Former president and chairman of the evangelical church planting organization Orchard Group, Paul Williams has publicly come out as a transgender woman named Paula Stone Williams. Orchard Group has been planting churches in the New York City metropolitan area for over sixty years and in the northeastern United States for twenty years. New churches started by Orchard Group since 2000 are reaching thousands of people in the metro areas of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh.
Williams began his work with Orchard Group in 1979 and became the president and chairman of the group in 1989. Orchard Group has maintained the same simple statement of beliefs since their beginning in 1948. These convictions have been passed down by each generation of leaders. One of these statements include the inspiration and authority of the whole Bible (Old and New Testament) as the revelation of God by the Holy Spirit. Outwardly, Williams subscribed to such faith, but behind closed doors, however, Paul was beginning to embrace a different life as Paula.
Paul's 40-year-old son, Jonathan Williams, pastor of Forefront Brooklyn, a new church started with help from Orchard Group, told The New York Times that his father told him in December 2012, a year before he retired, that he wanted to live life as a woman.
"She said transgender," Jonathan said, referring to his father.
"I was relieved for a split second, not really knowing or understanding what it was," he further explained. "This was before Caitlyn Jenner or 'Transparent.' Then within minutes, going: 'Oh, wait a second - wait a second. This is a way bigger deal. I would rather you be gay or be splitting up from Mom.' It was this weird wave of emotion. We had a church Christmas party that night, so I get this information and I have to go to the church Christmas party and pretend everything's O.K. I drank too much and did my best to put on a happy face, but it was pretty brutal."
"I couldn't say anything to anyone," he told The Times. "Here I am going, 'Let's be authentic, let's be a community that loves one another,' and I'm not being authentic. I'm not telling people what's going on in my life.
"I'd be upstairs crying before church. Like, this is miserable. My dad was my hero, and my dad's not my dad any longer. I'd stop crying and come down and I'd preach and be really glad and say hi to everybody, and then I'd get home and go to sleep. My wife would be like, 'You're super depressed,' and I'd go, 'I know, I'm super depressed, I don't know what to do about this.' I got counseling about three months after I found out. And I went to him for three, four years dealing with it."
When Paul Williams told his secret to Orchard Group in 2013, they demanded that he resign immediately.