Written by Daniel Hazard
Dallas' Cathedral of Hope, amid others, seeks UCC affiliation
The 4,300-member Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, has voted overwhelmingly to seek denominational affiliation with the UCC.
On Oct. 30, during a congregational vote, 94 percent of voting members expressed support for UCC affiliation. The church's decision now awaits response from the UCC's North Texas Association, which is the denomination's setting charged with taking up a request for "congregational standing."
"The UCC has long been at the forefront of societal change, most recently, of course, by becoming the first mainstream denomination to support equal marriage rights for same-gender couples," said the Rev. Jo Hudson, an ordained UCC minister who serves as senior pastor and rector of the Cathedral. "Their values are our values, and we look forward to joining in partnership and continuing the work for which God has called us together."
Ironically, at a time when UCC leaders are conceding that an estimated 20 congregations are likely to leave the denomination in response to the General Synod's equal-marriage decision in July, the church also is attracting interest from existing congregations in unprecedented numbers. In October, as many as five churches officially joined the UCC, and at least 12 more congregations are actively pursuing affiliation, according to the UCC's Evangelism Ministry Team.
Meanwhile, United Church News has confirmed that, as of Nov. 4, at least 16 congregations, representing nine of the UCC's 39 Conferences, have officially voted to withdraw from the denomination since July.
Cathedral of Hope's decision comes amid speculation that two other large-membership churches will consider joining the UCC in 2006. In Minneapolis, the 2,000- member Plymouth Congregational Church has planned forums about the UCC in anticipation of a May 2006 congregational vote. And, in Tulsa, Okla., the Higher Dimensions Family Church — a charismatic, racially- integrated mega-church founded 25 years ago by Oral Roberts Evangelistic Ministries — has made known its interest in UCC affiliation. The church's founding pastor, Bishop Carlton D. Pearson, has indicated his enthusiasm for the UCC at recent gatherings of the Northern California-Nevada Conference and the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference.
If Dallas' Cathedral of Hope receives congregational standing, it would become the UCC's third-largest congregation, just ahead of First Community UCC in Columbus, Ohio, with 4,124 members. The 9,000- member Trinity UCC in Chicago is the UCC's largest, followed by the 5,500-member Victory UCC in Stone Mountain, Ga. The Cathedral of Hope also would become the largest in the UCC's South Central Conference, which currently has 13,600 members in 85 congregations.
Touted as "the world's largest liberal Christian church with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," the Cathedral of Hope, which left the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 2002, first voted to begin exploring UCC affiliation in 1997.