The People Who Do It

Tonyia M. Rawls
Founder/Executive Director

Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls is a national faith leader and social justice activist who has focused the majority of her work in the Southeastern United States fighting oppression and discrimination. She is the Founder and Co-Director of The Freedom Center for Social Justice (FCSJ). Founded in 2009, they work intersectionally through their programs that support the trans community, people of color, people of low wealth, youth and sexual minorities. She and her team have helped build bridges between groups like the NC NAACP, local unions, millennials, radical activists, LGBTQ organizations and communities of faith.  

Bishop Rawls is the architect of the FCSJ Do No Harm Campaign, which provides safe space for faith leaders to discuss challenging justice issues like marriage, equal protection for LGBTQ citizens and other current issues impacting communities of faith. Bishop Rawls is cofounder of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice and the National Trans Religious Cohort which provides training and support to trans and gender-variant seminary and religious studies students. The organizations’ Transgender Faith and Action Network (TFAAN) provides critical information that ranges from healthcare and employment opportunities to research and community support for those often left isolated.  

In 2000, Bishop Rawls founded Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and in April 2008, was consecrated as one of the first women Bishops in the Los Angeles-based Unity Fellowship Church Movement’s history. In 2014 she founded Sacred Souls Community Church, a diverse congregation of progressive Christians in Charlotte that have joined the United Church of Christ. Bishop Rawls has also been a reviewer for the Journal of African-American Studies and is published in Black Sexualities: Probing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies (released 2010), Sojourners, SAGE and other printed and electronic publications. She has been a guest speaker at Duke University School of Divinity, Union Theological Seminary, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Rochester Colgate Crozer Divinity School, and various other colleges and universities in the South. Bishop Rawls is a graduate of Duke University and is continuing her post-graduate work at Episcopal Divinity School in Boston, MA. She sat on the Governing Board of the North Carolina Council of Churches for two terms and currently serves on the board of the Family Equality Council and works closely with other local and national leaders and organizations to create a more just world.

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