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Rev. Dr. Christal Williams (MDiv ‘98) Called as Regional Minister


The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has appointed Rev. Dr. Christal Williams (MDiv ‘98) to serve as its next Regional Minister for the Indiana Region. The unanimous vote to appoint Rev. Dr. Williams is a historic one; she is the first Black woman called to serve as Indiana Regional Minister.

Williams began her new role in January of this year, and she is already hitting the ground running. “In the last 12 weeks, I have visited 25 congregations, attended 16 Lenten listening conversations, and participated in a whole host of regional and denominational meetings. From early January until now, I have driven between 4,000 and 5,000 miles doing the work of ministry,”

Williams shares. “I have a lofty goal of visiting 130 congregations in 24 months in order to familiarize myself with the Christian Church of Indiana in all of its facets and partnerships. I have a theory that in order for me to become part of the family, I need to do that from the inside out. Life and ministry are not one size fits all; to get to know those I serve, I need to see them in their contexts and be a part of their communities, so that is what I’ve been doing.”

Though she comes to the Indiana region from Tennessee, Williams is no stranger to Indiana or the Midwest. She hails from Cleveland, Ohio and spent a great deal of time in Indiana while attending seminary at CTS and serving congregations here. “The Midwest nurture feels familiar. There is an intentionality placed around holding steady and being grounded here. I have a lot of fire, but I’m very grounded. This feels like coming home,” she says.

Williams has already shown a strong presence at CTS. Though she only returned to Indiana a few short months ago, she has already attended several CTS events, demonstrating her commitment to the partnership between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the seminary. She attended the Installation of Dean Francisco Lozada, Jr. and spent time talking with staff and students after offering her congratulations to the new Dean. In February, CTS celebrated Williams with a reception in her honor as part of its Black History Month celebrations following a special chapel service, and again she dedicated significant time to conversations and connections with students, alumni, staff, and faculty.

No matter the conversation partner, Rev. Dr. Williams has a gift for making one feel like the most important person in the room. She exudes authentic excitement as she learns about others’ callings and how they impact the community. Her joy is both palpable and contagious, and her presence radiates a sense of welcome and hope.

Her mindset holds a self-proclaimed focus on equity, not equality. She believes that all people deserve to have their needs met in life, even if those needs look different. She explains, “Your needs might not be equal to my needs, but I’m daring enough to find out what your needs are and to help meet them. To me, that’s the Kindom of God we are talking about. The scriptures say, ‘The kingdom is not meat or drink, but is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.’ This is talking about all needs being met – the spiritual needs and the physical needs – leaving no one wanting. Our souls are not wanting when we are cared for and fed. This type of Kindom is truly transformational, not just transactional.”

When asked what she is most looking forward to in this new role, Williams says, “The biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is being with the people… being with folks that I’ve known over the last 30 years, re-engaging with those people, and feeling blessed and covered by them and with them. When I knew I was coming here I cried, because it is like coming back home. I’m also excited to be a part of what God is doing in this region. I ask, ‘God, what are you about to do here in Indiana?’ Whenever you move across geographical lines, it’s not just a job that you’re going to – God is up to something in you, too. Indiana has been given a strong foundation by Rev. Rick Spleth and Rev. Carolyn Reed. I am here to stand on that foundation and drag the figurative trampoline onto it and jump so high that we take this ministry in the sky and don’t come down for years.”

Williams brings a great deal of experience to her role. She holds an undergraduate degree from Jarvis Christian University in Hawkins, Texas, a Master of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She was ordained at Southport Christian Church in Indianapolis in 1998. She has more than 20 years combined experience as the Regional Minister and President of the Christian Church in Tennessee and as Associate Regional Minister in the Illinois/Wisconsin Region.

CTS played a pivotal role in preparing Williams for her calling. “I walked these halls at 23 years old. When I came in with my class, I was the only African American female pursuing an MDiv full-time. I was afraid, because I did not understand theological education and how people – professors and faculty and staff – would help to mold me and ground me. They gave me an understanding that theological education is all about stretching and exercising the mind and heart, being in conversation with not only Christians’ most sacred and holy text in the Bible, but also being in conversation with other writings. I learned that I, too, could have something to say about theology and it would be valid,” Williams shares. “I had no idea that was setting me on a trajectory to be a regional minister of any region. I came here thinking I would be a teacher during the week and serve as a minister on Sundays. I never thought I could do ministry full-time; I didn’t know anybody like me who did ministry full-time at that point. I got to know women like Cynthia Held and Dolores Turner and Dolores Carpenter – strong black female pastors who were out there paving the way. That couldn’t have happened had I not come to CTS. It wouldn’t have happened. I am proud to claim CTS and that CTS claims me.”

She now hopes to pass on that same nurturing support to current CTS community members and extends an invitation for reciprocal nurture and care. “I hope that you would know me as I know you, and that we are always in intentional conversation about how we care for what each other does. I am always promoting the values of CTS, because I am a part of those values. To not do that would mean that I’m neglecting myself, party of my own legacy, which was picked up through these halls.” It is clear that Indiana is fortunate to be a part of Williams’ legacy as she leads our region and becomes an integrated part of our community.