NEW YORK — The former longtime president of a church planting organization headquartered in New York has decided to live as a woman.
Paul Williams led the Orchard Group from 1989 to 2009, an organization that has planted churches throughout the Northeast, and especially the New York City area, since the 1940’s.
“Orchard Group has maintained the same simple statement of beliefs since our beginning in 1948,” its website reads, noting that it affirms the authority of the Scriptures and “[t]he necessity of the new birth through the Holy Spirit for entering the Kingdom of God.”
Williams also worked as a teaching pastor for two megachurches in addition to his involvement with the Orchard Group, and was a columnist for Christian Standard Magazine.
In 2012, Williams approached his son, Jonathan Williams, to divulge that he desired to live as a woman. The news took him aback.
“We had a church Christmas party that night, so I get this information and I have to go to the church Christmas party and pretend everything’s okay,” Jonathan Williams, who pastors Forefront Brooklyn, told the New York Times earlier this month. “I drank too much and did my best to put on a happy face, but it was pretty brutal.”
Paul Williams was still involved with Orchard during this time, even though not serving as president, and his son feared how the matter might affect both of their ministries.
“I’d be upstairs crying before church—like, this is miserable. My dad was my hero, and my dad’s not my dad any longer,” the younger Williams explained. “I’d stop crying and come down and I’d preach, and be really glad and say hi to everybody, and then I’d get home and go to sleep.”
“My wife would be like, ‘You’re super depressed,’ and I’d go, ‘I know I’m super depressed. I don’t know what to do about this.’ I got counseling about three months after I found out. And I went to him for three, four years dealing with it,” he outlined.
In 2013, Williams advised the Orchard Group that he had decided to live as a woman. His resignation was consequently requested, and he agreed. The reason for his resignation, however, was not divulged to the public.
Paul Williams changed his name to Paula and began receiving hormone therapy and cosmetic surgery. He and his wife went to counseling, and the two were advised to split because “Paula” was now a lesbian and his wife was not. While not living together, the two still remain married and operate a counseling service together.
In 2015, Jonathan Williams—who had long struggled and agonized over his father’s decision—explained during a church staff meeting that Forefront Brooklyn would now move toward full participation for homosexual and transgender members. He pointed to his children’s unflinching reception of his father’s new presentation as being a motivating factor, telling himself, “This is how God [too] sees my dad.”
Williams also sought out advice from progressive congregations who were homosexual and/or transgender-affirming.
However, recent reports of Paul William’s transition have saddened a number of Christians.
“Satan won on this one, because this pastor, before deciding to come out, had already sinned in his mind. He then followed through. Now what do you have? Our God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Once this guy started down this path, the Holy Spirit left him to his own devices,” one commenter wrote. “If he repents and ask forgiveness, he will be back in the good graces of Christ, but if not and continues down this road, his destiny is made.”
“This is very, very sad. Psychological problems need to be dealt with by counselors who understand the problems that cause gender dysphoria, not by those that encourage a person to go through with ‘transitions,'” another stated. “God doesn’t make mistakes, but rather than seek godly counsel, he decided what? That God made a mistake? That God could not heal him of the feelings he had that made him want to be a woman? I pray God will heal him and deliver him from his gender dysphoria, and bring him to true faith in the Lord and His Word.”
Williams now attends Highlands Church in Denver, Colorado, where he works as a church planter and also preaches from the pulpit on occasion.