Controversial church figure resigns

Marianne Williamson, spiritual director of Warren’s Renaissance Unity, will move on
The Detroit News, Sep. 3, 2002
By Hawke Fracassa / The Detroit News

WARREN — Self-help guru Marianne Williamson quit her Warren church ministry to pursue the development of her own nationally syndicated radio talk show.
Sunday’s resignation, effective in January, ends her five-year run as spiritual director of Renaissance Unity in Warren.

“My desire would be to have a daily two- to three-hour talk-radio program … to bring more balance into mainstream talk,” said Williamson, 50, who told her 50,000 television viewers and congregants during Sunday’s services.

Williamson’s new program, which would syndicate through the Democracy Radio network, will embody her vision of today’s world, she said.

“In America, we are all so clear about what is not working in this country and this world and I would like to help hold a public conversation about what is working and what could be working by bringing forth the best in ourselves and in our country in conversation,” Williamson said.

“I’d like to help articulate the message of what the world could be in a way that could help people work towards it more effectively.”

Williamson, a friend of Oprah Winfrey and Hollywood stars, is best known for helping Aerosmith guitarist Steven Tyler overcome “a troubled period” through her inspirational tapes. Tyler surprised Williamson’s congregation in July 2001 by stopping in unannounced to play “Amazing Grace.”

It’s the least he could do, he said in a January interview, because “this woman has a direct line to God! We laughed, cried, said Hallelujah” when meeting and speaking.

Other opportunities will dictate where she lives. Besides her radio program, she has a new book, “Everyday Grace,” coming out soon.

She will maintain ties to Renaissance Unity, the former Church of Today that changed its name under her leadership.

Some congregants welcome Williamson’s departure.

“She angered a whole lot of people, especially those who gave generously to Sunday collections when she insisted the church sever ties with Association of Unity Churches,” said David Baker, a church member alienated by the name change controversy last February.

Her tenure was marked by controversy. Congregants were divided not only by the renaming of the church but also by her efforts to replace Broadway-style soloists with a gospel choir and to invite speakers to address race relations.

When Williamson came to Warren, she promised to be outspoken — and delivered.

At a glance
An international lecturer and author, Marianne Williamson counts Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Taylor as friends.

Williamson has been spiritual director of Renaissance Unity, formerly called Church of Today, in Warren since 1998.

Her first book, “A Return to Love,” was published in 1992. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 35 weeks and was the fifth largest selling book that year.

She has also written “The Healing of America,” “Illuminated Prayers,” “Enchanted Love” and “Healing the Soul of America.” In November, she will publish “Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness and Making Miracles.”

A native of Houston, Williamson has been lecturing professionally since 1983.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday September 5, 2002.
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