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New Hyde Park Church Woos LGBT Christians

By Sam Cholke | February 28, 2013 3:27pm | Updated on February 28, 2013 3:57pm
 Pastor Emily McGinley is building a congregation as diverse as Hyde Park at Urban Village Church.
Pastor Emily McGinley is building a congregation as diverse as Hyde Park at Urban Village Church.
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DNAInfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — A new church in Hyde Park is reaching out to gay parishioners on the South Side who feel like they must check their identity at the church door.

“We believe the Gospel calls us to tear down the walls between us,” said Emily McGinley, the pastor at Urban Village Church, which is expanding beyond the North Side to offer services at the Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th St., beginning in March.

The nondenominational church made the rounds at the Hyde Park Jazz Fest, Oktoberfest and other public events to preach its message of inclusion. McGinley hopes it will fill the pews at a preview service at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Urban Village Church does not just welcome LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] people, but is a place that’s safe for them,” McGinley said, adding that it fills a niche left open by other evangelical churches. “Churches like that tend to be white, so they have to check their racial identity at the door.”

Urban Village Church started in 2010 in the South Loop before expanding to Wicker Park and Andersonville. McGinley, who signed on over the summer for the challenge of building the South Side congregation, is hoping to create a group as diverse as the neighborhood and has personally been out witnessing to Hyde Parkers.

“It’s an ego-shattering thing. If you tell people you’re with a church, many won’t even look at you — especially in Hyde Park” she said, adding that she thinks many Hyde Parkers prefer to be private about their beliefs.

Urban Village Church’s progressive attitudes toward social justice may fit in well in a Hyde Park religious community with a long history of service. The church is active in HIV prevention and plans to convene support groups for gay South Siders.

Though active politically, the church has not taken a stand on gay marriage because it is ostensibly a member of the Methodist church.

“By the denomination that has ordained us, we are not allowed to perform gay marriages, which is not to say it doesn’t happen,” McGinley said.

McGinley said she has not personally defied the church to perform a gay marriage, but knows that it happens without the knowledge of the church hierarchy.

“People do it, but because they’re not public, [the church] just lets them be,” she said. “I know people who have done it.”

McGinley did not say whether she would personally rebel and wed gay couples. The Seattle native said she is personally committed to including homosexuals in the church because her brother is gay.

“I could not see him not being included in God’s grace,” she said.

Regular services begin on March 17.