Our Pastor


Willie Dwayne Francois III

Senior Pastor

A native of Galveston, Texas, Willie Dwayne Francois III is a 2009 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion, named the ranking scholar in both departments. Francois is a member of various honor societies and holds two fellow-

ships from the Fund for Theological Education. While at Morehouse, he served as the president of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel Assistants Program and was named the 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar. Francois received a Master of Divinity from Harvard University's Divinity School, where he received the Hopkins Shareholders Award—the school's highest academic recognition—and served as the class of 2012 commencement speaker. Currently, Francois is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

Called to empower people through transformative preaching, teaching, and organizing, Francois serves as the Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, NJ. From 2013 to 2015, Francois served as the Associate Pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, New York, where Pastor Michael A. Walrond, Jr. is the pastor. Prior to joining the FCBC team, he served as the Minister of Christian Education and Discipleship at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, under his pastor, Rev. Dr. Marcus D. Cosby. 

Francois lives at the intersection of the life of the spirit and the life of the mind. In 2017, Francois was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with Rev. Martha L. Simmons, Esq., he is the co-author of Christian Minister’s Manual: For the Pulpit and the Public Square for All Denomination—the most progressive and comprehensive clergy resource for priestly and prophetic ministries and the first interdenominational manual written for Black clergy in 56 years. In addition to publishing various articles and sermons, Francois served as a member of the Young Preachers' Leadership Team of the Academy of Preachers, the director of the Young Ministers' Corner of the African American Lectionary, a research assistant for Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr. and Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, and a Civil Rights Scholar for the imaging of the King Paper collection through the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (in Atlanta). Likewise, he holds an adjunct position in the African American Studies program at the University of Houston.

Associated with various organizations, boards, and initiatives, Francois works to dismantle the racialized prison industrial complex in America. Through the Bill Lucy Fellowship, Francois represented the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in a global conversation on mass incarceration at the Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race at the University of London-Birkbeck in London, England. Pastor Willie also serves as the newly appointed President of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality. For 2014-2015, Francois was named a Beatitudes Society Fellow, focusing on congregational responses to Mass Incarceration and empowering returning citizens. In 2018, The Center for Community Change named Pastor Willie a Safety Net Communications Fellow. A charter core team member of Black Lives Matter: Atlantic City, Francois’ pastoral activism is organized around racial equity and economic justice and criminal justice reform. He has written for The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, Civil Eats, The Hill and The Christian Century concerning a range of matters pivoting around race, class, and religion in America.

Francois attributes his love of life and dedication to doing the so-called impossible to his close-knit family. He is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.