In Atlanta, Georgia, The Vision Cathedral, founded by Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III, has become a beacon of hope and a place of acceptance for Black LGBTQ Christians. The predominantly Black Pentecostal church, with about 3,000 members, has a mission to create a safe space for marginalized groups in the face of societal efforts to hamper their identities. This includes providing food and clothing for the homeless, HIV and AIDS testing and support, health and wellness, and political activism.
The church’s name also represents its focus on promoting vision and purpose among its members, while also embodying freedom and acceptance, two elements that Allen argues are the fundamentals of Christian belief. Its members are encouraged to embrace their faith through education, community support, and political activism. The church also works to develop spaces that nurture those who have been turned away by their families, a common problem facing its transgender members.
Many members of the church have found solace at The Vision Cathedral after being turned away from other churches that condemned LGBTQ individuals. Bishop Allen himself has described his upbringing as “religiously diverse” and was often surrounded by LGBTQ members who made the church’s choirs livelier, helped with collections, and filled the seats. However, he saw that the sermons often decried non-heterosexualities as abominations, which motivated him to create a safe space for Black LGBTQ Christians.
Despite the surrounding community’s initial resistance, the church’s focus on creating a safe space for Black LGBTQ Christians has made it a vital part of the community. The church provides a family-like dynamic for its members, where they can embrace their identities and celebrate their faith without fear of judgment or condemnation. As Allen put it, Vision models a family dynamic in the same way underground ballroom communities, gay dive bars, and gay villages became surrogate spaces for those who were shunned for coming out in decades past.