Townshend went to Oxford for a time, then returned to Ireland where he was a lead writer for The Irish Times from 1900 to 1904. In 1904 he emigrated to the US and became ordained in Salt Lake City. He then went to Sewanee, Tennessee where he became Associate Professor of English at the University of the South.
Return to Ireland
Townshend spent many years near Ballinasloe, County Galway, where he was incumbent of Ahascragh and Archdeacon of Clonfert. Around this time he achieved recognition with "The Alter on the Hearth (1927)" and more widely with "The Genius of Ireland (1930)". He then moved to Dublin where he became a Canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral. However, this lasted for only a short time before his resignation.
In 1918, Townshend started correspondence with Abdu'l-Bahá. He later became a Bahá'í and it was his activities in the Faith, including his writing of two books, "The Heart of the Gospel" and "The Promise of All Ages", that created ever increasing tensions between Townshend and the other clergy and eventually caused Shoghi Effendi to call for his resignation as the Canon St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In 1947, at the age of 70, Townshend renounced his orders to the Anglican Church and wrote a pamphlet to all Christians under the title "The Old Churches and the New World Faith" that was sent out to 10,000 people in the British Isles on the occasion of this resignation. He then moved to a small bungalow outside of Dublin where he spent his last decade. Townshend was one of the founding members of the Dublin Local Spiritual Assembly and in 1951 was designated by Shoghi Effendi, then head of the religion, as a Hand of the Cause of God.
With this designation he rendered many services to the religion, mainly in the area of writing, as Shoghi Effendi thought of him as 'the best writer we have . . . the pre-eminent Bahá'í writer.' Townshend wrote the introduction to the book "God Passes By" which recounted the events of the first century of the Bahá'í Faith. In this introduction he was the first Bahá'í to mention the 1844 Edict of Toleration. Townshend also completed another of his own books, "Christ and Bahá'u'lláh", which Shoghi Effendi called 'his crowning achievement' shortly before dying of Parkinson's disease in 1957, at the age of 81.
George had a wife Nancy, a son Brian and a daughter Una. Una and Brian helped him to write "Christ and Bahá'u'lláh" by writing down his dictations as he was dying from Parkinson's. Brian died in 1988 and Una in 2003. Una married Richard "Dick" Dean, Bahá'í and one time Harlem Globetrotter, she also was a founding member of the Dublin Local Spiritual Assembly as well as a Knight of Bahá'u'lláh, a designation given to those Bahá'ís who were the first to reside in a country, hers being Malta.
Shoghi Effendi once said about George Townshend that he feels "Mr. Townshend's services to the Faith can best be rendered by his writing about it, as he obviously has an outstanding ability in this direction..." (The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 198).
Christ and Bahá’u’lláh is notable for the changes made from the original publication to subsequent editions published after the passing of Shoghi Effendi. For example, a statement about the "first and present Guardian" has been removed and a section discussing "the lineage of succeeding Guardians" has been replaced with a section discussing "divinely guided institutions" in general.
- Townshend, George (1951) . Heart of the Gospel, The. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-020-9.
- Townshend, George (1972) . Promise of All Ages, The. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-044-6.
- Sours, Michael (1998). "The 1844 Ottoman 'Edict of Toleration' in Baha'i Secondary Literature". Journal of Baha'i Studies. 8 (3): 53–80.
- "Historic role in Ireland and Malta | Bahá'í World News Service (BWNS)". Bahá’í World News Service. 2003-03-08. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
- Salisbury, Vance (1997). "A Critical Examination of 20th-Century Baha'i Literature". Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- Harper, Barron (1997). Lights of Fortitude (Paperback ed.). Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-413-1.
- Bahá'í Reference Library Article
- Una's Obituary Article
- Entry in The Townsend (Townshend) Family Records