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Gay megachurch
joins mainstream denomination

Gay megachurch
joins mainstream denomination

Dallas's Cathedral of Hope, regarded as the world's largest predominantly LGBT church, was voted Saturday into the mainstream United Church of Christ in a historic milestone for gay and lesbian people of faith.

The Protestant denomination's North Texas Association voted by an overwhelming majority to grant Cathedral of Hope congregational standing.

With more than 3,500 members, Cathedral of Hope becomes the fourth-largest congregation in the United Church of Christ, which in July 2005 became the first mainstream Protestant denomination to endorse same-sex marriage. It made headlines this spring when its "ejector-seat" TV ad, spotlighting its welcome of gays and others, was rejected as too radical by most U.S. networks.

Joining the UCC affords the Dallas church greater resources in ministry and training, potential health and pension benefits and the "great affirmation" of being welcomed into a mainstream denomination "that has long been on the cutting edge of human rights," the Rev. Jo Hudson, Cathedral of Hope's senior pastor, told Gay.com.

"It's an amazing thing to be welcomed into a church founded by people who helped settle the eastern United States," Hudson said.

The UCC was formed in 1957 by the union of two denominations with roots deep in American history, the Congregational Christian Churches in America and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

The Reverend John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, said he too welcomed the decision.

"We will be enriched by the vitality of Cathedral of Hope's ministry even as we hope that incorporation into our 50-year history will be a gift to them," Thomas said in a written statement.

With a satellite church in Oklahoma City, outreach programs, pastoral counseling, and online and TV ministries in more than two dozen U.S. cities, Cathedral of Hope bills itself as "the world's largest liberal Christian church with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."

It was founded 36 years ago by 12 gay and lesbian Christians and until 2003 was a member of the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Churches. It grew rapidly, fueled partly by the crisis of AIDS and partly by the dynamism of then-senior pastor Michael Piazza.

"The great personal spiritual idea that was given to Mike Piazza was that we are not going to be ashamed of who we are...and that we are going to aspire to be great disciples of Christ," said Hudson, who took over the top post in February 2005.

Saturday's vote culminates a year-long process. But Cathedral of Hope began exploring UCC affiliation many years ago, in 1997, when a congregational vote authorized consideration of the move. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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