For Rev. Cecil Williams, on his 85th Birthday
I first learned of GLIDE in 1981. I was a seminary student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and was in a class called “Ministry of Deviance”(!). The class had three requirements: 1) Ride in a cop car with a Berkeley police office; 2) Walk through the Tenderloin at midnight with the Night Minister; 3) Attend a GLIDE Celebration.
I wondered what could be deviant about going to church. Then I walked through the doors!
Deviant. Definitely deviant!
The word deviant is defined as:
Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society..
One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.
With that being the definition of deviant, GLIDE is definitely deviant and Rev. Cecil Williams is really deviant! How else can you explain the following:
What inspired a young black boy from Texas to dream of an integrated church?
What sustained that young man’s soul when he was one of the first African Americans to enter Perkins School of Theology?
What clergyman did you know who sported an afro and whose liturgical garb was a dashiki?
How many churches across America do the wealthy and poor sit together in the same pew?
What pastor would dare to take on the crack epidemic, support the rights of sex workers, stand in solidarity with lgbtq people, and take down a cross from the sanctuary?
A deviant one. One whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with you, Cecil, to learn from you, to risk with you.
You have shown me that the Spirit resides in the outrageous.
That unconditional love is an even greater force than I ever imagined.
That unconditional acceptance transforms every single one of us.
Thank you, Cecil, for being your most deviant self here at GLIDE. Thank you for inviting us all to be deviant with you. There is no other church in the world like GLIDE. There is no other community like this one and it’s because of your inspiration, dedication, hard work, and deep love.
In gratitude and with love,
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Senior Pastor | Originally from Long Island, NY, Karen Oliveto has been a campus and parish minister in rural and urban settings in New York and California. She arrived in San Francisco in 1989, first as campus minister at San Francisco State University, and then, in 1992, as the pastor and leader of Bethany United Methodist Church in Noe Valley. While there, she expanded the congregation, and was instrumental in the effort to open the doors of the United Methodist Church to all persons, including gays and lesbians and their families. Oliveto holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Society from Drew University, and recently served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Pacific School of Religion where she continues as adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at Drew University’s Doctor of Ministry program. Karen continues GLIDE’s commitment to unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. “If you want to see what the beloved community looks like, come to GLIDE.” She enjoys working with diverse communities to create a more just world. She encourages the GLIDE community to connect with one another, to engage more deeply with spiritual traditions, and be empowered to be change agents at GLIDE and in the world. She is a leader in the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grassroots organization of congregations and communities committed to the full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church and has served as chair of the board. She is also on the board of California Faith for Equality. Karen is the co-author of Talking about Homosexuality: A Congregational Resource (Pilgrim Press: 2005) and has written numerous articles, hymns and liturgies. She is an avid hiker and traveler, plays guitar and drums, and enjoys cooking for friends. Email Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org