The Rev. Michael Cole, founder of Christ Chapel in Long Beach, California,
was raised in Roseburg and Medford, Oregon, in the religious traditions of
Foursquare Gospel and Assemblies of God. He recalled that when he was six years
old, his grandmother laid hands on him and said he would be a preacher. This
remained his dream through his childhood.
After graduating high school he moved to San Francisco (ca. 1963) where he
was able to live out his homosexual orientation that he had also realized at any
early age. He moved to Los Angeles (ca. 1970) where he worked in the
entertainment industry as well as studied at LIFE Bible College, in the
Foursquare Gospel Church tradition. He moved to Long Beach (ca. 1974) and began
a successful drag performance career as "Honey Carolina."
After hearing Troy Perry preach one Sunday, Cole decided to rededicate his
life to God. Over the next few years he played an active leadership role at
the Metropolitan Community Churches in Long Beach and in Oceanside while
continuing his drag performing. He later noted that he did not "feel worthy of
being a pastor." After years of spiritual struggle, Cole retired Honey Carolina
in 1981 and, that December, began a Bible study with seven people in his living
room. This congregation steadily grew from his living room to his garage to a
nearby storefront and finally, in 1984, to the current site of Christ Chapel in
Long Beach. Cole noted that the hallmarks of Christ Chapel are that "we preach
the Word" and "we're pretty much free-spirited in our music and worship."
After about ten years, other Christ Chapel congregations began to spin off:
first in Denver, Laguna and North Hollywood ("the Valley"). Eventually a total
of seven other Christ Chapel-related congregations were formed.
Michael Cole died on March 25, 2005, at the age of 61.
(This biographical statement written from an interview recorded by Dr.
Melissa Wilcox on August 8, 2002, and from an obituary in Frontiers
newsmagazine vol. 23, issue 26.)