Glide is in the news these days and I have a unique vantage point.
Glide is Glide Memorial United Methodist Church of San Francisco with its most famous minister, Cecil Williams and his wife Jan Mirikitani. Cecil and Jan are in a head butting fight with the Bishop of the United Methodist California-Nevada Annual Conference, Minerva Carcaño.
The history: Three Methodist ministers were invited by Bishop Tippett in 1962 to create a dynamic new church form in a vital urban center. The first, Lew Durham found the other two, Ted McIlvenna and Don Kuhn. The time was fortuitous. Within three years San Francisco became the center of the hippie revolution as well as the Gay liberation movement. The three original ministers had active community organizing projects underway and no interest in being traditional pastors. They found and installed a young black activist, Cecil Williams.
Glide, in 1962, was an endowed church with a six story office building (in photo office building is attached to church), a hotel one block away and a portfolio worth several million dollars. It had been created in 1931 by Lizzie Glide, the widow of Joseph Glide. Joseph had been a cattle rancher who owned land in Kern County California where large oil deposits were found.
Glide’s trust document was created on behalf of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. A vestige of the Methodist split before the Civil War over slavery; the Methodist Episcopal Church South became the United Methodist Church in 1939.
I became Glide Treasurer and Business Manager in September 1970, invited by Don Kuhn and the Board.
One of the tenets of the Methodist Church is that pastors are appointed and rotated to individual churches by the local Bishops and Superintendents. One goal of the rotation is to keep the ministers from becoming too controlling of the congregation or too controlled by the congregation and to avoid corruption and adverse attachments.
When it was time to move Cecil Williams he wouldn’t move to another church. He was black and closely tied to local politics. He couldn’t be moved by the Methodist Church. He soon married his secretary and gained complete control over Glide and its Board by 1980. He was forced to retire at age 70 in 2000. He never did retire and no ministers were comfortable under his control in the next 18 years.
At this point he claims Glide Church is his. The Glide Memorial Trust documents make it clear that the church and all it assets belong to the United Methodist Church.
There may be a legal battle. Cecil Williams will lose. There is no reason in trust law that the original trust document should be changed.