Cathedral of Hope’s New Pastor

Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas now leads the world’s largest gay and lesbian church. But he really wants to sing.

You’re a Brit, coming to Dallas by way of Los Angeles, where you were senior pastor at Founders Metropolitan Community Church. You were raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What brought you to the MCC denomination?

I came into the MCC on my 15th birthday. I had just come out to my family, and knew that I was spiritual, and that church was an important part of my life. A friend invited me. I stayed with that church in Bournemouth, Great Britain, all the way through. The church was really small then. Probably 10 to 15 people. And when I left it, we had bought our first piece of property, with a congregation of about 120. We founded a lesbian and gay center called Over the Rainbow. And, of course, that was during the AIDS pandemic.

Cathedral of Hope was formerly an MCC church, but now it’s United Church of Christ. As I understand it, the two denominations have much in common, including a spirit of diversity.

And inclusion. Yeah. You know, I think that many mainline denominations now are opening to the LGBT community. There are so many ways in which all churches are beginning this journey of partnering together. In some ways, it’s a post-denominational, and some people say even a post-Christian, experience. We live in a much, much, much more pluralistic world now than we ever did before.

You were a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus in L.A. Will you sing for us?

Oh, music is my passion. It’s the thing that feeds my soul. When you are a minister, a servant leader, you also recognize that you have to feed your soul. And singing in a chorus, something like that, is what feeds me and keeps me alive. And my husband and my daughter. That, too.

Isaiah, your husband, is originally from Dallas. He even did some acting on local stages. Was that a selling point?

Was Dallas my first choice after living in the beautiful sunshine of California? Well, no. But I realize it’s not about where the church is. It’s about where God is asking me to be. And I have to say, having a daughter and having family that live in Dallas is going to be extremely beneficial. I know that when we finally settled on Dallas, Isaiah said he was looking forward to reconnecting with his SMU friends and colleagues in the theater.

You’ve been described as a social activist pastor. What will that mean for you here?

I truly believe that Christianity is not so much a religion as a lifestyle choice. Social activism was part of Jesus’ life. It’s what set him apart from some of the others who claimed to be the messiah at that point. So, Christianity without social activism—it’s perhaps the religion, but it’s certainly not the lifestyle. I’m not a political party person. But in terms of equality, anything you say can be a political statement. I’m looking forward to working with other secular organizations that carry the values of equality. There were two guys in Texas who recently got their adoption denied by judges. I truly believe that the job of lawmakers is to bring about more equality, and the job of the church is to win people’s hearts and minds. And we have to find ways in which we work in partnership to do that job. Often, people’s hearts and minds take longer than laws do. But we have to do that. 

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