Bishop Tonyia Rawls is legendary in Charlotte’s LGBTQ community. Beyond our city she is well known as a national faith leader and social justice activist, who has focused much of her work in the southeast fighting against depression and discrimination.
Now for over two decades, Rawls has served as a Christian faith Minister for Charlotte’s LGBTQ community.
Prior to moving to Charlotte she studied at Duke University with a double major in history and sociology and Episcopal Divinity School with core competencies in liberation theology and ethics.
In 2000 she founded the Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and was consecrated as one of the first women bishops in the Los Angeles-based Unity Fellowship’s history.
In 2014 she founded the Sacred Souls Community Church, which boasts a diverse congregation of progressive Christians. The church is currently finalizing affiliation with the United Church of Christ.
In addition, she is the founder and executive director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice.
Founded in 2009, the organization provides programs that support the trans community, people of color, people of low wealth and youth and sexual minorities.
There’s much more in Rawls’ history of contributions to the LGBTQ community – far too much to list here – but it’s clear she’s a woman driven by spiritual inspiration and her caring and concern for humanity.
Now in her sixties, Rawls has made the decision to retire from Sacred Souls as the church’s pastor.
This Sunday, December 18, Sacred Souls will honor their long time pastor Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls and her wife Gwendolyn Iris Woodard Rawls with a special Pastoral Retirement Service, recognizing Bishop Rawls’ 40 years of service.
The service begins at 11:00 a.m. and includes a presentation by special guest speaker Bishop Yvette A. Plunder, Senior Pastor at UCC in Oakland California and the presiding Bishop of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries.