New nonprofit aims to plant new progressive churches around the country, with focus on the South
The Rev. Michael Piazza delivered his final sermon as a staff member of Cathedral of Hope on Nov. 8.
He is now co-director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, a new nonprofit organization created by United Church of Christ, the parent denomination of Cathedral of Hope.
The new organization’s mission is to plant new, progressive churches throughout the country but especially in the South.
Eventually, the goal is to also renew existing churches, according to spokesperson David Plunkett.
Plunkett has been with Cathedral of Hope since 2002 and moves to the new nonprofit with Piazza.
The Rev. Cameron Trimble is co-director of the new organization with Piazza.
Plunkett said, "Progressive Renewal sprang from Hope for Peace and Justice," an organization founded by Cathedral of Hope in 2004 and led by Piazza. One of the three programs of Hope for Peace and Justice is also called Progressive Renewal.
Its mission is "to support, strengthen and start progressive churches that will welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, support the environment, work for peace, and, in general, mobilize progressive people of faith to do the kind of work H4PJ was created to do," according to a release from the organization.
Fulfilling that mission, Cathedral of Hope helped create a church in Oklahoma City in 2000 and this year in Houston.
The Oklahoma church affiliated with UCC at the same time as the Dallas church. Because they are located in a different association of the parent church, they became independent at that time.
Hope for Peace and Justice will continue to operate and Piazza will continue as its president for now. In addition to Progressive Renewal, that group operates Peace House Dallas, which includes six peace organizations and Art for Peace and Justice, under the direction of Tim Seelig.
For now, Piazza will continue to office at the Dallas Peace House on the Cathedral of Hope campus.
Plunkett said, "He is passionate that this is the next step in his journey of faith."
He said that creation of the new organization had to be voted on by UCC’s 50-member Local Church Ministries board. That group approved it unanimously, something that rarely happens, Plunkett said.
Plunkett said that Piazza and Trimble would start to teach at the Chicago Theological Seminary. They will train students interested in church growth and in renewing existing churches.
Piazza has been affiliated with Cathedral of Hope for 22 years. He became the minister of the church when it was known as the Dallas Metropolitan Community Church and was located on Reagan Street. Resource Center Dallas purchased the property from the church in 1991 and is still located there.
The church moved to a temporary location on Maple Avenue while the current cathedral was built. Five years ago, the Rev. Jo Hudson succeeded Piazza as the church’s pastor and Piazza became the dean and created Hope for Peace and Justice in 2005. Cathedral of Hope was affiliated with Metropolitan Community Church before joining UCC in 2006.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20, 2009.