As senior pastor and head of staff at the United Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Stephen McKinney-Whitaker has made it his mission to bring together people from all walks of life and build bridges in the community. From starting Faith in Action, a yearly community service day for church members; to establishing the Foster Parent Celebrations program, which provides support services to foster parents; to creating a partnership with Northminster Presbyterian Church to sponsor a Syrian refugee family, his work embodies selfless service, always creating opportunities for others to do good.
A driving force in the Peace for Peoria initiative, McKinney-Whitaker helped coordinate a series of town hall events to promote an open discussion of race relations and interfaith issues. The success of this undertaking spawned a book, documentary and tour known as the “No Joke Project,” which he serves as lead faith partner. This unique initiative addresses the interfaith bond between a local rabbi, pastor and imam—a friendship and understanding that transcends religious and cultural differences.
McKinney-Whitaker helped start the Snack Pack program at Northmoor Elementary, providing food to students on weekends, and spearheads the Family Christmas Shop, which provides presents to low-income families free of charge. He recently served as Gap General Presbyter for the Presbytery of Great Rivers, counseling congregations in central Illinois through transitions and conflict, and has presented at conferences both locally and nationally. A volunteer chaplain for the Peoria Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, he has also been a Goodwill Guide for a junior high student for the past year.
McKinney-Whitaker earned his doctorate of ministry in 2014 from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He won the Mary Long Hugh Grier-Davies Prize in Preaching from Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Mary Dodge Clark Book Award for Excellence in Religious Studies from the University of South Carolina. In his spare time, he enjoys golf, tennis, table-top games, cooking and travel. iBi