William Lawrence (bishop)

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The Right Reverend

William Lawrence

D.D., LL.D.
Bishop of Massachusetts
Bishop 2949636532 a6a80123e0 o.jpg
William Lawrence (between 1910 and 1915)
ChurchEpiscopal Church
In office1893-1927
PredecessorPhillips Brooks
SuccessorCharles Lewis Slattery
OrdinationJune 11, 1876
by Benjamin Henry Paddock
ConsecrationOctober 5, 1893
by John Williams
Personal details
BornMarch 30, 1850
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
DiedNovember 6, 1941 (aged 91)
Milton, Massachusetts, United States
ParentsAmos Adams Lawrence and
Sarah Elizabeth Appleton
SpouseJulia Cunningham (d. 1900)
Alma materHarvard University
Harvard Divinity School

William Lawrence (March 30, 1850 – November 6, 1941)[1] was elected as the 7th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts (1893–1927). Lawrence was the son of the notable textile industrialist Amos Adams Lawrence and a member of the influential Boston family, founded by his great-grandfather and American revolutionary, Samuel Lawrence. His grandfather was the famed philanthropist Amos Lawrence.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lawrence was born on March 30, 1850 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Sarah Elizabeth Appleton (1822–1891) and Amos Adams Lawrence (1814–1886), a notable textile industrialist, and a member of the influential Boston family, founded by his great-grandfather and American revolutionary, Samuel Lawrence. His grandfather was the famed philanthropist Amos Lawrence.[1]

He graduated from Harvard College, as was the tradition in his family. He earned his Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1897. In 1910, he was honored with a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Harvard presented by his cousin and then president of Harvard, A. Lawrence Lowell.[1]


Lawrence is best known for founding the church pension system. He was also known as "the banker bishop" because his fund-raising drives "invariably developed with Midas-like magic."[citation needed] The financier J. P. Morgan, Jr. served as treasurer of the Church Pension Fund from its founding in 1918.

While bishop emeritus, Lawrence was involved in an effort to proposition a new Book of Common Prayer to the Church of England. Also, while in retirement, he realized the need for a chapel at Massachusetts General Hospital and in the late 1930s, as the White Building was under construction, convinced of the importance of faith and spirit in healing, he sent over fifteen hundred hand-written letters to friends of the hospital asking for their support "in this bit of pioneer hospital work."[citation needed] Over eight hundred people of all faiths responded.

He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1899.[2] In 1926, Lawrence published his autobiography, Memories of a Happy Life. Several of his sons, following in his footsteps, also became bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Famous quote[edit]

The "banker bishop" is quoted as having said, "In the long run it is only to the man of morality that wealth comes... We, like the Psalmists, occasionally see the wicked prosper, but only occasionally. Godliness is in league with riches.”[3]


Lawrence was married to Julia Cunningham (1853–1927),[4] the daughter of Frederic Cunningham and Sarah Maria (née Parker) Cunningham.[4] Together, they were the parents of:[1]

Lawrence died on November 6, 1941 at the age of 91 in Milton, Massachusetts.[1][8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "DR. LAWRENCE DIES; BISHOP EMERITUS; Successor to Phillips Brooks as Head of Massachusetts Episcopal Diocese Was 91 FOUNDED CHURCH PENSION Known for His Liberalism and Tolerance Urged Inquiry Into Sacco-Vanzetti Case". The New York Times. 7 November 1941. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  2. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  3. ^ "The Relation of Wealth to Morals," in The World's Work (Doubleday, 1901), Vol 1 p. 287
  4. ^ a b "MRS. JULIA LAWRENCE.; Wife of Former Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts Dies at 74". The New York Times. 7 September 1927. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  5. ^ [1] Archived March 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Bishop Slattery of Mass. Victim of Heart Attack | Successor to Bishop Lawrence Held Office Less Than Three Years--Former Teacher at Groton School. The Telegraph. March 13, 1930. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  7. ^ "William Lawrence, Retired Bishop, 79". The New York Times. January 6, 1969. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Bequests by Bishop Lawrence". The New York Times. 19 November 1941. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  9. ^ "3,000 ATTEND SERVICE FOR BISHOP LAWRENCE; His Two Sons Conduct Rites at Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass". The New York Times. 9 November 1941. Retrieved 15 March 2018.


External links[edit]

Episcopal Church (USA) titles
Preceded by
Phillips Brooks
7th Bishop of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Charles Lewis Slattery
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
William G. McAdoo
Cover of Time Magazine
14 January 1924
Succeeded by
Henry Cabot Lodge