SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The normally joyous Sunday service at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church was bittersweet as the congregation said goodbye to its two pastors.
Rev. Angela Brown and Rev. Theon Johnson III were abruptly notified they would be reassigned a week ago in the midst of a brewing battle with the United Methodist Church.
“There’s disapproval of Glide — members on its board and some of the people who come through its doors. And even for the Christians who are here at Glide, sometimes for this Bishop, they’re not Christian enough,” said Glide President And CEO Karen Hanrahan
Glide is known throughout the Bay Area and beyond for its humanitarian mission of helping society’s poor and downtrodden: the homeless,the drug addicted and basically anyone hurting and in need of help.
But Bishop Minerva Carcano accuses Glide of straying from the tenets of the Christian faith.
In an open letter, explaining her decision to reassign the church‘s pastors, the bishop wrote that Glide’s “Sunday celebrations” are “uplifting concerts” but “lack the fundamentals” of “Christian worship.”
Glide parishioners disagree.
“I don’t think they fully appreciate and understand the significance of Glide’s mission in the neighborhood and how we really are an expression of God’s love,” said parishioner Curtis Bradford.
On Thursday, Glide and its supporters showed up on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco to tell their ruling body — the California-Nevada United Methodist Church — that they will not back down.
San Francisco Mayor-Elect London Breed also appeared at the rally.
“When Rev. Williams came to San Francisco in the 1960s, he came to change lives. He came to put forth the mission that the United Methodist Church is all about,” Breed said. “We see the challenges right here in the city and county of San Francisco with people who suffer from addiction. We know mental illness is a real struggle for so many people here in this city. What this message sends to our people is that we need Glide so much more than ever. We cannot survive without Glide.”
There are no immediate plans to replace the departing pastors as Glide and the United Methodist Church find themselves increasingly at odds.
“I’m very, very sad to see our wonderful pastors go. And there’s a big unknown and a lot uncertainty. But the one nice thing is that I have felt a lot of support this entire week,” said Mary Glide, the church founder’s great-great granddaughter.