Bishop Tonyia Rawls, Pastor
Bishop Rawls is the Founding Pastor of 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 (UFCM) history. She is prelate of the Southern Jurisdiction and Vice President of the National Board. In the role of Vice President she oversees the denomination’s day-to-day business operations. She also guides the work of the Office of Laity Relations and the National Office of Communications.
Bishop Rawls is a social, spiritual and criminal justice activist committed to the liberation of those who are on the margins of society. The church’s various ministries touch areas as broad as domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, literacy, performance art and wellness. Members of her congregation are committed to building their faith and community. Some highlights of their work: Charlotte’s first Black Gay Pride; South Carolina’s first Black and Latino Gay Pride; helped to reshape policy in reference to the police department’s response to and treatment of domestic violence within the LGBT community in Mecklenburg County; been leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS; wrote, produced and acted in several theatrical productions that addressed complex sociopolitical issues in a cultural context; and courageously established the first openly LGBT and affirming ally contingency to march in the Citywide Charlotte MLK, JR Parade. She has received numerous awards, including the Equality Award from The Human Rights Campaign of The Carolinas, The Charlotte Business Guild’s Don King Service Award and Grassroots Leaderships Community Service award for her contributions to equality and justice in North Carolina.
She consistently works at the intersections of race, class, gender, religion and sexual orientation. She is Co-Founder of The Freedom Center for Social Justice. Bishop Rawls and her wife Gwendolyn have been married since 2002 and is a graduate of Duke University. She has been a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the National Black Justice Coalition and the Diversity and Inclusion Council of the Human Rights Campaign in addition to other boards. Bishop Rawls has been a reviewer for the Journal of African-American Studies and is published in Black Sexualities: Probing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies (In Press).
Rev. Marage Blakeney, Assistant Pastor:
Rev. Marage was ordained as a Reverend in 2007 and currently serves as the Assistant Pastor. Rev. Marage is married to her soul mate and greatest supporter, Lari. She holds a bachelor degree is Business Management and is writing a book of poetry to help others find freedom in God and themselves. Her motto for living is: Be the change you want to see in this world. As a survivor of domestic violence, Rev. Marage Romeo Blakeney realized that she must be the voice for those who could not speak, especially within the faith community. She has become a devoted advocate against the damaging effects of domestic violence. Rev. Marage has served as the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council Interfaith Committee and Domestic Violence Advisory Board Chair from 2004-2009. Under her direction, she has instituted many events such as the candlelight vigil and worship concert to raise the awareness of Domestic Violence within the religious community. Her groundbreaking work has afforded her the opportunity to speak at various houses of worship to explain the complexities of domestic violence and how the faith community can support those suffering in silence. Presently, Rev. Marage serves on the Domestic Violence Advisory Board for Mecklenburg County and the Carolina Actors’ Studio Theatre board. She is the founder and advisor of a domestic violence ministry entitled, Restored Rainbows.
Rev. Kenneth Tinnin, Associate Minister
Rev. Kenneth Tinnin is a true TarHeel. Born and raised in North Carolina, he graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. As a profession, he works in the Bio-Medical Research field. He currently is completing his Master’s of Divinity at Hood Seminary, Salisbury, NC. Rev. Ken was the founder and advisor of Akoben, UFCC’s HIV/AIDS ministry. Rev. Ken joined UFCC in 2002 and more recently was ordained as a Reverend in 2009. Presently, he currently holds leadership responsibilities with UFCCs Leadership Council, UFCC’s Internal Affairs, and training and development of Staff. Rev. Kenneth’s mission is inspiring people to see themselves as the “goodness” God created them to be.
Rev. Leslie Oliver, Associate Minister
Rev. Leslie Oliver is a spirited and creative worshipper hailing from Newark, N.J. She received her B.A. from Rutgers University and her M.F.A. from Full Sail University. She was ordained as a deacon in 1997 and as a minister in 2002 while serving as Minister of Music at Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark. She relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2004 and began serving as Minister of Praise Arts at Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte. She was consecrated as UFCM’s National Minister of Music in 2007 and ordained as Reverend in 2009. She believes that her incredible story of trauma and triumph will lead many to know God’s unconditional love. An accomplished psalmist/musician, writer and motivational speaker, she has published a collection of poems and will release her first novel, Earth, in early 2013.
Reverend Sonja Lee, Board Chair
Rev. Lee was born in Washington, DC, where she lived until moving to Charlotte, NC in 1999. Rev. Sonja Lee is a founding member of UFCC and currently chairperson of the UFCC Trustee Board. She was ordained as deacon in 2003 and helped to establish UFCC’s first wellness ministry, Fit for the Kingdom. She was ordained as Reverend in 2006 and is also the Founder/CEO of the Lionel Lee Jr. Center for Wellness, formed in July of that year. Rev. Lee has 13 years of experience working with non-profit organizations and is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where she received numerous citations and awards for excellent service. She has a passion for service to others and to that end has worked toward improving the health and wellness of family members, church and community. She is also a member of Presbyterian Hospital’s Congregational Health Promoter program and a former member of the board of the Health Ministries Association of the Carolinas.
Minister Ed Jones-Mack
Deacon Ray Austin
Deacon Rita Barrett
Deacon Michelle Crawford
Deacon Veronica Daughety
Deacon Kisha Fox
Deacon Katasha Harris
Deacon Tracey Jackson
Deacon Annette Johnson
Deacon Cay’me Jones
Deacon Iesha McConnell
Deacon Joe McKinney
Deacon Timothous Mack-Jones
Deacon Bonnie Mitchell
Deacon Frankie Pickens