Today in History: Bishop R. C. Lawson


Bishop R. C. Lawson

On this day in 1961, Bishop R. C. Lawson died.

Bishop R. C. Lawson died July 2, 1961 in New York City.

Bishop Lawson was the dynamic leader of The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Church in N.Y.

Under his guidance and spiritual leadership the organization grew to 125 churches in the United States, as well as, churches in Africa, Trinidad, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and England.

  • Brother Kenneth

    Your picture is the wrong one. This picture is not Bishop Robert Clarence Lawson but one of his direct disciples, Bishop J.D. Williams, founder of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ based in Columbia, South Carolina. Williams was one of the very men trained under Lawson who separated from the parent organization, Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ with his blessing.

    Most others, including Bishop S.C. Johnson, founder of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and Bishop Smallwood E. Williams, founder of Bibleway Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ, found Lawson’s autocratic style of leadership too stifling for them once their talents were proven and they had developed large churches within Lawson’s movement. Lawson’s talent as a bible student, bible teacher and preacher and as an organizer are without controversy.

    His decision to refuse to expand the bishopric once his organization started growing proved too much for a great number of talented younger men originally loyal to him. Most of them withdrew and started their own competing denominations which basically taught identical doctrines to their spiritual father, Bishop R.C. Lawson.

    One of the few stars who stayed loyal to Lawson was none other than Bishop William Bonner, recently retired presiding apostle of COOLJC, Lawson’s organization. He got his start at Lawson’s personal chauffeur and was sent to Detroit to pastor Solomon’s temple which he grew into a mega church. Bonner publicly stated recently at a COOLJC convention that he told Bishop Lawson that God had revealed to him that he would one day lead the COOLJC and that Lawson laughed at him. He was a nobody personal driver at the time.

    This revelation from Bonner fits everything I have read or personally heard about Bishop Lawson. Like all of us, he was indeed a complex figure with all of the confidence and insecurity that usually mark a great man. As much as he was a charismatic figure with a keen intellect that drew people from all walks of life to his movement, he was also a controlling and sometimes polarizing figure that eventually drove away many of his most talented and devoted preachers.

    Regardless of these flaws, I have great admiration for Lawson, whom like his mentor and later rival, Bishop Garfield Thomas Haywood, presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and father of all Black Apostolic preachers, was a tremendous student of the bible who also possessed the gift of explaining his interpretation to others and even of teaching his bible study methods to the young elders under his tutelage.

    When considering that neither of these obviously intellectually gifted Black men were members of the Black elite who attended select private HBCU’s or elite white liberal colleges and universities, it is even more amazing to note that through personal discipline, sincere thirst for knowledge, and a unusual open mindedness about learning truths from every day life, rather than the bible alone, they accomplished as much or more in and for our communities than some members of the so called talented tenth were able to. Bishop Lawson is revered in some circles, especially Apostolic ones but he should be better known and celebrated within our communities on par with his contemporaries like W.E.B. Du Bois and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. for his actual positive impact on Black American urban Christianity.

© 2012 SAT Telecommunications Ltd.

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