Rev. Dr. Jessica Williams is a pastor and theological educator. She was part of the beginnings of the Poverty Initiative, now Kairos Center, in 2004 and has been involved since then through leading immersion programs, as a Poverty Scholar, and through the Reading the Bible with the Poor Cohort. She currently serves as Director of Ministry Education, working with Freedom Church of the Poor and theological education programs of Kairos Center.
Previously Jessica pastored churches in New York, Iowa, and Kansas and was on staff at Central Seminary in the Kansas City area. She graduated from Alderson-Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia with a Bachelors in Psychology, Family Studies, and Christian Studies. In 2007 she graduated with a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a Masters of Science in Social Work from Columbia University through a dual degree program. In 2022 she completed her Ph.D. in Adult Learning and Leadership, with certificates in Social Justice Education and Qualitative Research Methods from Kansas State University. Her dissertation was titled “It’s God’s Work”: A Multiple Case Study of the Use of the Bible in the Movement to End Poverty Led by the Poor. Jessica has also published essays in Jesus Led a Poor People’s Campaign: Sermons from the Movement to End Poverty and We Cry Justice Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign, in addition to peer reviewed articles including “Pastoring During a Pandemic: Adaptive Leadership Formation in Times of Crisis” and “Historic and Contemporary Influences on Reading the Bible with the Poor: Liberation Theology and Poor People’s Movements.”
Jessica lives in the Kansas City area where she is active with the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign and teaches in the Peace & Justice Ministry program at Central Seminary. She is ordained through the American Baptist denomination.