As a double pastors kid, Andrew Ponder Williams grew up in the Kansas City area. “I saw what my parents did and the consistent, loving presence with people in the Church and community, how they inspired others and what that meant. Ministry was always in my heart.” As a teenager, Andrew was featured in his local newspaper because he started a youth group with teens from various churches. His father led a weekly bible study, and when he wasn’t around for prayer, people asked Andrew to pray for them. Despite being a pastor’s kid and his involvement in the Church, that moment praying over others was the first time Andrew knew he was called to ministry.
In 2011 Andrew became a certified candidate in Missouri, but he wasn’t able to move much further on his path to ordination because he was an out gay person. The Book of Discipline didn’t allow Andrew to follow God’s call, but the Missouri Annual Conference elected him into leadership, so Andrew was able to serve his Church. He went on to serve on the Board of Directors for the General Board of Church and Society in Washington, D.C., he chaired a subcommittee at General Conference, and he chaired the Rules Committee for the South Central Jurisdiction. Andrew was contributing to the Church’s future, but God was not done with him yet.
Five months before the 2019 Special Session of General Conference Andrew had a near death experience. At that moment Andrew thought of the people in his life and felt deep grief for not being able to continue his path towards ordination. “I knew I was called to be a pastor. I wanted to move forward even if the waters were turbulent.” Andrew transferred to CalPac, and there he served as a Youth Director, Campus Minister, and Office Manager. Then family events caused Andrew to move to the Desert Southwest Conference.
About Andrew’s experience in the Desert Southwest Conference
“Bishop Bob’s heart is so clear; it is for all people. There is mentorship here for someone like me. This Conference isn’t debating LGBTQ ordination as an issue. It’s about people and including the diverse members of our family. People here can be 100% who they are. In the Desert Southwest Conference, I can get married, live my life, and continue answering my call.”
Reflecting on the outcome of GC2019
“It felt like there was an effort to erase the contributions that LGBTQ people have faithfully made to The United Methodist Church. I wrestled with God about my future in the Church. Then I decided, whatever the outcome, I was not going to allow this Special Session to dictate my calling. In all my years of leadership, I have never been the only LGBTQ person in leadership. I didn’t want people who have watched the news about the special session to not know about how God is at work through people like me.
We are in a different space, and we need some support to answer our call. We are all going through this conflict in the Church. For God to be able to do something useful with this pain, the Conference needs to be assertive about nurturing LGBTQ young people for candidacy.
Seek us out and recruit us for ministry. Millennials and other rising generations are so much more inclusive with more out people and more ethnic diversity in marriages and relationships. We are bringing a different world view and experience that will benefit the church as we build a new future together.”
What is your biggest fear about the future of The UMC?
“The struggle will be for nothing. We won’t find a way to honor the call of LGBTQ people faithfully. That we won’t get it together by Jan 1, 2020.”
Andrew is married to Ashton, a Filipino American, and active Catholic. They will celebrate their fifth anniversary in November 2019.
Andrew is currently a lay member at St Matthew in Mesa and is in the process of working to transfer his certified candidacy to DSC from CalPac. He is grateful for those who have taken the time to get to know him, mentor him, and be in relationship with him. He has an abundance of gratitude for St Matthew and the many people there that made him feel welcome.
Andrew serves as a church consultant for congregations in Arizona, California, and beyond. He offers many resources and services on his website: https://www.andrewponderwilliams.com.