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Lawrence II, Charles Radford

  • Person
  • 1915-1986

Charles Radford Lawrence II was a longtime 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.

Lawrence served as a Deputy to General Convention from 1967 to 1985, attending eight conventions. In 1976, he became the first African American, and third lay person, elected President of the House of Deputies. Two of the most controversial changes in the Church in the 20th century, the ordination of women and the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, occurred during his presidency.

Throughout his work for the Church, Lawrence served on several committees, commissions, and boards. In 1973, he served as chairman of the House of Deputies' Special Committee on the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and Episcopate. In 1976, he was the co-chairman of the Executive Council’s Special Advisory Committee on Church in Society. Additionally, Lawrence served on the Joint Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the General Board of Examining Chaplains. He was 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 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.

Charles Lawrence married Margaret Morgan on June 5, 1938 and together they had three children. He II died in Pomona, NY, on April 3, 1986 at the age of 70.

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