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When he began calling the woman and telling her that he wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, she and her boyfriend (now husband) taped the calls. They thought that Williams needed professional help -- just as they had. One night Williams called her from Omaha, Nebraska, and said, "I'm here soakin' in the bath. I wish you were in the tub with me." And, he said, "I want to lick your pussy." Offended, she kept him on the phone as the recorder ran. He told her about several women in the church he had "fucked." He told her they would come into his office and take their clothes off for him. Some women he had "screwed" wanted a romantic relationship and got angry when he dumped them. "I'm gonna have to do some damage control," he told her. Then he confessed, "I'm a sexaholic."
They took the tape to an AME official. When the congregation heard rumors of what the woman had done, some criticized her for coming forward, and several people left the church because of the incident. She spoke to the Pitch on the condition that her name not be disclosed.
"When you're trying to get off drugs and you're trying to change your lifestyle, Jesus Christ, you certainly don't need a pastor comin' after you the same way those guys on the streets come after you!" she says. "Normally at the beginning [of rehabilitation], that's when you're at your worst point. We were totally dependent on the church for assistance. He attempted to take total advantage of me. It was a shattering and shocking experience."
Ron Williams continued his affair with Saundra by threatening her career -- he had the power to keep her from becoming ordained -- and by keeping Saundra fearful that others would discover the affair. Finally, Saundra worked up the courage to tell her husband. He reacted calmly -- he had told her she should take a lover. But shortly before their son turned three, Rickey left home. Devastated, Saundra decided she wouldn't let Williams coerce her into sex anymore, even though she feared that any revelation of the affair might jeopardize her custody of Rickey Jr. She was sick of Williams' using his power over her career to keep the affair going, after she had tried several times to end it. In 1987, she decided to go to his boss, the presiding elder Prince Albert Williams, who is not related to Pastor Ron Williams. She was ashamed, but she felt she had to tell the presiding elder everything.
Though the church had no sexual-harassment policy at the time, Saundra thought she could resolve the problem by working through the denominational chain of command. Pastors with problems may seek help from the AME's middle managers -- presiding elders who oversee districts comprising multiple churches. (In the church hierarchy, over the elders are bishops, who answer to a body known as the General Conference, which presides over the AME church.)
"The presiding elder is supposed to be like your father in God; he's everybody's dad. So I told him everything in grave detail," Saundra says. "I figured, 'Okay, I'm gonna belly up one good time and get on with my life.'"
A few days later, the presiding elder called Saundra at home and told her that even though she still had not been ordained as an AME minister, he was removing her from Ron Williams' supervision and was sending her to pastor a tiny church of six elderly members, a few hours away in Marshall, Missouri. She was happy to go.