South Africa missionary and former GEMN Board member the Rev. Dr. James Williams died in hospice in Colorado on Feb. 1. He was the husband of Lorine Williams, who served with him in the Diocese of Matlosane in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa for over ten years.
James and Lorine’s ministry at St. Peter’s Church in Klerksdorp was notable for their emphasis on reconciliation among the Black, White and Asian members of the parish during a sensitive time in post-apartheid South Africa. Their work as appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church was featured in the Windows on Mission film series sponsored by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
James was a member of the GEMN Board from 2011 to 2017 and served as chaplain to the Board for a number of years. In that capacity he organized the worship at several of the annual Global Mission Conferences sponsored by GEMN.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, James graduated from Parker High, joined the Air Force and was stationed in in England.
After earning a bachelors degree at Morgan State University in Baltimore, James joined Teachers for East Africa to train in Uganda, teach in Tanzania, and serve as principal at Nkumbi International College in Zambia. During this time, James married Anne and had two daughters.
In 1970, the family moved for his Ph.D. studies in education at the State University of New York at Buffalo. James became principal of Woodlawn Junior High, then started the Buffalo Traditional Magnet School. James thrived as an educator for the next twenty years, helping students and teachers excel. An active community member, he worked with the Urban League and the Men’s Club of St. Phillip’s Church, and he established the Center for the Study and Stabilization of the Black Family. He started running, and the Turkey Trot was his favorite race.
Mid-life, James deepened his faith and was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church. He married Lorine Salley in 1992, launching a new chapter of service and adventure. After one term on the Buffalo School Board, James was called to mission in South Africa. He was ordained a priest to be rector of St. Peters, Klerksdorp. James and Lorine’s final move was to Boulder, Colorado, to be grandparents and members of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“James’ mission was to uplift others for positive change,” said his family. “He had a knack for organizing and connecting people, creating communities of like-minded souls, across race and ethnicity. He had five jokes he told his whole life, but we still laughed. He loved family gatherings, and we will miss watching football, having brunch, talking politics and celebrating life’s milestones together.”
James is survived by Lorine; daughters Malaika Walton and Tara Watkins; and grandchildren Turner, Jessica, and Quinn. A celebration of life will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder when gatherings can occur safely.