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Ronald Lawson

Ronald Lawson served on the faculty of the Urban Studies Department from 1977 until 2009. He was appointed as an Associate Professor, and was promoted to Full Professor with Tenure in 1984. He was born and raised in Australia, where he completed his Ph.D. in both history and sociology in 1970. His dissertation was published as Brisbane in the 1890s: An Australian Urban Society (University of Queensland Press, 1974). He was then awarded a Fullbright travel grant, which brought him to New York City for post-doctoral studies in the sociology department and the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University.

He arrived in New York in 1971, just after the enactment of vacancy decontrol by the State Legislature. By ending rent control on any apartment where a tenant moved out, the law encouraged landlords to find ways to evict rent-controlled tenants in order to then raise rents substantially. The subsequent conflict, and especially the emergence of a movement among tenants to defend themselves, drew his attention, and he began to research the tenant movement, both as it had suddenly emerged in New York and in its earlier manifestations there. He was awarded a large grant to study these topics in detail by the National Institute for Mental Health.  This study resulted in the publication of The Tenant Movement in New York (Rutgers University Press, 1984) and a slew of journal articles. Consequently, when he came to the department, he taught causes on housing issues and on an array of protest movements, where he used his study of the tenant movement over time as a means to better understanding the dynamics of the labor movement and the movements that had come to prominence during the 1960s.

In the late 1970s Professor Lawson researched the social process of housing abandonment and whether it was possible for tenants to take over their buildings once their landlords had abandoned them. During that research he noticed that neighborhoods built around strong churches found more ways to combat abandonment, and that such churches often sponsored tenant organizations in order to save the housing of their parishioners. As these interests developed, Professor Lawson launched such new courses as Religion and Politics, and Religious Movements. The latter explored the evolution of American-born religious groups that went on to become global in scope, such as the Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. He decided that his next study should be of global Seventh-day Adventism, and used sabbaticals and grants to travel over time to 60 countries in all regions of the globe, where he completed over 4,000 long interviews. He has published a host of articles on this research, including several that compare and contrast Adventists, Mormons, and Witnesses. These are gradually being uploaded to his web-site, www.RonaldLawson.net, in order to make them available to more people. As of December 2018 22 have been uploaded; there will eventually be about 70 from his study of global religious groups, and then those addressing landlord-tenant conflict will be uploaded also.

While at Queens College, Professor Lawson was awarded the first “Teacher of the Year” award by the Queens College Students’ Association, an award for Excellence in Teaching by the College, a research award also by the college, and a number of other research awards, mainly to assist his research travel.

Professor Lawson retired in 2009 in order to complete a series of four books he had planned but moved too slowly with while teaching. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in the department and college on his retirement. Meanwhile, he looked for a small city, with warmer Winters than New York, in the mountains. In 2015 he moved to Asheville, NC, with his partner. His email address there is SondleyWriter@gmail.com.

Recent Publications:

“The Secular Transition: The Worldwide Growth of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists.” (Co-authored with Ryan T. Cragun.), Sociology of Religion,71:3, 2010: 349-373.

“Adventists. Military Service, and War.” pp 49-76 in Barry W. Bussey (ed.), Should I Fight?: Essays on Conscientious Objection and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 2011.  Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian Books.

“Comparing the Geographic Distributions and Growth of Mormons, Adventists and Witnesses.” (Co-authored with Ryan T. Cragun.)  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,2012, 51(2) 220-240.

“Comparing Mormons, Adventists, and Witnesses in Mexico, 2000-2010: Contrasting their Outreach Strategies, Growth, Who they Attracted and Retained, and the Reliability of their Official Data.” Published on the Spectrummagazine website, November 2013.

“To Hymn or not to Hymn: A Global Church Wrestles with Worship Music.” Spectrum, 2014, 42:4, 62-69.

”The Evolution and Current Issues of Seventh-day Adventists.” www.RonaldLawson.net, 2017.

“Adventists, War, and Oppressive Governments: Patterns and relationships from before World War I to the present.” In Seventh-day Adventists and World War I, forthcoming, Friedensau University Press, Germany, 2019

“Mormons, Adventists, and Witnesses in Latin America.” (Co-authored with Ryan Cragun and Ken Xydias) Forthcoming,  2019, Oxford University Press

“Immigrant Influx: The Impact of Large Numbers from the Global South on Seventh-day Adventism in England, France, and the Netherlands.” In Contours of European Adventism, Forthcoming, Friedensau University Press, 2020.

“Reassessing the Size of Mormons, Adventists and Witnesses: Using Census Data to Test the Reliability of Membership Data, and Accounting for the Disparate Patterns Found.”  (Co-authored with Ken Xydias). Currently being reviewed by a journal.