Leadership Gallery

The Reverend Richard Tolliver, 1945-

St. Edmund’s has a set of value statements that indicate who we are. Those value statements say, one, there are no outcasts in the church of God, and secondly, we embrace the diversity that is the world. I think it’s time for the Black church to become more bold. We are a multi-dimensional people. ... We have multiple consciousnesses..
- Richard Tolliver


Rehabilitation Housing, 2004

The Reverend Richard Tolliver works to rehabilitate housing in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood, 2004. Photo courtesy of Brian Kersey.

Richard Tolliver is the rector of St. Edmund's Episcopal Church in Chicago, located on the city's South Side in the Washington Park neighborhood. Born in Springfield, Ohio, Tolliver received his master of divinity from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971 and was ordained a deacon and priest that same year. He also holds a number of other degrees, including a B.A. in religion from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; M.A. degrees in political science and Afro-American studies from Boston University; and a Ph.D. in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C..

Tolliver has served as a rector for St. Cyprian's Church in Boston and St. Timothy's Church in Washington, D.C., and a curate for St. Philip's Church in New York, New York. While in the U.S. Peace Corps, he worked as an associate country director in Kenya and as a country director in Mauritania. Upon his return from Africa, Tolliver became a professor at Howard University.

In June 1989 he became the rector at St. Edmund's Church. Established in 1905, the church originally served people of Greek and Irish descent. By the 1920s, the congregation was composed largely of African American middle and upper class families. At the time of Father Tolliver’s arrival, the church was suffering from financial problems in a neighborhood which was deep in decay and suffering from long-standing neglect. Tolliver put himself to the task of revitalizing his parish and the neighborhood. In 1990 he established the St. Edmund’s Redevelopment Corporation (SERC) to purchase and renovate multifamily buildings in the neighborhood. Since its inception, more than 450 housing units have been rebuilt and crime has declined sharply in the area.

Tolliver has also organized the Michigan Avenue/Indiana Block Club. Comprised of parishioners, the group works to reduce crime in the Church’s neighborhood in concert with the Chicago Police Department. During Tolliver’s office, St. Edmund’s opened the International Charter School/St. Edmund’s Campus in 2000, a school that serves 150 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Tolliver has been featured in Business Week and Ebony and the recipient of numerous honors and awards. [Sources]