Glide Memorial Church

Glide Memorial Church is a church in San Francisco, California, historically a United Methodist Church congregation, which opened in 1930.[1] Although conservative until the 1960s, since then it has served as a counter-culture rallying point and has been one of the most prominently liberal churches in the United States. Glide is also famous for its Gospel Choir and numerous social service programs. The church building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2022.[2]

Glide Memorial Church
Glide Memorial Church in 2016. Photo taken from across Taylor St.
Glide Memorial Church
Glide Memorial Church is located in San Francisco
Glide Memorial Church
Glide Memorial Church
Location of Glide Memorial in San Francisco
37°47′7″N 122°24′41″W / 37.78528°N 122.41139°W / 37.78528; -122.41139Coordinates: 37°47′7″N 122°24′41″W / 37.78528°N 122.41139°W / 37.78528; -122.41139
Location330 Ellis Street
San Francisco, California
CountryUnited States
DenominationUnited Methodist Church
Founded1929 (1929)
Founder(s)Lizzie Glide
Episcopal areaCalifornia-Nevada Conference
DistrictBridges District


In 1929, Methodist philanthropist Lizzie Glide purchased a parcel of land at the intersection of Ellis and Taylor Streets in San Francisco [3] and founded the Glide Foundation as a memorial to her millionaire cattleman husband, H.L. Glide of Sacramento.[4] Construction of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church was completed two years later.[3] Glide purchased the Hotel Californian two blocks away and it was operated as a temperance hotel for decades. The foundation also built a dormitory for Christian women at U.C. Berkeley and a home for young working Christian women.[5]

Jim Jones shakes hands with Rev. Cecil Williams at a ceremony presenting Jones, Carlton Goodlett and others with humanitarian awards on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1977
Church worker Janice Mirikitani and Rev. Williams at a protest of the demolition of the International Hotel. Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen is at right

Church leaders and members protested the proposed demolition of the International Hotel. Carlton Goodlett and Jim Jones received humanitarian awards on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1977 from Rev. Cecil Williams at the church.

In November 2020, Glide separated from the United Methodist Church.[6]


In 1963, Rev. Cecil Williams became Pastor at Glide Memorial. Prior to him, Rev. John Moore, whose sermons on homosexuality appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, had been Pastor.[7] In 1964, the Glide church helped form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in an effort to close the gap between people of faith and the homosexual community.[8]

Cecil Williams remained sole pastor until 1999, when Rev. Douglass Fitch was named co-Pastor.[4] In 2000, Rev. Fitch was appointed Pastor upon Williams’ retirement and transition into the role of Glide Foundation’s CEO.[3] Fitch remained Glide’s primary pastor until his 2006 retirement, at which time Williams was succeeded as CEO by Willa Seldon.

The Rev. Dr. Donald F. Guest was appointed senior pastor from 2006-2011, and Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto joined Glide as his co-pastor in 2008.[9] In early 2010, Glide announced the resignation of CEO Willa Seldon, who agreed to continue in the position until a replacement was found.[10]

In September 2010, Rita Shimmin and Kristen Growney Yamamoto were appointed Co-Executive Directors of Glide, replacing founding Executive Director Janice Mirikitani. Mirikitani, Williams’ wife, continued in her role as Founding President.[11]

In August 2012, Rev. Theon Johnson III was appointed as Associate Pastor. In June 2014, Rev. Angela Brown JD., was also appointed Associate Pastor.[12]

Senior Pastor Rev. Karen Oliveto left Glide after being elected bishop in July 2016.[13] Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. served as Interim Senior Pastor for the following year.[14]

Co-Executive Director Kristen Growney Yamamoto stepped down on June 30, 2016, when her family relocated to England. By that time, Glide had already begun a nationwide search for candidates to fill a new leadership role, that of Foundation President, which was to come into effect as Rev. Williams and Janice Mirikitani moved into part-time roles.[15]

In August 2017, Karen J. Hanrahan became Glide's President and Chief Executive Officer, joining a leadership team that includes Executive Director Rita Shimmin, Co-Founders Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, and Lead Pastor Rev. Jay Williams.[16]


Since the 1960s, Glide Church has provided various services for the poor and disenfranchised. Glide currently runs 87 various social service programs. Through their Daily Free Meals program, Glide serves three meals daily, amounting to over 750,000 free meals a year.[17]

In 2007, Glide provided 750,000 meals per year through their community clinic, which serves more than 3,000 homeless people. They provided over 100,000 hours of licensed childcare and quality after-school programming to over 325 clients in 2007. They provided emergency supplies to 2,190 individuals in 2006. And they booked 5,707 shelter beds and helped 120 homeless persons move into permanent housing in 2007.[18] According to their website, Glide’s daily Free Meals program served 934,000 meals in 2009.[19]

The church also provides HIV testing, mental and primary health care, women's programs, crisis intervention, an after-school program, creative arts and mentoring for youth, literacy classes, computer training, job skills training, drug and alcohol recovery programs, free legal services for the homeless, housing with case management, and much more.

In 2009, The Glide Foundation was rated a Top Non-Profit Organization by [18]


Glide EnsembleEdit

The Glide Ensemble, the church's Gospel Choir currently maintains about 100 members.[20] The Glide Ensemble choir held its first rehearsals in 1969 and has been an integral part of Sunday Celebrations ever since.[3] Directed by John F. Turk Jr. and Ron Sutherland and backed by a full band called the Change Band, the choir groups perform every Sunday at Glide’s 9am and 11am Sunday Celebrations [20] Every Sunday’s celebration is available on CD and DVD from the church’s website and at the church itself. Revenue from this source helps the church fund its many charitable programs.

In 2005, SF Weekly named the Glide Ensemble and Change Band “Best Gospel” in their annual “Best Of San Francisco” awards.[21]


The Glide Ensemble and Change Band have released 9 albums since 1991, which are sold on the first level of the church. All proceeds help fund Glide Foundation’s various social service programs.[20]

  • John Turk's 30th Anniversary Concert (2010)
  • The Real Sounds of the Glide Ensemble: Special Edition Anthology [4 CDs]
  • Wings of Song: A Spiritual Flight (2009)
  • Holidays with Real Soul (2007)
  • A Salute to Ron Sutherland (2004)
  • The Sounds of Hope (2001)
  • Love to Give (1997)
  • Coming Home to the Spirit (1994)
  • Touch the Spirit (1991)

Podcasts of every Sunday celebration are available on Glide’s website.

Youth and Children’s ChoirsEdit

Glide Ensemble Member Errin Mixon leads a choir of teens and young adults that rehearses once a week and performs at services once a month.[22] The Children’s Choir sings during Sunday Celebrations several times a year.[22]


Largely through the actions of its long-time Pastor Cecil Williams, Glide has become known for its views on issues such as same-sex marriage. Since Williams became Pastor in 1963, Glide has been called the best-known pulpit in Northern California. Some of Williams’ controversial actions have included: [23]

  • Removing the cross inside the sanctuary at Glide.[4]
  • Helping form the Council on Religion and Homosexuality in 1964 [3]
  • Accepting City subsidies for Glide’s charitable work. Seen by some critics as a violation of the separation of Church and State, Glide first started receiving city subsidies for its meals program in 1981. The individual contributions that flow into Glide on Sundays account for a small portion of the budget—less than $640,000 of the foundation's $8.5 million in revenue during 2002, the most recent year for which a financial audit was available.[4] Glide also obtains funding from other various fundraising activities such as their Annual Holiday Festival.[24]

In pop cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Court Finalizes Agreement Between Glide and California-Nevada Annual Conference".
  2. ^ "Weekly listing". National Park Service.
  3. ^ a b c d e "1960s: Death and Rebirth". Our Story. GLIDE. 2013-11-26. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  4. ^ a b c d Strasburg, Jenny (1995-02-26). "The Gospel According to the Reverend Williams". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. ^ "National Register #98001195: Hotel Californian in San Francisco, California".
  6. ^ "Glide reaches settlement to part ways with Methodist Church". San Francisco Chronicle. 2020-11-11. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  7. ^ Rohrer, Megan; Plaster, Joey (2009-10-17). "Urban Specialist Pastors and Their Supporters". Vanguard Revisited. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  8. ^ Licata, Salvatore J.; Robert P. Peterson (1982). Historical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Routledge. p. 175. ISBN 0-917724-27-5.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "CEO Willa Seldon to move on". GLIDE. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  11. ^ "1990s: Building the Village". Our Story. GLIDE. 2013-11-26. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  12. ^ "Our Pastors". Glide Memorial Church. Retrieved 2016-02-15.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Western Jurisdiction elects openly gay United Methodist bishop". Archived from the original on 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  14. ^ "Meet Glide's Interim Senior Pastor, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr". Glide Foundation blog. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  15. ^ "GLIDE Announces New Role of Foundation President". GLIDE. 2016-01-28. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  16. ^ "Glide Memorial welcomes its new leader". 2017-08-27. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  17. ^ "Glide: Meals". Glide Memorial Church. Archived from the original on 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  18. ^ a b "Glide Foundation". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  19. ^ "Feed the Hungry". GLIDE. 2013-11-26. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  20. ^ a b c "Ensemble". GLIDE. 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  21. ^ "San Francisco Best Gospel". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  22. ^ a b "Engage Communities". GLIDE. 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  23. ^ Barrick, Audrey (2009-04-30). "United Methodist Court Rejects Gay Marriage Resolution". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  24. ^ "Annual Holiday Festival". GLIDE. 2010-12-02. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  25. ^ Cook, Katie. "Tales of the City". SF Uncovered. Retrieved 1 December 2013.

External linksEdit