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Former Bethel AME pastor dies after stroke

The Rev. Ronald Williams lobbied for homeless, minorities

The Rev. Ronald Williams, controversial former pastor of North Portland's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, died this week in Santa Monica, Calif., after a recent stroke. He was 49.

Williams was pastor at Bethel from 1998 until November 2001, when dissent about his alleged sexual activities at a previous posting caused some church members to leave.

'If you're going to be on blue-ribbon panels, you'd better be a blue-ribbon person,' former church officer Chad Debnam told the Tribune in summer 2001, referring to Williams' participation on Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker's Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling.

Williams also served as co-chairman, with Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk, of a county task force studying criminal prosecution of minorities.

He was secretary of the board of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, served as chairman of Gov. John Kitzhaber's Prayer Breakfast and was involved with the creation of the Dignity Village encampment of homeless people. The latter work caused him to sometimes be confused with another Ronald Williams, who also is a pastor and advocate for the homeless and still works in Portland.

The former Bethel pastor was serving as pastor of Santa Monica's First AME Church at the time of his death.

According to members of Bethel, he recently had suffered a stroke but was beginning to show signs of recovery when he died Tuesday, apparently as a result of heart failure. He is survived by his wife, Dori; two children; and two stepchildren.

Contact Janine Robben at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..