech in Yi was translated by the local communist party secretary, and the ceremony was attended by the prefecture governor and other key leaders in the region.‘“In his speech the farmer expressed how this was a special day of reconciliation; the villagers were not simply returning a sheep in rotation, but giving the sheep to another village which they had hated and warred with for centuries! That memorable day saw the reconciliation of village with village in Nosuland. We have been privileged to witness the Great Reunifier at work and reconciliation in Truth happening, as the folks in MSI serve these places in ‘the Spirit of Christ’.”

James Taylor took especial delight in teaching Bible stories and New Testament Greek to James Hudson Taylor V (known as JT) and his sisters Selina and Joy, when the whole family lived in Hong Kong. He would sometimes take them to school, using the journey for this. He had a strong sense of legacy; the legacy he had received in the seventh generation of his family’s Christian history, and the legacy he himself would pass on. Six generations before him, on February 1, 1776, James Taylor, a contemporary of the Wesleys and a stonemason in Barnsley, in the north of England, was converted to Christ on the morning of his wedding day. He was reflecting on a verse the Methodist preachers had taught and which he had up to then derided: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). And so it has proved down the generations.

Dr. James Taylor received honorary doctorates from Greenville College (1978) and Asbury Theological Seminary (1987); more recently he was also awarded two honorary doctorates, in recognition of his distinguished service in Christian mission, by Tyndale College and Seminary, Toronto (2001) and Spring Arbor University (2008).

His 10 years of service as founding president of MSI gave him opportunity to work with officials from the central government as well as with provincial and grassroots leaders. The depth of their acceptance and respect is reflected in their referring to him as “Overseas Chinese.” On April 4, 2007, in a ceremony attended by 300 people, a county of the Sichuan province conferred on him honorary citizenship.

Dr. Taylor’s book on the life of Hudson Taylor’s father-in-law Even to Death: The Life and Legacy of Samuel Dyer, co-authored with Irene Chang, will be published this year. [5]

Two Festschrifts, each planned to celebrate James Taylor’s 80th birthday, will be released shortly. [6] They honor a man who pressed into service an unusual combination of 10 talents and high energy, all infused with a love of Christ and a humble spirit.

Dr. Taylor went to be with Christ in the early morning of the 20th of March 2009, in Hong Kong.


This article is reproduced, with permission of OMF International. OMF International (March 20, 2009). James Hudson Taylor III With Christ. Press release. Retrieved on 2009-4-5.


  1. God’s Grace to Nine Generations, OMF Publishing (Singapore 1999) p.22
  2. Chefoo School had been founded by the China Inland Mission for its own children, but extended an invitation to children of other missions and to the children of westerners in secular professions.
  3. Op. cit. p.18
  4. James: Greek, Bible courses, Church history; Leone: music, English, library
  5. Published by OMF HK, ISBN: 978-962-8402-13-7
  6. For details see www.omf.org

About the Author

Mark S. Bradley

Vice President, OMF International; Director for Mobilization, OMF-US, Littleton, Colorado.