Written by Anthony Moujaes
One of the largest churches in the United Church of Christ has called a new leader. The Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas will become the next pastor of the UCC Dallas-based congregation, Cathedral of Hope. Cazares-Thomas, called by election on April 12, will lead the church of 4,200-members, with a primary outreach to LGBT persons.
Cazares-Thomas comes from Founders Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles. He begins at Cathedral of Hope on May 24.
"I am grateful for the ministry opportunities that I have had in my 25 years of active service in Metropolitan Community Churches—first in Bournemouth, England, and for the past 13 years at Founders MCC Los Angeles," Cazares-Thomas said. "Now I have the gift of being called to serve as the new senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, a United Church of Christ congregation. Together, we will embody the partnership between MCC and UCC as we make real God"s love for all people. I will be forever grateful to the people of Founders MCC Los Angeles, who for the past 13 years have taught me, nurtured me and allowed me to be their pastor. The future of congregations that welcome everyone is bright."
Cathedral of Hope, which joined the UCC in 2006, spent a year on the search process before electing Cazares-Thomas.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of UCC Local Church Ministries, joined the chorus in celebrating Cazares-Thomas" call as senior minister to the Cathedral of Hope.
"Throughout his life and ministry, Neil has lived and proclaimed with passion the liberating, inclusive gospel, and he is loved and admired by many,” Guess said. "I am thrilled and grateful that he is willing to give himself to the vital and challenging ministry of one of the UCC"s great churches, a congregation that has long been near and dear to my own heart. Cathedral of Hope is not only an important congregation within the UCC and the South Central Conference, it is a landmark church, a groundbreaking church, a truly victorious church in the historic and ongoing movement for the full equality of LGBTQ people."
Cazares-Thomas served as the Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church, Bournemouth for 12 years, helping establish churches throughout England before he was called to Los Angeles in 2002. Queen Elizabeth II even invited him to Buckingham Palace in 1998 in recognition of his work in the Bournemouth community.
Known for his social activism, he has been instrumental in programs for the homeless, night and day shelters, safer sex initiatives, establishing relations with police and LGBTQ communities, and drug and alcohol rehab programs. In 2010, the Metropolitan Community Churches honored him with the 2010 Ecumenical Award.
Cazares-Thomas is married to Isaiah Thomas-Cazares, and they have an infant daughter, Sofia.