The Rev. Todd Scoggins leaves CoH

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The Rev. Todd Scoggins, right, with the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas on the pulpit at Cathedral of Hope.

The Rev. Todd Scoggins has announced he is leaving Cathedral of Hope after serving as associate pastor of the congregation since 2009.

Scoggins was instrumental in holding the congregation together after the church’s former senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, resigned suddenly in 2013. While going through a period of healing and a nationwide search for a new head pastor, Scoggins remained at Cathedral of Hope providing stability for the congregation while the Rev. Jim Mitulski served as interim senior pastor. After Mitulski left and before the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas arrived, Scoggins again offered the leadership the church needed.

A statement from the church read:

“On August 28, 2016, the Cathedral of Hope Church of Christ received the resignation of Reverend Todd Scoggins as Associate Pastor.  Todd has faithfully served our church for the past 7 years and we are extremely grateful for his service.

“In his resignation to the church Reverend Todd said this:

“‘Throughout scripture, the number 7 has great significance and it is often followed by a time of rest and restoration. I began to notice a feeling of imbalance in my life at the beginning of this year, but I allowed myself to be ‘too busy’ to give it much attention.’ He continued, ‘I want you to know my departure has nothing to do with Neil, the staff or the Board of Stewards…they have gone above and beyond in supporting me as I have wrestled with this reality that God is doing a new thing in me.’

“There will be a farewell reception to honor Todd scheduled for Friday, September 9, 2016 from 5:00 -8:00 pm at the Interfaith Peace Chapel located on the campus of Cathedral of Hope.”

—  David Taffet

CoH marks one-year anniversary of marriage equality

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The Turtle Creek Chorale performs at Cathedral of Hope to mark the one-year anniversary of marriage equality.

Cathedral of Hope marked the one-year anniversary of marriage equality with a program that included music, speakers, cake and lots of champagne on Sunday, June 25. The Turtle Creek Chorale performed at the beginning and end of the event.

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas said more than 300 marriages have been performed at the church since the Obergefell decision brought marriage equality to Texas a year ago.

“And they’re still together,” he said. “We didn’t tear apart the sanctity of marriage.”

He said it never get tiring saying the words, “By the power invested in me by the United Church of Christ, the state of Texas and the U.S. Constitution” when performing a wedding.

He noted LGBT opponents have tried to create wedge issues between segments of the community.

“We will not let that happen because we are stronger together,” Cazares-Thomas said.

On the issue of gun control, which Human Rights Campaign has taken on, he said, “Gays know how to get shit done.”

Judge Tonya Parker spoke about marriage equality day at the Allen Courts Building. She had been trying to conduct a normal day of business in her court, but Judge Eric Moye interrupted that as he walked into her courtroom while she was speaking to opposing attorneys at the bench. Moye just approached the Parker, walked around the bench and up to her and gave her a hug. He told her he wanted to be the first to celebrate with her.

All of the other judges in the building circulated an email and decided she would be the first to perform a wedding. When a couple arrived for her to marry, all of the other judges, dressed in their robes, sat in the jury box in solidarity to watch her officiate.

The message, Parker said, was that same-sex couples are welcome in Dallas County and that they don’t have to seek out the one judge who will perform their wedding. They’re welcome in any court. All will do weddings, name changes and adoptions, just as they would do for any couple.

Parker said she talks to couples before the ceremony and was asking them what term they prefer. She said she heard repeatedly couples were saying, “Partner is fine.” That frustrated her and when she hears that now, she tells them, “You know, today you can get an upgrade.”

County Judge Clay Jenkins told the crowd that he watched the marriage equality decision read on TV with his daughter Madeleine. Her reaction was, “Every child’s parents should be able to get married.”

“Kids get it,” Jenkins said.

He called the marriage-equality decision a victory for all children whose families would now be treated equally.

Texas marriage equality plaintiffs Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes called marriage equality day a year ago and their wedding day in November two of the happiest days of their lives. When the decision was announced, Phariss said, the couple was at Love Field waiting for a flight to Austin to speak at the Capitol.

When the decision was announced, Phariss said he began crying. As he blubbered, he was rushed through the security line. He was escorted onto the plane as he continued crying and was given what he described as extra special service as he continued crying uncontrollably during the flight. He said everyone must have thought he was going to a funeral, rather than a celebration.

Cece Cox called marriage equality decision day “my favorite day.”

She said the work isn’t done yet and called on the Dallas City Council to ban reparative therapy in the city of Dallas.

She called out Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for his “hate and lies.” On the morning of the Orlando massacre, Patrick tweeted out that people “reap what they sow.” Although he removed the tweet because of severe criticism, he never apologized for blaming the victims. Instead he blamed an aide for posting it.

Jennifer Campisi is the mother of a 9-year-old trans boy. She said when she was pregnant, she read all the parenting books. None of them, she noted, had even a paragraph on raising a trans child.

Equality Texas prepared a video that included marriage equality as well as the Oak Lawn attacks. Board President Steve Rudner said Texas Competes now has 1,000 businesses on board including 34 Fortune 500 companies with operations in Texas.

Chris Chism, the Cathedral’s choir and others performed as well. Cake and lots of champagne followed the program.

—  David Taffet

Best Bets • 04.29.16

Friday 04.29— Sunday 05.01

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Purple Party spins a weekend of partying for a cause

Although they call it the Purple Party (singular), there are actually five events all weekend long at this circuit party and fundraiser from the all-volunteer Purple Foundation. It kicks off with the Ignite party on Friday, followed by a daytime pool party at Sisu Uptown on Saturday and the main event that night at South Side Music Hall. Sunday welcomes a tea-dance and then closing-night party. Among the spin doctors coming to town are DJ Paulo, Isaac Escalnate, Eddie Martinez and more. Get your Purple on!

DEETS:
For details of the events, prices on passes and a full schedule, visit purplefoundation.org.

Saturday 04.30

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Steve Grand goes unplugged

We have no shame in admitting we love Steve Grand — sure, his music is good, and he’s an out-and-proud gay man… both excellent reasons to be fans. He’s also quite dreamy. And why not love a performer for how they make us feel as we watch them entertain us? We’re not monks! He performs Unplugged at the COH Saturday.

DEETS:
Cathedral of Hope
5910 Cedar Springs Road
7 p.m.
CathedralOfHope.com

Thursday 05.05 — Sunday 05.08

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Uptown Players returns with Broadway Our Way

When Uptown Players presents their annual benefit revue Broadway Our Way — where the actors flip the sexes of who sings the songs — it usually previews the entire season. Well, this year the first show (End of the Rainbow) came first, and if it’s any indication, you don’t wanna miss what they are up to for the rest of the year. B.J. Cleveland directs an all-star cast, that also features stallwarts like Coy Covington, pictured. Fasten your seatbelts, dolls — it’s gonna be an adventure.

DEETS:
Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
$40–$50
UptownPlayers.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Richard Sheridan given probation and provide restitution in graffiti cases

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2014 graffiti at Legacy of Love monument

Former Dallas City Council candidate Richard Sheridan has been given felony deferred adjudication probation in 2014 graffiti cases that targeted the LGBT community.

Sheridan entered the first half of his plea to graffiti charges on Thursday, Feb. 11. His case was reset for a pre-sentence investigation and evaluation. A restitution hearing will be held on April 15 to determine the amount of restitution to be paid as a condition of probation.

Sheridan was arrested in March 2015 for spray painting “666” on the Legacy of Love monument on the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue in June 2014. He also was accused of tagging Cathedral of Hope property and sidewalks in front of The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine and The Observer. Dallas Voice distribution boxes were defaced as well. Tagging attributed to Sheridan was later found in Dallas City Hall’s parking garage as well.

According to Assistant Criminal District Attorney Gary McDonald, Sheridan is being placed on felony deferred adjudication probation for a period of two years in each case, as charged.

“This means his plea is to ‘Graffiti of a Monument/Church with the Hate Crime allegation,’ a third degree felony,” McDonald wrote. “He will be fined $1,000.00 in each case, but the fine will be probated because he is indigent.”

Sheridan will be prohibited from contacting either location as a condition of community supervision. As part of the pre-sentence investigation, he will be referred for a mental health/dual diagnosis evaluation to determine appropriate conditions of community supervision in each case.

The amount of restitution to Cathedral of Hope has not yet been determined. The church cleaned the graffiti at its own expense. The Oak Lawn Committee cleaned the monument. Defacing a public monument or a church carries higher penalties than other targets. Hate crime charges can be attached to those as well since they specifically targeted the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

Cathedral of Hope celebrates Ash Wednesday at the Crossroads

IMG_6277The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas, along with the rest of the pastoral staff of Cathedral of Hope, spent evening rush hour at the Crossroads, the corner of Throckmorton Street and Cedar Springs Road so people could receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.

Seen above, Kevin Thomas, Dallas Voice art director, receives ashes from Cazares-Thomas.

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—  David Taffet

UCC signs agreement with Boy Scouts

890px-Boy_Scouts_of_America_corporate_trademark.svgThe United Church of Christ is scheduled to sign an agreement with the Boy Scouts of America to affirm the right of UCC congregations to charter Boy Scout troops that are in line with its religious principle of inclusion without discrimination.

The memorandum of understanding will be signed this afternoon during a BSA board meeting says that UCC’s position is consistent with BSA values and polices.

Cathedral of Hope, one of UCC’s largest churches, has tried to charter Boy Scout troops in the past and has been turned down by the Irving-based organization.

Earlier this year, Boy Scouts changed its policy to allow LGBT Scout leaders. A year earlier, the organization began allowing gay Scouts, but those Scouts were kicked out of the organization when they turned 18.

The Memorandum of Understanding will by signed at the DFW Marriott in Irving by Michael B. Surbaugh, the BSA’s chief scout executive. The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive for the UCC’s Health and Wholeness Advocacy Ministries, will represent the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, the UCC’s general minister and president.

 

—  David Taffet

Cazares-Thomas installed as pastor of Cathedral of Hope

On Aug. 22, the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas was installed as the new pastor of Cathedral of Hope, the largest church in the world with a primary outreach to the LGBT community and allies. After a two-year search that began with the resignation of the previous pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, Cazares-Thomas was elected on April 12.

Photos of the event were taken by Barb Nunn.

—  David Taffet

Joint statement from CoH and BEB on UCC divestment resolution

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Rabbi Steve Fisch, left, and the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas

Joint Statement from Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope (United Church of Christ) and Rabbi Steve Fisch of Congregation Beth El Binah (Union For Reform Judaism):

We are proud of the important and caring alliance that we at Congregation Beth El Binah and the Cathedral of Hope have on behalf of the LGBT and larger community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our respective congregations — one Protestant, one Jewish — agree completely on our philosophies and actions on behalf of all those who suffer from injustice.

However, we have deep concerns about the vote by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ on June 30 to approve Resolution No. 4 to divest from companies with business and to boycott products made in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. We believe the resolution failed to take into account the fullness of the complexity of the situation.

While we are in agreement that not all steps taken by the current Israeli government regarding the difficulties in dealing with their Palestinian neighbors have been the best decisions, the resolution appears to place the blame for problems in the region solely on Israel. Too many people continue to ignore Israel’s need to defend herself against governments united in their desire for the destruction of the Jewish State.

The United Church of Christ is progressive, open and affirming. However, from the LGBT perspective the resolution neglected to consider the treatment of LGBT folks in Palestinian-controlled territories who are refugees now in other countries because of the way the LGBT persons have been treated in Palestinian-controlled territories.

We believe these concerns make Resolution No. 4 shortsighted.

Our hope and prayers regarding the current conflict in the Middle East involve deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians who are affected by the difficulties in this region.

While our two congregations cannot immediately create change in the Middle East, we pledge our respective efforts to help bring about peace and greater equality for all peoples, beginning here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

—  David Taffet

Local prayer services for people of Emmanuel AME Church

CathedralCathedral of Hope and Hope for Peace and Justice will have an hour of prayer in solidarity with Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston and for an end to racism and gun violence at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday June 18, at the Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road.

On Friday night, Living Faith Covenant Church offers a time of Prayer, Healing, and Action at 7 p.m. at 3403 Shelley Blvd.

—  David Taffet

Rabbinical group condemns conversion therapy

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Rabbi Denise Eger

In a long overdue ruling, the Central Conference of American Rabbis condemned “conversion therapy.” The CCAR is the rabbinical association of Reform rabbis.

While Reform Judaism began welcoming gay and lesbian Jews into congregations in the 1960s and officially recognized same-sex marriage in 1997, most Orthodox still condemn gays and lesbians and have encouraged “conversion therapy.”

The Orthodox conversion therapy organization is called JONAH and has been condemned by all Jewish groups, including the Union for Reform Judaism, the organization of Reform synagogues in North America. JONAH is based in New Jersey, which has banned use of “conversion therapy” on minors. The organization was founded by Arthur Goldberg, who was an executive vice president of a Wall Street investment bank convicted for fraud.

“Reform Judaism has long recognized that the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities is something to be celebrated and affirmed, not a condition to be treated,” said Rabbi Steven A. Fox, the Chief Executive of the CCAR. “The Reform Rabbinate has long been at the forefront of advocating for full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals and the extension of protection of individuals of all ages.”

Gay and lesbian rabbis have been ordained for decades and at least one transgender rabbi has been ordained. But it took a lesbian heading the CCAR to call attention to the issue of “conversion therapy” and condemn it.

Earlier this year, the CCAR’s 2,000 members elected Rabbi Denise Eger as its president. Eger is lesbian has been rabbi at Congregation Kol Ami, a predominantly LGBT Reform synagogue in Los Angeles since the early 1990s. She is expected to be in Dallas for the installation of her friend The Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas as Cathedral of Hope’s new senior pastor.

—  David Taffet