“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord..”— Matthew 25:23
On Good Friday, April 3rd Bishop William Lee Bonner, beloved pastor of the renowned Greater Refuge Temple Church (GRT) in Harlem and Chief Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ (COOLJC), made his transition from labour to his great reward. He was 93 years young.
I can only imagine the type of faith Bishop Bonner had amassed over the years, watching the changes in the American landscape. Faith. That power that surges through the soul and spills out, wrapping a community of believers inside a place of spiritual refuge.
93 years young, Bishop Bonner was a builder of dreams and unafraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting the hard work done.
Bishop Bonner, affectionately known to millions around the world as “Pastor Bonner,” leaves a rich legacy that is unparalleled. Heralded as a spiritual giant by his contemporaries, Pastor Bonner was known for his ministry of preaching the true, unadulterated Gospel of Our of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Pastor Bonner was sent to become the pastor of the now 2,500 member GRT after the death of its founder, Bishop Robert Clarence Lawson, in 1961.
In 1961, the dream was starting. The struggle dark and taunt with trouble. Courage was needed. Looking back maybe it appears easy but history tells the truth even if it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge.
Upon arriving and seeing the need, he immediately set about the remodelling of the “Mother Church” and headquarters of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Refuge Temple. Yet, Pastor Bonner proved that he was more than a preacher—and literally undertook the Herculean effort of serving in the role of general contractor in order to renovate the edifice that is now known as Greater Refuge Temple today.
Building on faith—the foundation of a strong church—was something Pastor Bonner achieved from the outside and inside, creating a strong body that glued the congregation and helped the church grow.
This ultra-modern edifice has changed the face of Harlem’s historic “7th Avenue” and is undisputedly one of the most modern structures in the community. In addition to GRT, his passion for souls—and youth in particular—led him to create a multi-million dollar youth center known as the R.C. Lawson Building, also located in Harlem. His desire and vision to build and create establishments that would benefit the Kingdom and people of God continued well into his later years.
For over fifty years, many across the country and even in foreign lands have testified of the great miracles of healing, deliverance and breakthrough under his powerful preaching and teaching.
Millions also experienced his evangelistic ministry via “The Hour of Truth” broadcast–which aired on nationally syndicated television outlets such as BET and The Word Network—as well as radio stations across the country and via live-stream. Over the decades, Pastor Bonner has simultaneously pastored churches in New York, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Mississippi; and Columbia, South Carolina. Considered one of the greatest ministers of all times, Pastor Bonner was the spiritual overseer of more than 700 churches worldwide on three continents.
Sheila Harris, Public Relations Manager of ESSENCE MAGAZINE shared this:
“Pastor Bonner meant so much to our entire congregation. Personally, he was like a second Dad to me. He was always genuinely concerned for all of us—both spiritually as well as personally. He will be greatly missed, but we know that he is in a better place.”
Pastor Bonner was preceded in death by his wife, the late Mother Ethel Mae Bonner, and daughter, the late Ethel Mae Bonner Archer. He is survived by his son, William Lee Bonner, Jr., his grandchildren, a host of nieces and nephews and beloved family, friends and co-laborers worldwide.
Details for the multi-city Homegoing services in New York and Detroit are below. For more information, please visit www.greaterrefugetemple.org.
HOMEGOING Services held in honor of Pastor William Lee Bonner on MONday, April 20th at 10 AM-6 PM: Pastor Bonner will lie in state at Solomon’s Temple (2341 East 7 Mile Road, Detroit, MI, 48234). On Tuesday, April 21st at 10 AM: “Celebration of Life” held at Solomon’s Temple (2341 East 7 Mile Road, Detroit, MI, 48234)
Thursday, April 23rd at 1 PM-6 PM: Pastor Bonner will lie in state at Greater Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Blvd, N.Y., N.Y. 10027) at 6 PM: “Pastoral Celebration of Life”—hosted by the pastors and congregations of Pastor Bonner’s churches in N.Y., Columbia, S.C., Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Miss.)—held at Greater Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Blvd, N.Y., N.Y. 10027)
Friday, April 24th 6 PM: “International Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ Homegoing Celebration” held at Greater Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Blvd, N.Y., N.Y. 10027) Saturday, April 25th at 10 AM:
Procession to final interment begins at Greater Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Blvd, N.Y., N.Y. 10027) to travel to:Woodlawn Cemetery — Webster Avenue and East 233rd Street, Bronx, N.Y. 10470