Our Story

How it all started...

It was in the year of 1914 when Mr. Lawson accepted the Word of God and was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. A supernatural event took place in his life, namely, the miraculous healing of his body from tuberculosis. His healing was stamped indelibly upon him and played a major part in the shaping of his inspired faith healing ministry. By his own testimony, we learned that Bishop Lawson was divinely called by the Lord through a whirlwind, hearing the voice of God saying: “Go Preach My Word! I mean you! I mean you! I mean you! Go Preach My Word.” Starting a small work in St. Louis, Missouri, and a later endeavor in San Antonio, Texas, preaching everywhere the Apostolic doctrine, he was led to the Midwest where he pastored a church in Columbus, Ohio. It was there that he married the late Miss Carrie Fields of Leavenworth, Kansas. The couple was subsequently blessed with four sons.
The inception of the Greater Refuge Temple Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ was in the year 1919. Bishop Lawson, then Elder Lawson, was invited to a prayer meeting in a basement in the 40th Street area of New York City. So energetic was his service to the Lord that his fame spread abroad and reached the ears of Mr. and Mrs. James Burleigh and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Anderson. These two blessed couples opened their homes to Elder Lawson. Even today, their homes are affectionately thought of as the “Cradle of Refuge.”
The congregation grew quickly. Within a short period of time, approximately 200 members had been added to the church. Thus, larger quarters had to be sought to accommodate the growing ministry. Bishop Lawson purchased the site at 52-54-56 West 133rd Street and relocated his thriving church which he called the Refuge Church. It was here that his vision was enlarged and the Lord laid upon his heart to conduct a tent revival service. Great numbers were added to the church through this outreach.
As the work continued to grow, the quarters on 133rd Street became inadequate to house the rapidly increasing congregation. Bishop Lawson relocated the church to the present site of 124th Street and 7th Avenue (now: Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Boulevard) in August
1945. This edifice is known as the “Mother Church” (Headquarters) of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In two short years, the indebtedness of the church was lifted, and on Christmas Day, 1947, the mortgage was burned. This church was known as Refuge Temple.

Expanding the vision...

In 1961, Bishop Bonner—accompanied by his beautiful wife, Mother Ethel Mae Bonner, and their two children—were sent to New York, where he became the pastor of the Mother Church. Upon arriving and seeing the need, he set about the remodeling of Refuge Temple. The Mother Church, headquarters of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is now known as the Greater Refuge Temple. This ultra-modern edifice has changed the face of 7th Avenue and is undisputedly one of the most modern structures in Harlem. It has a total seating capacity of two thousand, with thirty-six conference and meeting rooms, fully furnished in modern décor. Bishop Lawson challenged us to: “ADD THOU TO IT,” and Bishop Bonner answered the challenge with a new forward thrust and vision for souls and expansion of the work.
An evangelist at heart, Bishop Bonner was one of a handful of men who had the ability to move into a city and command a meeting of thousands at a day’s notice. As the spiritual overseer of not only the Greater Refuge Temple but also the Presiding Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith Inc. more than 500 churches worldwide were added to the kingdom of God.
Through the anointing that God placed on his life, Bishop Bonner rebuilt countless lives and won Christ thousands of souls. For many years Bishop Bonner pastored five churches, with a total membership of over ten-thousand members. One of his greatest accomplishments is the W.L. Bonner College, where hundreds of students have graduated and gone on to higher education. On April 3, 2015 the Lord called from labor to reward his servant Bishop William Lee Bonner. His love and warm smile will forever be missed by the membership of this great Church.

Where we are headed...

On February 20, 2016 Bishop Charles E. Wright, Sr. was installed as the third pastor of the Greater Refuge Temple. Bishop Wright served as assistant pastors for over forty years. Bishop Charles E. Wright, Sr., known by many as Dr. Wright, Dean Wright or Pastor Wright was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He is the third child born to the late James and Mother Jessie Wright. He is a devoted husband of over fifty-five years to Mother Faye M. Wright and the have two sons Charles Jr. and Daryl and lovely grandchildren. He migrated to New York City in 1957. It was here he began to actively attend church. He started attending Refuge Temple where Bishop R. C. Lawson was the pastor at the time.
Bishop Wright enrolled in the Church of Christ Bible Institute in September of 1960 and graduated in 1962 with honors as Valedictorian of his class. He continued his education at the Institute after graduating and received the Bachelor of Theology (Th.B). He enrolled at Manhattan Bible Institute and received the Master of Theology (Th.M) in 1966, both degrees were awarded by the American Divinity College.
Bishop Wright received his call to the ministry in 1963 under the Pastorage of Bishop William L. Bonner. He rose through the ranks of the ministry and became the Junior Pastor of the Adult Church in 1966 through 1967. He was ordained to the ministry in the International Convention in Brooklyn, New York at Refuge Church of Christ in 1967. Bishop Wright became an instructor at the Church of Christ Bible Institute in 1964 and continues until this present time. Seeing the need for additional training, he entered secular college. He enrolled in Bronx Community College and later transferred to Herbert H. Lehman College where he was a history major. He graduated with a Grade Point Average of 3.5 (Cum Laude) and received the Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in 1974. Bishop Wright was awarded a full academic scholarship to attend Columbia University. He began his studies at Columbia University immediately after graduating from Lehman College. He studied for his master’s degree while working full-time as a New York City schoolteacher of English and Social Studies and received the Master of Arts degree (M.A) from Columbia University in 1975. Bishop Wright was awarded the Doctor of Theology degree (Th.D) in 1976 from Southern Bible Seminary.
1975 was a major turning point in Bishop Wright’s life. It was at the International Convention held in Topeka, Kansas that Pastor W. L. Bonner, Presiding Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ at that time, asked Bishop Wright to accept the positions of Assistant Pastor of Greater Refuge Temple and Dean of the Church of Christ Bible Institute. Bishop Wright had other plans for his life. After much prayer and conferring with his wife, they felt it was the will of God to accept the positions. He remarks that those thirty nine (39) years were the most challenging and at the same time most rewarding years of his life. As pastor, Bishop Wright continues to serve with love, respect and concern for God’s people. He steadfastly preaches and teaches the apostolic doctrine as we await the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Be a part of our story...

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