Rev. E.L. Carter; Episcopalian Leader, Activist


The Rev. Canon E. Lawrence Carter, Episcopal minister who campaigned for peace during the Vietnam War and worked to help the homeless, has died. He was 86.

Carter died Tuesday at St. Luke Hospital in Pasadena of respiratory failure, said his wife, Katrina.

A chaplain at UCLA for seven years, Carter served as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 514 W. Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles, from 1958 to 1974.

During his tenure, the neighborhood near USC changed from one of white affluence to racially mixed poverty. Carter led the church in changing with it, moving from an upper-level parish church controlled by businessmen to what he termed a “metropolitan” church welcoming leaders of many races and economic backgrounds.


“There never was a mass exodus, a confrontation, nothing like that. Just a slow ebbing, a dilution socially, economically, racially,” Carter told The Times in 1973. “A ‘metropolitan’ church has got to do the social bit. Mainline churches cannot be the church unless they pay attention to the community where they are. The church must be involved in all the areas of life.”

Carter described that period of community and church change in his book “Can’t You Hear Me Calling?” published in 1969.

One of his social projects was to found the St. John’s Well Child Center on the church grounds.

He also worked to aid the homeless, and was honored in 1994 when the church named its newest facility Carter House. The 21-unit apartment complex in South-Central Los Angeles, which offers permanent housing to homeless people with mental illnesses, is sponsored by the church and funded with grants from Urban Housing Development and the city Community Redevelopment Agency.


In 1970, Carter led the church in ceremoniously closing its decorative bronze front doors in protest of U.S. participation in the Vietnam War. They remained shut for three years.

Born in Boston, Carter started out as a reporter for the now-defunct Washington Daily News and switched to advertising in New York City. He served with the Red Cross in the Pacific during World War II, and afterward gravitated toward the ministry.

The son of an Episcopal priest, Carter attended the Virginia Theological Seminary and soon moved to California as UCLA chaplain.

After completing his tenure at St. John’s, Carter served as editor of the Episcopal Review for the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese and was managing editor of Witness magazine.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Helene Carter Griswold and Louisa Carter; three stepsons, Lachlan, Stuart and Clarke Murray; six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.