Lizzie Glide built the Glide Memorial Evangelistic Center on Taylor and Ellis in 1929. As a lay evangelist of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, she built it as a place where various evangelists of the southern Methodist connection could preach the “unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ” to the residents of San Francisco. She also constructed it with a single residential room facility to augment Mary Elizabeth House, already established for single working women in the city in 1927. All of these ministries, including Epworth House dormitory at the University of California, Berkeley, were funded by grants from the Glide Foundation, named in honor of her late husband, Joseph Glide.
Since it was difficult to get consistent evangelists from the Methodist Episcopal Church South to preach at her weekly evangelistic services, Lizzie invited the Fitzgerald Methodist Episcopal Church South with its seventy members and pastor, Dr. Julien McPheeters, to move into the evangelistic center in 1930. A seminarian visiting the church during World War II said he felt as though he were worshipping in the South there.
Both the center and the church were dedicated with the name change: Glide Memorial Methodist Church in 1939, the year of the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church to form The Methodist Church. Reverend McPheeters continued with the “southern church” emphasis on evangelism and segregation.
Because the Glide Foundation board wanted to use its funds (it was primarily granting a foundation established to support the holiness doctrine Lizzie espoused) to support the establishment of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Rev. McPheeters was commissioned to be its first President and a new pastor, The Reverend John Kenney, also a preacher of the former ME South was appointed by the bishop. Under his leadership and several conservative successors, the church declined, incapable of responding to the urban challenges of an increasingly diverse population after World War II.
From 1962-1966 the Glide Foundation made several changes approved by its Methodist board of directors. It became an operational rather than a granting foundation. It hired the Reverend Lewis E. Durham as its program director in June of 1962, Reverend Ted McIlvenna for its Young Adult Project in 1963 and Reverend Cecil Williams in 1964.
The Board then formed the Glide Urban Center with three divisions – the training division, the church and community division, and the communications division. Cecil Williams came to San Francisco to head the church and community division, and succeeded the Reverend John Moore as its pastor in 1966.
From the moment of his arrival, the Reverend Cecil Williams moved Glide in new directions, establishing communication with the civic and business communities and across the lines of race, class and sexual orientation. Cecil was willing to work with the disadvantaged and to tackle problems that neither Glide nor anyone else in the city had been willing to touch at that time. Reverend Cecil and Janice Mirikitani, sometimes referred to as Glide’s “Co-Founders” for their work reshaping Glide Memorial Church, help the church move forward in ways that inspire celebration, liberation and hope for new generations.
Glide Memorial Church opened its doors wider by sponsoring, funding and hosting diverse groups, including: the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, Citizen’s Alert, Vanguard, Huckelberry’s for Runaways, the National Sex Forum, the Black Man’s Free Store and many others.
The Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani also led efforts to helped the church became a nationally recognized leader in racial justice work, including support for the Asian and Pacific Islander Community, work with the Black Panthers on the national Committee United for Political Prisoners and programs on drug addition and recovery.
Glide Memorial Church grew taller than a Christianity that did not hold those who are suffering at its center, LGBTQ folks at its center, people of varying faith paths, and people who believe in the power of people, women and multi-racial, intergenerational, creatives at its center. In 2020 Glide Memorial Church left the United Methodist Church and became an independent Church.
Under the leadership of Minister Marvin K. White, on August 6, 2023, Glide Memorial Church shared our thoughtful, prayerful, theological, radically inclusive and historic new Statement of Faith and our Mission, Vision and Values Statement. These documents are foundational to reestablishing Glide Memorial Church as an independent Church. These shared documents declare that as a spiritual community we will remain radically inclusive, open and affirming, extravagantly welcoming, racial and social justice minded, and yes, forever unconditionally loving.
These statements boldly declare and affirm that what we believe is Christian, follows in the footsteps of, takes back, and takes up the mantel of Glide Memorial Church’s founder, Lizzie Glide’s cornerstone mantel:
A House of Prayer for All Peoples
And following in the radical inclusive visionaries of the Right Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, we are:
A House of Respite for All Peoples.
A House of Acceptance for All Peoples
A House of Empowerment for All Peoples
A House of Understanding for All Peoples
A House of Progress for All Peoples
A House of Hope for All Peoples
A House of Justice for All Peoples
A House of Diversity for All Peoples
A House of Equity for All Peoples
A House of Love for All Peoples