Reverend Cecil Williams

Co-Founder, Glide Memorial Church

As minister, author, community leader and spokesperson for the poor and marginalized, he is respected and recognized as a national leader on the forefront of change. His spirit and ministry are experienced every week at the Sunday Celebration underscoring his roots in liberation theology and his commitment to explore and define spirituality that is both meaningful and relevant. Reverend Williams challenges his congregation to place action above apathy, community above isolation, and the force of faith, hope and love above traditional religious symbolism. Reverend Williams' vision for the 21st century church can be seen in Glide's unique and powerful blend of spirituality, principled compassion, and cutting edge programs for those most in need. With a membership of over 11,000, those sharing Williams' dream have made Glide, located in the heart of the city's toughest neighborhoods, one of the fastest growing United Methodist churches in America. Every Sunday, people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, social classes, ages, faiths, and sexual orientations join together to experience the energy of spiritual liberation coupled with the fusion of jazz, blues and gospel performed at each Celebration by the Glide Ensemble choir and the Change Band.

Reverend Williams was appointed minister to Glide in 1964, transforming the idea of a church's role in contemporary society by opening its doors for everyone with unconditional love and acceptance. He challenged his congregation to take action by feeding the hungry, providing outreach for runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts, and performing same sex unions for the lesbian and gay community, one of the first ministers to take a public stand for same sex couples. He provided his leadership in the creation of the Council on Religion and Homosexuality, a pioneering organization of the burgeoning gay rights movement. As an activist for social justice, he worked with neighborhood groups and the public school system to commit acts of civil disobedience protesting the one-way busing of African American children. He created Citizens Alert, a community group investigating allegations of police intimidation and brutality against people of color and the gay community. Reverend Williams served as an advisor to the community group fighting for resident's rights as they were being forced from their properties in favor of urban redevelopment in the city's predominantly black Fillmore District. Recognizing the need for social change on the national level, Reverend Williams became involved in the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., joining marches in Washington, D.C. and Selma, Alabama.

Glide Church has evolved into the most comprehensive nonprofit provider of human services in San Francisco, offering over 80 different services. This extensive network of services includes the only food program in the city offering 3 meals a day, 365 days a year, an innovative and nationally recognized outpatient substance abuse treatment and recovery program, and an AIDS prevention, testing and case management program which provides comprehensive medical services to the homeless. Additional programs offer companion services in support of families and children with academic tutoring and support, training classes and individual and family counseling.

Rev. Cecil Williams is married to Janice Mirikitani, Founding President of the Glide Foundation. Together, they have created a radical and unique partnership, bringing a powerful yet sensitive direction to Glide's many social programs. In 1986, Rev. Williams became the Chairman for the Northern California Dr. Martin King Jr. Birthday Observance Committee at the request of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Rev. Williams is the recipient of the 2008 National Caring Award presented by the Caring Institute in Washington, D.C.

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