Layton E. Williams

Layton Williams is a writer, focusing on intersections of faith, justice, politics, and culture with an emphasis on sexuality and gender. In addition to Sojourners, her work has been published by Religion Dispatches, Believe Out Loud, Reconciling Ministries Network, and Presbyterians Today, among others. 

Layton previously served on the Sojourners staff. Before that, she served as the Pastoral Resident at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago. She grew up in Atlanta, then lived in Austin, Texas, for six years where she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and nonprofit educator prior to attending seminary. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia and an M.Div from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2014.

Beyond the realms of faith, justice, and writing, Layton’s interests include improv, pop culture trivia, travel, and discovering new passions. Find her on Twitter at @LaytonEWilliams. 

Posts By This Author

One Vote, an Entire Community Steps In to Make Sure It Counts

by Layton E. Williams 11-06-2018

Photo courtesy Sam Shields

"My faith informs my agency in the world and we are called to use whatever resources are at our disposable," Shields told Sojourners. "Luke 11: 5-13 is a story of persistence. And when I se injustice in our system or at the least, morally gray positions held by people in power, that is a call to act in the world. As a Christian, Christ calls us to the ministry of reconciliation, and that include the process of voting."

3 Tips for Churches Celebrating Mother’s Day

by Layton E. Williams 05-11-2018

If we commit ourselves, as Christians and communities of faith, to see one another in our full complex experiences of life, if we name and honor and celebrate and walk with one another in each of life’s many layers day after day and week after week, then Mother’s Day will still come each year, as it always does. And it will no doubt, still carry both joy and pain for people. But perhaps it will not be so much an overwhelming challenge to us, to cram a universe worth of feeling and experience that we otherwise neglect into a single day.

#WomenCrushWednesday: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Activist and Namesake to a Movement

by Layton E. Williams 03-14-2018

Image via Wikimedia

Marjory Stoneman Douglas set an astonishing example over the course of her life of the power that one dedicated voice can have. With her words and her actions, she fought for a better world for women, for people of color, for those living in poverty, and for the earth itself. We all — not just Floridians — inhabit a world made better by her.

Out of the Ashes

by Layton E. Williams 01-31-2018
Two decades after the Good Friday accords, Protestant and Catholic churches in Northern Ireland are still working to build the peace.

The "Hands Across The Divide" sculpture, by Maurice Harron, was erected in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1992, 20 years after Bloody Sunday. 

ABOVE A 2002 article in The Irish News headlined “Priests present cheque to minister” is a photograph of a collared clergywoman surrounded by four Catholic priests. They stand shoulder to shoulder, all smiling, looking toward something ahead of them. Dominating the background is the burned-out shell of a church.

The backdrop of this image—destruction and religion—exemplifies Northern Ireland to much of the world. But the foreground, Catholic and Protestant clergy standing together, smiling toward an unknown future, might just represent what Northern Ireland—in spite of and because of its divisive and violent history—has to teach the U.S. and other countries who find themselves caught in a divisive and violent present.

During the predawn hours of Aug. 2, 2002, Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, on the north side of Belfast, went up in flames. The fire was first spotted by a Catholic taxi driver who lived across the street—he was up late that evening. He called the fire department, but there wasn’t much that could be done. By morning, as the bleary-eyed pastor and congregants of Whitehouse arrived, the building had burned to the ground.

Eventually, the fire was ruled arson—the third attempt in the year and a half that Rev. Liz Hughes had served as minister at Whitehouse, acts of destruction born of the ongoing conflict between Protestants and Catholics throughout Northern Ireland. By 2002, it had already been four years since the Good Friday accords were signed and peace was officially declared in the small, British-ruled country, but action had not entirely caught up to policy.

The Faithful Witness of Edie Windsor

by Layton E. Williams 09-13-2017

FILE PHOTO: Plaintiff Edith Windsor greets the crowd outside after arguments in her case against the Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Edith Windsor died at the age of 88 this week. Her legacy in bending the arc ever more toward justice — nationwide and indeed within the faith community — cannot be overstated.

In 2013, Edie won her Supreme Court case in a landmark victory for LGBTQ rights in the United States. I was newly out, trying to become a minister in a denomination that had just begun allowing the ordination of LGBTQ people. Even as my church still struggled to be fully inclusive toward LGBTQ people, many of us saw hope and possibility in stories like Edie’s. That hope kept us faithful — both to God and to our own queer identities.

10 Bible Passages That Teach a Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

by Layton E. Williams 06-08-2017

The long history between the church and LGBTQ people is one fraught with tension, pain, and, sometimes, violence. Those who believe that homosexuality is a sin often point to several well-known Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments. Most of the Christian debate about human sexuality has centered on interpretation and emphasis of these passages.

In his book God and the Gay Christian , Christian LGBTQ activist Matthew Vines challenges LGBTQ-condemning interpretations of these Scriptures — sometimes referred to as “clobber passages.” But these clobber-texts aren’t the only Scriptures that can guide faithful Christians as we seek a godly understanding of sexual and gender identity.

Margaret Atwood on Christianity, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ and What Faithful Activism Looks Like Today

by Layton E. Williams 04-25-2017
Margaret Atwood holds a slate while laughing with Elizabeth Moss during filming of The Handmaid's Tale series.

Image courtesy of Hulu.

Williams: ... You alluded earlier to how groups purporting to be Christian, like in your novel, are not really a legitimate representation of Christianity. I'm wondering if you could say a bit more about how you believe faith can also be a force for good? And whether it can serve as a primary vehicle for justice?

Atwood: No question. I mean, early Christianity was egalitarian. And it was also very courageous because it underwent various persecutions, as you know, and so it also had its own underground. … Of course faith can be a force for good and often has been. So faith is a force for good particularly when people are feeling beleaguered and in need of hope. So you can have bad iterations and you can also have the iteration in which people have got too much power and then start abusing it. But that is human behavior, so you can't lay it down to religion.

Obedience Does Not Mean Submission to Violent Power

by Layton E. Williams 04-13-2017
Redeeming Good Friday for Survivors
a stained glass window depict Jesus on the cross.

Submissive obedience is deeply embedded in Christian theology. The origin of sin is attributed to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Jesus, by contrast, is described as “obedient unto death” — an example we are taught to emulate. God is depicted as all-powerful, all-knowing, a king and lord and father with relentless control over all things. And we — broken, limited, and prone to mistakes — are meant to trust God in all things, and give ourselves over completely to God’s divine power. This call to submissive obedience is exemplified, more clearly than anywhere else, in Jesus’ willing submission to torture and death on the cross.

Good Friday is an invitation for us, every year, to ask: What is actually good about Jesus’ death on the cross? What about it is salvific, and what is it saving us from?

Princeton Seminary President Talks Tim Keller, Women’s Ordination, and How One Award Ignited Christian Twitter

by Layton E. Williams 04-12-2017

Princeton students listen to Tim Keller's lecture on campus, April 6, 2017. Photo courtesy of Princeton Theological Seminary. Photographer: Kevin Birch

Yesterday, we spoke with Princeton Seminary president Dr. M. Craig Barnes about the controversial decision to rescind the award — which he revealed to us was actually Keller’s suggestion — and his hopes for the school moving forward.

Four Transgender Women Were Killed Last Week in the U.S.

by Layton E. Williams 03-02-2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that these latest crimes bring the total number of trans women murdered in 2017 to seven. That is a higher number than at this point in 2016, a year that saw trans deaths on the rise: Twenty-seven transgender people were reported murdered in 2016, more than any previous year.