Rev. Dr. Ralph E. Williamson Leads COR AME Journey
By Dianne Anderson
Perhaps not coincidentally, Rev. Dr. Ralph Williamson received word of his new appointment to lead Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine just as he was hanging out with his good friend Rev. Mark Whitlock at their big annual AME church conference.
Of the two, Rev. Whitlock served the longest as senior pastor in Southern California for 20 years, having started and led the large local COR AME congregation.
Rev. Williamson had also served as senior pastor of First A.M.E. Church Las Vegas for 16 years, and they both worked together on many projects, developing a solid friendship in the process.
“We used to joke about it [at the SoCal annual conference], that he was the leading pastor that had more tenure, and I was the second,” Williamson laughs. “It’s been a blessing and an opportunity to walk behind Pastor Whitlock.”
Rev. Williamson applauded Rev. Whitlock for having laid a firm foundation not only for the church that he built with over 3,000 members, and numerous youth and children’s programs, but also for its thriving nonprofit arm, the Community Development Corporation.
Rev. Whitlock, following his appointment last July, now heads up Reid Temple in Glenn Dale, Md., with over 15,000 in its congregation.
Williamson said that building up the local COR AME Church is similar to his own journey back at his prior church home in Las Vegas. There, he also made his mark, and he said that saying goodbye was bittersweet when he let his congregation know he was leaving for his new assignment.
While in Las Vegas, Williamson spearheaded a long line of social justice, criminal justice, racial and economic justice initiatives, through his nonprofit organization Faith Organizing Alliance.
Both he and Rev. Whitlock come from a common mindset of the need to work closely within the community, and reach out to various corporations to promote community and grassroots organizing.
One of his goals is to continue to make Christ Our Redeemer’s presence known throughout the community.
“My vision to build lives, build families, build community and to work together to achieve a common goal that will enhance the community that we serve, which Christ our Redeemer has been such an intricate part of,” he said.
Rev. Williamson holds a Doctorate of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and a Masters of Divinity from the Iliff School of Theology.
He is also familiar with the COR community development, having established a similar community approach at his prior church. He said he feels at home with his new church, and many people are asking how the process has been so far.
“The transition has been wonderful. To be honest, it feels like I’ve been here all of my life,” he said, adding that the opportunity locally is larger.
Williamson serves as president of Faith Organizing Alliance, which formed close partnerships with individuals in the African American community, and collectively with pastors and team leaders within the congregations.
For his upcoming pet projects, voter registration is one of his favorites, which includes getting people out to the polls to vote. The other will be increasing COR visibility on the political scene as a community organizer, helping move policies that will make a difference in the lives of individuals.
Through the Faith Organizing Alliance, the priority was to inform individuals on policies and voting rights, along with a focus on issues pertinent to the community they served to help craft and move bills through state legislation.
“Those are the things that I would like to continue to bring to Orange County in that sphere, on top of what we’re already doing. It’s a work in progress,” he said.