Rev. Jeff Taylor is an Ordained Deacon serving in extension ministry as the President of the United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia (UMFWV). Jeff grew up in the Charleston and Logan areas of West Virginia and attended WVU for his undergraduate degree in Business Administration and WVU Law School for his law degree. While working full time as an attorney, Jeff attended Johnson Memorial UMC and served on different committees of the church. Jeff had always attended church, but his focus and vision had always been just with his local church.
In the mid-1990s, Jeff’s father was a lay member to Annual Conference for Cross Lanes UMC. His father enjoyed Annual Conference so much that he convinced Jeff to become a lay member for Johnson Memorial. For several years, Jeff and his father travelled, roomed, and attended Annual Conference together. It was at Annual Conference that Jeff began to see what a great gift we have as United Methodists as a connectional church. His eyes were opened to the possibilities of wide-ranging ministries that could be carried out because we are not a single local church, but a connected church represented in almost every community. Attending Annual Conference gave Jeff the opportunity to meet and get to know some of the great pastors and lay persons we have from all over the conference.
It was during this time that Jeff heard a sermon from Rev. John Campbell that described a person’s vocation as that point of intersection when a person’s greatest joy (passion) meets with the world’s greatest need. Jeff states that from that point on, he has no idea what was said in the sermon, but he started listening for direction to find that intersection for himself. Just a few weeks later, Jeff learned of a job opportunity as the Associate Director of the UMFWV. With his eyes opened to the larger church, a sermon disturbing his soul, and a leap of faith staring him in his face, Jeff applied and took the Associate Director’s job, not really knowing if this was his vocation or a temporary career change or a midlife crisis!
Working with the president of the Foundation, Rev. David Peters, Jeff learned the basics of leading a donor-focused ministry. From his legal background, Jeff was accustomed to giving answers and advice to people with whom he was working. Jeff soon discovered from Rev. Peters that the planned giving world causes one to spend much more time listening to persons express their ideas and visions for ministry, then helping them (with advice) find their correct path. It was in this listening to people’s visions of ministry that really got him excited about the Foundation’s work. Still using the skills learned in business and law school, Jeff began to experience his vocation (his passion and the world’s needs). Jeff didn’t change his personality or his gifts and graces or his technical training, he just started using them to help people’s vision of ministries become realities.
Throughout his life growing up in the church (Sunday School, UMYF, Trustees, Finance, and worship), folks have let Jeff know that they saw in him an ordained minister. Jeff did not see this in himself and may have run from such thoughts in his younger days! Jeff saw his ministry at UMFWV as a lay person with specialized experience and education. However, one of the intriguing parts of Annual Conference for Jeff was the ordination service. During the service, the bishop says to the person being ordained, whose hands are placed on a Bible, “take thou authority to proclaim the Word of God and to lead God’s people in ministries of compassion and justice; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jeff discovered that he was being called to take the authority of the church and help lead God’s people in ministries of compassion and justice. Jeff wanted the blessing of the church, the authority of the church to carry out his ministry, and yet did not see himself leading a local church as an ordained elder. It here that Jeff discovered the Order of Deacon, and his path to ordination became much clearer.
Jeff discovered that the United Methodist Church had a special track for persons over 35 years of age (Jeff met that easily!) and who already had a graduate degree (law) who felt called to be ordained a deacon. Without having to become a full time Master of Divinity student, Jeff could continue in his UMFWV work and take theological courses part-time at Methodist Theological School of Ohio, which led to a Certificate in Deacon Studies to meet the educational requirements. At the same time, Jeff began the ordination process with the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Annual Conference. To begin the process, Jeff got the blessing of his wife, Mary, and talked with his District Superintendent, Mark Conner, and told them both that at the end of Annual Conference, at the end of the Ordination Service, when the Bishop asks if anyone is feeling a tug on their heart to enter ordained ministry to come to the alter rail, Jeff would NOT be going forward. This would be a private matter that could be handled discreetly. At the next Annual Conference when the call was offered, Jeff found himself running to the altar rail. So much for Jeff’s discreet plans!
For Jeff, the highlight of his theological education, ordination, and work at UMFWV so far has been in the creation of the grants program. From a class project on Wesley’s Three Simple Rules (do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God), Jeff caught a vision of turning excess funds from the UMFWV budget into grants given to local churches for the creation of vital ministries. This past year, UMFWV has awarded $140,000 in grants to ministries within our Annual Conference’s connection. The vision Jeff caught of the power of our connectional system is now a vital part of the ministry of the UMFWV.
How we can pray for Rev. Jeff Taylor: Pray that the Foundation (Jeff, Kim Mathews, Susannah Carpenter, Becky Parkins, and the Board) is successful at fulfilling its worthy mission of creating a culture of generosity in the West Virginia Conference that transforms the world by raising, managing and distributing funds that benefit all people and communities.
Is God calling you, tugging at your heart to consider the possibilities of ordination?
Would you like to consider the possibilities of supporting a ministry with an endowed gift?
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