For over 45 years, Reverend Cecil Williams has expanded the limits of spirituality, compassion and diversity as Founder and Minister of Liberation of GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. 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 and in the struggle for civil and human rights. His ministry underscores his roots in liberation theology.
Often considered controversial and radical, 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. 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 in need. With a membership of over 11,000 and located in the heart of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, GLIDE is one of the fastest growing United Methodist churches in North America. People of all races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, social classes, ages, faiths, and sexual orientations join together at every Sunday Celebration to experience the energy of spiritual liberation coupled with the fusion of jazz, blues and gospel performed by the renowned GLIDE Ensemble and the Change Band.
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, 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 was the recipient of the 2008 National Caring Award presented by the Caring Institute in Washington, D.C.
Janice Mirikitani is recognized as a visionary, community activist, leader, poet, and editor. Mirikitani is the Founding President of the GLIDE Foundation where she, in partnership with her husband, Reverend Cecil Williams, have achieved worldwide recognition for their groundbreaking organization which empowers San Francisco’s poor and marginalized communities to make meaningful changes in their lives to break the cycle of poverty and dependence. Over 43 years they built 87 comprehensive programs that provide education, recovery support, primary and mental health care, job training, housing and human services. Mirikitani’s passion has been to create programs for women and families as they struggle with issues of substance abuse, rape, incest, domestic violence, the AIDS crisis, single parenting, childcare, health/wellness, education, and jobs development. Mirikitani is San Francisco’s second Poet Laureate, appointed in 2000. She has authored four books of poetry and is the editor of nine landmark anthologies which provide platforms for writers of color, women, youth and children. Mirikitani has also worked in civil rights causes for various multi ethnic communities, including the struggle for redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII. Mirikitani has been serving as a commissioner on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 1996 and was reappointed by Mayor Newsom in 2004. She is the recipient of over 40 awards and honors, including the Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women and Families’ “Minerva Award”, San Francisco State University’s “Distinguished Alumnae Award,” the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s “Lifetime Achievement Ebbie Award,” the prestigious American Book “Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature,” and the University of California at San Francisco Chancellor’s “Medal of Honor Award”. Mirikitani has received two honorary doctorate degrees, graduated from UCLA, and received a teaching credential from UC Berkeley. She and her family were incarcerated in a Rohwer, Arkansas concentration camp with the mass internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Prior to her role as Co-Executive Director, Ms. Shimmin served as GLIDE’s Vice President of Organizational Integration (VPOI). As VPOI, Rita led GLIDE in the creation of its Core Values and Community Cultural Agreements, the foundational philosophies from which every branch of GLIDE functions. Rita also heads the development of staff trainings in the areas of cultural competence, personal transformation, and leadership development. Prior to her tenure as VPOI, Rita served as Associate Executive Director and was in charge of all Foundation programs including Health Services; Family, Youth and Childcare Services; Training and Education Services; the Free Meals Program and Urgent Care Services. In addition to her management profession, Rita has been a trainer and coach for more than 35 years. She has worked within educational institutions at all levels – with kindergarteners and university management teams – and with business entities, including community-based non-profits and national investment firms. She also served as co-director of the Bay Area Black Women’s Health project and is currently a member of the San Francisco Community Justice Center’s Advisory Board.
Ms. Kristen Growney Yamamoto is a Co-Executive Director at GLIDE. Under the Co-Executive Director leadership model, Kristen and Rita Shimmin oversee all areas of programmatic, evaluation, and administrative operations at GLIDE. With a particular focus on integration and wellness, GLIDE successfully operates a variety of programs from daily free meals and a community health clinic to family, youth and childcare services. As Co-Executive Directors, they uphold the vision of supporting and uplifting the disenfranchised through unconditional love, acceptance and respect. Kristen holds an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and has 20 years of experience as both a not-for-profit and for-profit professional. Prior to serving as Co-Executive Director, Kristen served as GLIDE’s Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, a position she held since she came to GLIDE in 2007. In this role, Kristen oversaw program evaluation efforts and all aspects of operations. Prior to joining GLIDE, Kristen worked at Rubicon Programs, Inc., a nonprofit organization with a $16 million budget. At Rubicon, Kristen helped run three social enterprises, social-mission based ventures that employed formerly homeless individuals. Prior to Rubicon, she operated her own consulting firm, advising high tech clients in areas of financial and business planning. She has held executive positions in software and medical device startups. Kristen lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters.
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 a member of the National Board of Directors for the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grassroots organization of congregations and communities committed to the full inclusion of glbt persons in the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church and has served as chair of the board. 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.