Liberation Theology is a religious perspective that declares that those in poverty are at the center of God’s divine purpose. In addition to traditional sacred texts, liberation theologians value the embodied knowledge of ordinary people, or the wisdom that comes from living life. United in core principles, liberation theology has several branches based on diverse community identities. The Rev. Cecil Williams’ life, ministry and writings are one of the leading voices in Black Liberation Theology. You can learn more about Cecil’s understanding of Black Liberation Theology in the sermons below.
One of the formative experiences that shaped Cecil’s ministry happened when he had an emotional breakdown as a child, due to the racism that he encountered. In the video above, Cecil describes this experience as the source of his empathy and compassion for others. Both Cecil and Janice Mirikitani described this pivotal moment as one of the seeds that helped them grow Glide, like a farm, out of the dust of grief and death.
In this sermon below, from February 2, 1997, Cecil describes his understanding of Liberation Theology.
Cecil believed that transforming Glide Memorial Church’s worship service into a Celebration of Life, helped people begin to move, love and connect with each other. In the midst of the poverty, addiction and suffering found in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, there was a real need to support people and worship in a way that lifted people and filled them with hope.
In the video above from 1994, Cecil speaks at a conference for Black pastors in the Methodist church. Cecil describes how he not only cares for individuals on the margins, he also brings them to the center of the church. As Cecil said at the conference,
“Faith means going all the way. It means no longer being afraid. And if you do, then get it all out and go on with your life. You see, you win people because they know you somehow act like a miracle is taking place and they are part of the miracle, no matter how down and out they are.”
Central to Cecil’s liberation theology was the principle of unconditional love. As the needs of the community changed, Cecil continued to widen the understanding of what he meant by unconditional love. In the videos below, you can hear two sermons on what unconditional love.
December 17, 1995 Sermon:
For Cecil, love and hope were incomplete if they were only experienced externally. In the video below, from May 26, 1996, Cecil preaches about why Hope Requires Radical Self Acceptance.
The Rev. Cecil Williams taught us to use our voice to radically welcome others. We continue to proclaim that radical welcome in all that we do! We celebrate the Rev. Cecil’s birthday throughout the month of September. If you would like to help us celebrate, please send a love offering in honor of his birthday. Your support helps us share unconditional love in the Tenderloin, in San Francisco and throughout the world. Contribute to our fundraiser in Honor of Cecil’s 94th Birthday here.