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

Rev. Jo Hudson joins Brite faculty

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Rev. Jo Hudson

Joretta Marshall, dean of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, announced that the school has hired the Rev. Jo Hudson, former pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, as an adjunct faculty member. Brite is on the campus of Texas Christian University.

Hudson, who resigned from COH after nine years in April, will be part of the Carpenter Initiative in Gender, Sexuality and Justice, which produces “programs that promote a critical engagement with issues of gender and sexual justice” and promotes attention to these issues in church and culture. Marshall directs the Carpenter Initiative.

Marshall said Hudson will teach part time, working with the school’s United Church of Christ students, lecturing, conducting workshops and preaching in chapel this fall. She said she hopes some of the programs will be open to the public and plans are still being formed.

“We extremely excited to have her on staff,” Marshall said.

Hudson will not be the first LGBT staff member at Brite. Both Marshall and the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle are also gay.

Marshall said Hudson is also working as the gathering pastor of Extravagance UCC, described on the website as, “a web-based spiritual community that gathers in a new way of defining church in the 21st century.”

—  David Taffet

Cathedral of Hope names interim pastor

The Rev. James Mitulski

The Rev. James Mitulski

The Rev. James J. Mitulski will become interim pastor of Cathedral of Hope on Aug. 1. He has been a guest speaker at the church in the past.

Mitulski has 30 years of pastoral experience and has served churches in Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

He was a Merrill Fellow of the Harvard Divinity School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia university, a master’s from Pacific School of Religion and an honorary doctorate from the Starr King School for Ministry.

Mitulski has dual standing with the United Church of Christ, and is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Metropolitan Community Churches.

Now that an interim pastor is in place, the process of searching for a permanent senior pastor will begin. A new committee is forming and applications have already begun arriving.

The interim pastor may not apply for the permanent position. His job is to guide the church through its period of healing and leadership transition after the resignation of its senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson on April 21.

—  David Taffet

Cathedral to hold ‘Service of Healing and Prayer’ after Hudson’s resignation

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Cathedral of Hope will hold a “Service of Healing and Prayer” tonight in the wake of the resignation of the Rev. Jo Hudson, who has served as senior pastor for the last nine years.

Hudson announced her resignation at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday. The board sent an emergency email on Sunday afternoon to the congregation because the announcement had not been made to people who attended the 9 a.m. service.

The Rev. Alejandro de la Torre, who headed the Cathedral’s Latino ministry, resigned as well. His resignation was expected. He will be leaving to take care of his elderly mother in Mexico. Rachael Sandifer, the Cathedral’s executive director, resigned earlier this month.

The service of healing will be held in the peace chapel and the announcement was sent to members Wednesday by Cathedral member Ferrell Drum and Anita Haddy, the church’s coordinator for ministry development. The announcement stated:

“The recent announcement of the resignation of Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson has stirred a deeply emotional response for members of the congregation. At a time like this, quiet reflection can help heal the raw emotions being experienced.

“A Service of Healing and Prayer is planned for Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m. in the Interfaith Peace Chapel. You are invited to attend and encouraged to invite those you know who may benefit from this service so they can attend.”

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Cathedral cuts positions, salaries due to declining donations

The Cathedral of Hope eliminated the equivalent of six full-time positions on Monday, and senior staff members at the church have taken voluntary pay cuts, spokeswoman Phoebe Sexton confirmed today.

Sexton said the cuts, which affected 10 people, are the result of a downturn in donations. The positions that were eliminated included both full-time and part-time staff members, as well as contract employees, Sexton said. The cuts spanned both ministerial and administrative positions.

“These are not numbers. These are people, family, friends,” Sexton said. “We will support those affected any way we can.”

She added that while the cuts were unavoidable, the leadership, staff and board see a “bright future” for the church.

The Cathedral, commonly referred to as the world’s largest gay church, claims a total membership of 4,200.

The Cathedral issued the following statement on Tuesday:

Like many churches across our nation, Cathedral of Hope (UCC), is experiencing the impact of the continuing national economic decline. Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, Senior Pastor, in conjunction with the Executive Staff and Cathedral of Hope Board of Directors, has recently had to make difficult but necessary decisions in order for the church to be a responsible steward of its resources and live and operate within its means.

Those decisions, painful for all involved, include budget reductions, staff layoffs and staff salary reductions. Cathedral of Hope has pledged its continued support to those employees affected, but out of respect for those who have been laid off and out of legal obligation, the church will not discuss these personnel issues.

Even in the face of these challenges the Cathedral of Hope will continue to strive to maintain the highest quality ministries, serving our church, our neighborhood, the City of Dallas and beyond.

For a full story, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Scenes from Wednesday’s rally in Dallas

After President Barack Obama declared his support for marriage equality on May 9, about 100 people gathered at the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs that evening.

Daniel Cates from GetEQUAL organized the rally that was originally called to protest the North Carolina vote to amend its state Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Among the speakers were the Rev. Jo Hudson of Cathedral of Hope, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez, Equality Texas board member Travis Gasper, the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity School and activist Michael Robinson.

Watch video from the rally below.

—  David Taffet

Nearly 100 gather on Cedar Springs to celebrate Obama’s marriage support, protest NC vote

After devastating blows Tuesday with a failed civil unions bill in Colorado and the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One, the Dallas LGBT community celebrated President Barack Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage at a rally Wednesday night.

Nearly 80 people gathered at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn to protest the passage of North Carolina’s marriage ban, but also to rejoice in the victory of the first president to come out in favor of marriage equality.

The rally had been organized after the North Carolina vote to spur the LGBT community to action by calling on Obama and Mayor Mike Rawlings to end their silence on marriage equality, but became a celebratory gathering in light of Obama’s historic announcement.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, organized the rally. He opened the remarks to the crowd by quoting from Harvey Milk’s famous “Hope Speech” and encouraging the crowd to come out to everyone they know to bring attention to the number of LGBT people who deserve equality.

“Harvey Milk was right then and Harvey Milk is right today,” Cates said after reading the speech. “We must come out for what we believe and we must ask those that support us to come out.”

—  Dallasvoice

How the Cathedral of Hope saved a black church that nearly became a martyr for marriage equality

The Rev. Jo Hudson

In today’s Voice we have a column by local leatherman and regular contributor Hardy Haberman about the straight pastor of a predominantly African-American church in St. Paul, Minn., whose support for marriage equality cost him 72 percent of his flock and now poses a financial threat to the very survival of his congregation.

Haberman focuses on how the pastor, the Rev. Oliver White of Grace Community United Church, did the right thing regardless of the potential consequences when he voted in favor of a resolution supporting marriage equality at a United Church of Christ meeting in 2005.

Haberman reports that he got wind of White’s predicament when his own pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson at Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, issued an appeal on behalf of Grace Community UCC during a recent service.

On Thursday, Religion News Service and the Washington Post picked up this same story, shedding some light on the ensuing response from Haberman’s fellow worshippers at the Cathedral.

Turns out, although White sent letters seeking financial assistance to 40 UCC congregations across the country, he got only three responses — one for $500, one for $600 and “a miracle donation from Dallas.” The donation from the Cathedral, raised during two services on the same Sunday, totaled $15,000 and has allowed Grace Community UCC to keep its doors open, at least for now.

The Cathedral, commonly referred to as the world’s largest gay church, also happens to be UCC’s fourth-largest congregation.

Below is a snippet from the WaPo piece, which you can and should read in its entirety by going here:

—  John Wright

Like virgins

Turtle Creek Chorale channels its inner Madonna — and other women throughout history — for its latest concert


STRIKE A POSE | The chorale gets into the groove Sunday performing Madonna songs, but the concert honors many women throughout history.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Trey Jacobs knew exactly who he had in mind when forging the concept of the upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale concert Madonna to Madonna: The Ageless Strength of Women. The show was conceived to feature music that honors women from the Virgin Mary to the queen of pop. Iconic as they are, Jacobs looked to high school for the women who made him the person he is today — besides Mom, of course.

“As a musician, my role model was my high school choral director Jane Price,” says the TCC’s interim conductor. “She taught me how to express emotion through music.”

Thus, Jacobs will take a cue from Madge and express himself with a selection of Madonna songs — and then some.

Jacobs took over the chorale after the season outline had already been set. Running the gamut of women throughout history, from antiquity to the contemporary, was not his idea. But he expanded the idea to make his own mark.

“There was no music selected yet,” he says. “For me, it was about trying to pair [the idea] with a concept that would resonate with people. And it became this show that truly honors women.”

With a set-list that goes from Rachmaninoff to Shania Twain, the chorale teams up with some special guests for a unique experience. Enlisting the help of local singers Patty Breckenridge and Sally Vahle, New York musician Nisha Asnani and Cathedral of Hope’s the Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, the ladies add the appropriate feminine touch to the show.

While people are scrambling to get loan approval for Madonna tickets in October, there is a distinct curiosity for how the TCC boys will be pulling off some of her greatest hits. There will even be some “chorale-ography” involved.

“They’ll be singing ‘Open Your Heart,’ ‘Dress You Up,’ ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’” says Joe Rattan, who also does the chorale’s marketing. “Oh, and ‘Vogue.’”

Rattan and Jacobs confirm that the TCC men will, in fact, be vogueing.

Clearly Madonna is a big draw for any gay event, but both men are sure to note that the inspiration of this show isn’t just about the material girl or even just about the Virgin Mary.

“The show runs the full emotional gamut,” Rattan says. “It’s very touching, there are some funny moments. Trey really breathed life into it to be this and has done a wonderful job. The guys are excited and inspired by what they are singing and I’ve been moved by what I heard.”

Jacobs assures that a concert about women by men won’t miss the point.

“I had talks with the chorale and many of them would talk about these female role models,” he says. “Sometimes it was a strong character from a movie or musical, or more personal, but it was fascinating to hear all these different men talk about women in such reverence. That’s what this is about.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 2, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

“Who would have thought that a gay church would ever have enough children to have a Children’s Christmas Pageant?”

The Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson

Senior Pastor Jo Hudson reports on the Cathedral of Hope’s website that for the first time in its 41-year history, COH will host a Children’s Christmas Pageant as part of its 11 a.m. service this coming Sunday:

Regardless of whether you come for the 9:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. worship, I think it is important to mark this milestone in the life of our church. Many people who are not familiar with our church would never believe that a church filled primarily with same-gender couples would have any children at all. But this Sunday when we gather at 11:00 a. m., our children will fill the chancel area of the church. They will sing the songs of Christmas and most of them can tell you all the differences between Luke’s Christmas Story and Matthew’s Christmas Story—something many adults cannot even do.

Who would have thought that a “gay” church would ever have enough children to have a Children’s Christmas Pageant? Well, interestingly enough . . . God would have thought it, and God continues to dream great dreams for our church. I hope to see you Sunday as the dream comes to life through our children.

—  John Wright