Robert V. Taylor with Desmond Tutu at table

As a nationally known leader who is an openly gay, white South African Episcopal priest, Robert V. Taylor has navigated being part of the religious establishment while also being an outsider. Discovering his own voice and crossing the lines which society often draws has brought him insights into compassionate living. Experiencing life as both an insider and outsider, Robert understands that the courage to be who you are, the freedom to discover your voice and trusting your imagination are keys to becoming full human. He lives by his own belief that goodness and kindness are possible each day as we show up for life.

Spiritual Leadership

Robert’s leadership of one of the largest Episcopal congregations in the United States was known for engaging spirituality with implications for personal and public action. In his own life this has been expressed in more than 20 years of work to end homelessness in New York and Seattle. His spirituality has been expressed through efforts of successfully bringing diverse constituencies together to address seemingly intractable problems. Robert has served as a mediator between government and activist groups to resolve impasses. He has also hosted the Gyuto Monks of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, on two weeklong visits in residence in Seattle. He believes that our spirituality is not about drawing lines in the sand, but of seeking commonalities and happiness for all people.

Robert Taylor has been at the forefront of creating inter-spiritual dialogue and relationship building.

  • He was co-founder of Faith Forward, a multi-faith initiative for people of many spiritual traditions coalescing around environmental and poverty issues.
  • He was a leader in creating Seeds of Compassion, a weeklong event in Seattle in 2008 which drew over 150,000 attendees resulting in the Seeds of Compassion Network to foster ways of increasing compassion in society.
  • He has led Jewish and Christian groups to Palestine, Israel and Jordan, engaging Muslims, Jews and Christians in conversation.
  • He recently appeared together in Seattle with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Spirituality Embracing Many Traditions

Robert Taylor’s own spiritual quest is grounded in the traditions of Christianity. His own spiritual practices are informed by the mystics and wisdom of several traditions including Jewish, Sufi, Buddhist and Native American spirituality. His spirituality has been enriched by studying Celtic practices in Durham, England, and by people of faith in the Middle East and Southern Africa. In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Taylor has been referred to as the “Buddhist Episcopalian.” He believes that each person is one of the many disguises of God. His own life story and work has led him to believe that love and compassion are the defining qualities of a spiritual life of ethical living.

Additional Background

Sent to the United States in 1980 by his mentor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to avoid imprisonment for his anti-apartheid activity, Robert V. Taylor has spent a lifetime integrating personal spirituality with the question of how we each leave a footprint of compassion in the world.

His new book, A New Way to be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive offers a path to an integrated life of purpose.