Leadership Gallery

Dr. Charles Radford Lawrence, II, 1915-1986

Portrait Of Lawrence

Dr. Charles Lawrence, 1976.

Lawrence was a long time Church leader, social activist, and educator. From 1948 until his retirement in 1977, he worked at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York as professor of sociology and chairman of the Department of Sociology. His active involvement in the Church began in 1952 when he became the vestryman and senior warden for Saint Paul's in Spring Valley, New York. Sixteen years later, he became the first black senior warden for New York's historic Trinity Parish. At the Diocese of New York, he was on the Diocesan Council and the Interparish Council. The diocese awarded him the Bishop’s Cross for Distinguished Lay Service in 1963.

He took his passion for the Church to the national level when in 1967 he became a lay deputy of the House of Deputies. At a later General Convention, he was elected President of the House of Deputies and would serve in that office until 1985. Dr. Lawrence holds the distinction of being the third lay person and the first African American to hold the position. During his tenure, he succeeded at making Church committees more racially diverse. As a proponent of women’s representation within the Church, he appointed women to legislative leadership positions and supported the ordination of women.

Throughout his work for the Church, Lawrence served on several committees, commissions, and boards of the Church. In 1973 he served as chairman of the House of Deputies' Special Committee on the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and Episcopate. He was the co-chairman of the Executive Council’s Special Advisory Committee on Church in Society along with Bishop Paul Moore, Jr. in 1976. As a trustee, he represented the American Church Institute, General Theological Seminary, and Berkeley Colgate Divinity School. In addition to these positions, Lawrence served on the Joint Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the General Board of Examining Chaplains. Lawrence was also the recipient of honorary degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary, General Theological Seminary, and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

Lawrence’s deep concern for social justice and racial equality directed his academic and Church careers at home and abroad. He was a participant on the Anglican Consultative Council in England (1981) and in Nigeria (1984). In 1982 the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, of which he was a longtime member, awarded him the Episcopal Peace Award. He was also an early advocate within the Episcopal Church for the end to South Africa's apartheid policies, and led the effort that resulted in the Church's 1985 vote to divest its portfolio of stock in firms continuing to work in South Africa. [Sources]