Presbyterian leader George Telford dies at 78

Pastor, theologian was active in Presbyterian reunion efforts

March 5, 2012

The Rev. George Telford

The Rev. George Telford

The Rev. George B. Telford, a leader in the Presbyterian Church before and after reunion, died Feb. 28 after a battle with pancreatic metastatic cancer. He was 78.

Born in Charleston, W. Va., on November 30, 1933, Telford attended Presbyterian College, received his Masters of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, and continued his studies at the Harvard University School of Arts and Sciences as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

He did further graduate studies at the University of Geneva in Association with the World Council of Churches.

Telford served congregations in Alabama, Virginia and Florida. In 1973, he was named director of Corporate and Social Mission for the Presbyterian Church in the United States. In 1987, he became the first director of Theology and Worship for the newly reunited Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

During that time, Telford was a member of the Council on Theology and Culture, the General Assembly Task Force on a Theological Understanding of the Relationship Between Christians and Jews, the Special General Assembly Council Task Force on the Spiritual Welfare of the Church and the General Assembly Special Committee on the Consultation on Church Union. 

He also served in many capacities with the National Council of Churches, the Committee of Visitors for Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, the Consultation on Church Union, the Faith and Order Working Group and the Coordinating Cabinet of the Virginia Counsel of Churches. 

Before his retirement, Telford served as director of advanced studies and associate professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary. After retiring, he served at Union Theological Seminary and PSCE. He continued to serve on the Committee on Ecumenical Relations and the Presbyterian Episcopal Dialogue of the Presbyterian Church (USA) until his death.

Telford’s survivors include Sally, his wife of 57 years; two sons and their families, John and Marguerite Telford and their daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth of Leesburg, Va., and George Telford III and Christine Marx, and their daughters, Rebecca and Emily Telford-Marx of Durham, N.C. Other family include his brother, Benjamin Telford; and his sister, Mary Elizabeth Brubeck, and their families.

A memorial service will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 10.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the George and Sally Telford Award at Columbia Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 520, Decatur, GA 30031 and Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 Rugby Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

Information for this story furnished by The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va.

  1. Dr. Telford was our pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church when I was just a young bride & had recently married my lifelong Presbyterian husband in the early to mid 1960's. What an impression Dr. Telford made on me & how my husband treasured him as our pastor. Dr. Telford was quite the intellectual & a wonderful theologian. He set the tone for the qualities we have sought in ministers since that time. So sorry that we have lost him to this earthly life. So happy that he can now claim his reward in Heaven. So proud of the wonderful leadership he went on to provide for the Presbyterian Church. His contributions will live on and impact many generations for years to come. So wonderfully happy that my husband & I & our children were privileged to know him. He baptized all three of our beautiful children! Rest in peace, Dr. Telford.

    by Mary Clark

    March 11, 2015

  2. George was a man of integrity and a caring colleague.

    by David Cameron

    March 6, 2012