Bishop William Lee Bonner, born in 1921, was a distinguished leader in the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith. His ministry, shaped under Bishop Robert C. Lawson, began in the 1940s. He pastorally transformed Solomon's Temple in Detroit and later led the Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem. As Chief Apostle, his global impact expanded the church from 155 to over 500 congregations.
With a foundation in prayer and faith, Bishop Bonner's message emphasized hope and deliverance. Beyond spiritual leadership, he founded Refuge Temples in Washington, D.C., and Columbia, South Carolina. His Columbia ministry included a Family Life Center, Retirement Community, and W. L. Bonner Bible College. Bishop Bonner's legacy, marked by continuous growth and community impact, reflects a lifelong commitment to faith, education, and global outreach.
Outstanding life long commitment
Bishop William Lee Bonner was born on November 12, 1921 in Bolden County Georgia, to Emmett and Janie Bonner. Bishop Bonner was married to the late Ethel Mae Smith Bonner. He is the father of two children, Ethel Mae Bonner Archer and William Lee Bonner, Jr.
Bishop Bonner’s ministry began in the 1940s under the tutelage of the late Bishop Robert C. Lawson, (1883-1961), founder of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith. His first pastorate was the Green Avenue Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Brooklyn, New York.
It was in 1944 that Bishop Lawson sent Bishop Bonner to Detroit to pastor the First Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a store front. Today, it is a two thousand five hundred (2,500) seat edifice known as Solomon’s Temple.
In 1961, upon the death of Bishop Lawson, Bishop Bonner became the pastor of the three thousand (3,000) member mother church, the Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem, New York City.
Apostle Bonner pastored churches in Detroit, Michigan, New York City, Washington, D.C., Jackson, Mississippi, and Columbia, South Carolina. He is the Chief Apostle and Senior Prelate of the General Assembly of the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. This is an international body of churches. Under his administration, the assembly grown from one hundred and fifty-five (155) churches in 1961 to over five hundred (500) churches and missions throughout the world. He had faithfully kept the charge of the founder Bishop Lawson, to “Add Thou to It”.
Bishop Bonner received his religious education and the Doctor of Divinity through the Church of Christ Bible Institute in New York City. Pastor Bonner is listed in “Who’s Who in Religion” (1985). Bishop Bonner’s ministry is based on prayer and faith in God. His message is one of hope and deliverance. He believes that those who pray can expect a miracle.
The Refuge Temple of Washington, D.C. was founded December 12, 1989, by Bishop William L. Bonner. The first services were held at Days Inn, at 12th and K Streets, N.W. In February 1990, Kelly Miller Junior High School, located at 49th and Brooks Street, N.E., became the church’s final temporary home. The Lord blessed Pastor Bonner to acquire the land for the church in three weeks. On October 27, 1990 the church held a ground breaking service. On June 1, 1991, the first service was held at the new edifice for Refuge Temple Church. God has miraculously brought this work to pass, demonstrating that this is only the beginning for the continuous winning of souls for His Kingdom in the Washington, D.C. area.
The ground breaking for Refuge Temple of Columbia, South Carolina was on July 20, 1993. It was organized with only twenty-two (22) members. Within three years, the congregation grew to seven hundred (700). The church is located on twelve and one-half (12.5) acres in the Eau Claire section of Columbia. Pastor Bonner’s ministry in Columbia also consists of the Family Life Center, Retirement Community and the W. L. Bonner Bible College. Previously taped television broadcasts can be viewed every Sunday at six o’clock a.m. on WIS-TV, channel ten. Previously taped radio broadcasts can be heard nightly at ten o’clock p.m. on WMFV, channel 95.3, both in the Columbia viewing and listening area.
Bishop Bonner passed away at the age of 93, leaving behind a profound legacy as a spiritual leader and author. He was instrumental in establishing our international organization, landmark educational institutions, and churches, impacting millions through his ministry.