The Labor of Faith: Gender and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism
Judith Casselberry is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College. A vocalist and guitarist, Casselberry was a member of the award-winning reggae duo Casselberry-DuPreé and currently performs internationally with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely.
This chapter traces the cross-country roots of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., to its founding in Harlem in 1919 by Robert C. and Carrie F. Lawson. The organization rose to national stature because of Robert Lawson’s antiracist theology, which placed Black women at the center of the atonement; the church’s political, economic, and civic engagement; and Carrie Lawson’s radio presence. After the death of Robert Lawson in 1961, structural reorganization occurred under William L. and Ethel Mae Bonner. The chapter’s final section examines the establishment of True Deliverance Church in Queens by Crosley J. and Reva E. Cook in the mid-1970s. The influential legacies of founding pastors’ wives garner more acknowledgment in oral histories but are understated in printed church histories and undervalued in scholarship. Drawing on archives and interviews, this chapter inserts the pivotal work of the wives.