Pastor Keith McQueen has found his calling: creating safe and inclusive places of worship for allincluding LGBTQs.
He began fulfilling this mission about five years ago in Indianapolis, where he opened the Powerhouse Church of Indianapolis. "We saw exponential growth," he said of his congregation. "We started out with seven members and within a year, we had 200, 300 people."
He saw the need for welcoming spaces for worship far beyond Indianapolis and decided to expand. "It was always in my spirit to start other ministries in the Midwest where all people will be welcomed, where everyone can feel embraced and accepted," McQueen said. "Entering into 2017, my husband and I felt a burden in our hearts for Chicago. We wanted to create a safe space of worship for all people, where people could worship in truth and sincerity without fear of being bashed or put out for who they are."
In July, McQueen preached his first sermon at the Powerhouse Church of Chicago, 6836 S. Halsted St., the first LGTBQ-affirming Pentecostal church in the city. The congregation has since grown to about 40 members.
Although McQueen now preaches a message of acceptance, he admits he hasn't always been this way. "I used to be a minister that subscribed to that type of religion that bashed and denigrated people, but at the same time, I was a same-gender-loving man," he said. "I just got tired of the dishonesty, the lies and trying to pretend to be someone that I was not. As I began to take the journey of truth ... I decided to present Jesus in the way he should be presented, and that was accessible to everybody."
In July, Pastor Byron Brazier removed a member from the congregation at the Apostolic Church of God after she married another woman. McQueen pointed to this action as one that shows the need for an affirming Pentecostal church in Chicago.
"Chicago needs a safe space for people to go to so they don't have to worry about worshipping God in a place where they don't feel truly accepted and wanted," he said. "I think that's damaging. It's damaging on your mental health and emotional health. It's important to have a place where you can build a strong spiritual foundation regardless of who you are."
McQueen said that Brazier's actions showed that intolerant churches are taking advantage of their LGBTQ members. "The young lady who was removed was an active member of the church," he said. "It's like they were saying, 'We're okay with your gifts, but we're not okay with your truth.' That's abusive."
This is a reality that many LGBTQ worshippers encounter, and McQueen said it was an attitude both he and his husband struggled against in previous places of worship.
In order to ensure that none of his congregants ever feel that way, the Powerhouse Church works hard to preach a message of love and to provide resources for its members. Both the Indianapolis and Chicago locations work closely with the nonprofit organization emPOWER Indy, which provides help finding jobs, counseling services and HIV and STI testing resources for those who aren't accepted by their families.
McQueen said that although these resources are valuable tools to empower LGBTQ members, the worship services alone make a huge difference for many. "When you walk into the Powerhouse Church of Chicago, what I've been hearing from many people is how life-changing it is," he said. "It opens their eyes to see that this Christian experience does not exclude me. I am a part of the love of Christ. It has restored faith, not only with God but with the church."
Find out more about the Powerhouse Church of Chicago and its services on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/powerhousechurchchicago/ .