Bishop William Wilkins Jr.

Bishop William Wilkins Jr.

Bishop William Wilkins is the assistant pastor of the Greater Refuge Temple Church in Harlem. One of the largest and historical worship places in New York City. Bishop Wilkins serves as a consultant to the Angels of Harlem. He holds various degrees in sociality and theology studies. Bishop Wilkins also serves as the national convocation organizer for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Bishop Wilkins knowledge and voice of reason is a key element Angels of Harlem need to insure the productivity of many of our programs.


He has served under Bishop William Lee Bonner for over 40 years. Bishop Bonner became pastor after the founder Robert Lawson. 

Lawson had no plans to enter the ministry, he did have plans to become a lawyer and businessman. After attending Howe Institute in Louisiana, Lawson traveled throughout the United States, becoming a cabaret singer and gambling and hustling when he had the chance.

In 1913, Lawson was stricken ill while in the Midwest and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time, this diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence, and doctors felt that nothing could be done to save his life. While in the hospital, Lawson was ministered to by an elderly woman whose son was hospitalized in the same room. A “Holy Ghost Woman”, as he described her, who urged him to start praying. She belonged to the Apostolic faith Assembly pastored by Elder G. T. Haywood.

In later life, Lawson enjoyed telling the story of his call of God to the ministry: “As I was kneeling beside the bed saying my prayers, suddenly there entered the room the presence of God in a whirlwind. This presence enveloped me while I lay upon my bed, and the voice of God Spoke out of a whirlwind in words I distinctly heard, saying, ‘Go preach my word, I mean you…I mean you…I mean YOU. Go preach my word’.” A short time later, the frail young man was healed and followed his divine orders by heading the Apostolic Faith Assembly in Indianapolis and becoming baptized.

When Lawson first became “saved”, he belonged to a Pentecostal church.


That year Lawson founded the Refuge Church of Christ in 1919, after the members of a prayer band in Harlem welcomed him and turned their meetings over to him. That small church grew and became known as Refuge Temple, and, later, the Greater Refuge Temple. At its height, the enterprise on 133rd Street contained a grocery store, a bookstore, record and radio shop, and daycare. In the basement of the church was a complete printing office where many tracts, booklets, and songs were published.

The Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem, New York City has been located since 1945 in a former casino and vaudeville/movie theatre. The building was renovated and had its colorful facade added in 1966.

The Refuge Temple in Harlem was the hub of Lawson’s evangelistic efforts in the Northeast, which ultimately grew into the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or COOLJC. Lawson’s field work took him up and down the East Coast, throughout the West Indies, and as far as West Africa, where Lawson appointed missionaries to carry on the church’s spiritual work.

Lawson was a leading figure in an influential Pentecostal organization at a time when Pentecostal churches were rare. Lawson founded a chain of funeral homes, a seminary, a radio station, a magazine, and several businesses, among other endeavors. The pastor Bishop Charles E. Wright is the senior pastor of the greater refuge temple church.

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