Cecil Williams Awtt Portrait

Cecil Williams

Minister, Community Activist, Writer : b. 1929, d. 2024

“Death isn’t the greatest thing to be feared for it homogenizes everyone, makes us all equally dead. Most folks are afraid of living because abundant life requires risking everything to love, liberate, and accept yourself and others now. People are afraid of life for it creates diversity and requires commitment to action. To live is to struggle.”


For over 40 years, Reverend Cecil Williams, Founder and Minister of Liberation of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, has explored the edge of spirituality, compassion and diversity. As minister, author, social activist, lecturer, community leader and spokesperson for the poor and marginalized, Reverend Williams is respected and recognized as a national leader on the forefront of change. His ministry underscores his roots in liberation theology.

Often considered controversial, Rev. Williams was one of the first clergymen to take a revolutionary stand for same sex couples by presiding over their weddings four decades before today’s struggle to legalize gay marriage. Williams has organized programs that have been effective in helping people dealing with HIV/AIDS and drugs. His 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 needy.

With a membership of over 11,000, Glide is one of the fastest growing United Methodist churches in North America. Located in the heart of one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods, people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, social classes, ages, faiths, and sexual orientations join together at for Sunday Celebration to experience the energy of spiritual liberation enhanced by the jazz, blues and gospel performed by the renowned Glide Ensemble choir and the Change Band.

In 1986, Reverend Williams became the Chairman for the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance Committee at the request of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Reverend Williams is the recipient of the 2008 National Caring Award presented by the Caring Institute in Washington, DC. Williams´ book No Hiding Place: Empowerment and Recovery for our Troubled Communities was published in 1992.

He said this about his mission: “The true church only exists on the edge, because that is where people become honest about their lives. Long ago I vowed never to go to sleep on the future of the church by offering surefire programs and simple reassurances. No, I was going to give everything I had to the church out there where the people live. To do so, we as the church would go to the edge ourselves.”

Williams was married to Janice Mirikitani, Founding President of the Glide Foundation. They worked together for decades to direct Glide’s innovative social programs.


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