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The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas is the Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope of Dallas, called and elected by the 4,500-member congregation on April 12, 2015, following a year-long search. He began his tenure on June 3, 2015.
Dr. Cazares-Thomas previously served for 13 years as the Senior Pastor of the Founders Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles, the founding church of Metropolitan Community Churches, an international movement of churches reaching in and beyond the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, and inter-sex community.
A member of Metropolitan Community Churches since 1981, having joined the church on his fifteenth birthday, Rev. Neil has served in numerous denominational positions including Chair, Board of Ordained Ministries (European District); Member, Elder’s Task Force on Education; Member, European District Committee; Member, Board of Samaritan College in Europe; Supervising Pastor, and Ecumenical Officer. More recently he has served on the Moderator’s Advising Team and consultant to the Office of Formation and Leadership Development.
As a native of Bournemouth, England, Dr. Cazares-Thomas was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. His family left the Mormon Church in his early years. He attended St John’s Theological College (Church of England), La Saint Union (Roman Catholic) and King Alfred’s College, and graduated with a BA (M. Div [USA equiv]). In 2002, he enrolled in the Doctoral program at San Francisco Theological College (Presbyterian) He graduated with his Doctor of Ministry in October 2009.
He has been granted Privilege of Call in the United Church of Christ.
Dr. Cazares-Thomas is a contributing author of Daring to Speak Love’s Name (Penguin Books, 1993), From Queer to Eternity (Cassell, 1997), The Queer Bible Commentary (SCM Press, 2006) and is currently writing a chapter for a new book entitled, Jesus Acted Up: Then and Now. He has also been featured in a number of journals relating to queer theology and ministry to the LGBTQ community.
Dr. Cazares-Thomas is married to Isaiah Thomas-Cazares and they have a daughter.
Erin is a Southern California native. After receiving her bachelor's degree in Literature from U.C. Santa Cruz, she worked at a variety of jobs that included public school teaching, larger church ministry and non-profit work. Her church adventures included growing up in a small Episcopal Church, spending her teenage years in a mid-range sized Presbyterian Church, being in volunteer leadership with InterVarsity during her college years, and finally working at a very large Congregational Church in Pasadena. She lived overseas for a year in England to study the Bible in her late 20s, which led to not only an increased love of the Bible but also a love of adventure and travel, which she still has to this day. In college she was introduced to cross-cultural & inner-city outreach which culminated in spending a summer in Cambodia teaching ESL and working with local organizations on health issues and human trafficking in 2008. She has been a guest podcaster on Homebrewed Christianity, led AIDS outreach ministry workshops, been a part of a creative Downtown Los Angeles church plant, co-led various youth camps in the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, and been a keynote speaker for the South Bay Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. In February 2009, she accepted her first call and became the full-time Associate minister at Manhattan Beach Community Church. As Minister to Youth and Families for seven years, Erin cared for the spiritual journeys of our young families, teens and children by coordinating a variety of ministry programs that challenged and enriched the life of this vibrant congregation. In 2006 she received her Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. She was ordained into the United Church of Christ in January 2011.
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Rev. Dr. Michael Diaz is a Texas faith leader, passionate about recognizing the sacred value and inherent dignity of every individual, especially the most marginalized in society. Although ordained in Metropolitan Community Churches since 2008, he initially shied away from congregational ministry, viewing the church as an ineffective agent for societal change. After working with immigrant communities in graduate school, he began to experience just how empowering faith traditions can be on a personal and societal level. Journeying with immigrants, refugees, and queer communities awakened him to a deeper spirituality, evidenced by divine love and radical inclusion.
Rev. Diaz has served congregations in Massachusetts, Florida, and Texas, most recently serving as the Director of Connections at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Houston. At Resurrection MCC, he led the planning and implementation of visitor integration and engagement strategies for a dynamic community, specifically in first impressions, volunteer development, congregational care/counseling, and leadership development areas.
Previously, he served as the Director of Religious Education and Volunteer Ministries at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL, a Metropolitan Community Church affiliated with the Center for Progressive Christianity. At the Cathedral from 2007-2010, he uncovered a newfound love for connecting congregants to volunteer service opportunities and oversaw the transition of the Cathedral's religious education arm from Light University to The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral.
Rev. Diaz also worked as a labor and interfaith community organizer in Boston, MA, guest lectured at local universities on sexual ethics and queer Latin@ theologies, co-coordinated and spoke at the International New Thought Alliance's 95th World Congress, presented at the 2011 Victory Fund Gay And Lesbian Leadership Conference and the 2014 NGLTF Creating Change Conference. He also participated in the 2010 Walk for Tolerance, the first ever public-wide HIV/AIDS March in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Rev. Diaz was honored to be named the 2016 Jennifer Justice and Carlos Chavez Young Adult Award recipient in UFMCC. He is a two-time recipient of the Faith Leader of the Year FACE Award in Houston, and holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral. In Boston, he garnered awards recognizing his excellence in biblical exegesis and for his commitment to peace and justice work.
Rev. Diaz holds a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University and a master’s degree from Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from EDS in 2012, focusing his research on developing biblical reading strategies for queer Latin@s. He most recently earned an MBA from Hult International Business School in Boston where he learned how to incorporate sustainable solutions for maximum social impact.
Currently, Rev. Diaz serves on the Board of Directors for AIDS Foundation Houston and as an advisor for the Organización Latina De Trans en Texas, the first trans Latinx rights group in the state. In November 2016, Rev. Diaz joins the leadership team of the Cathedral of Hope, a Dallas congregation of the United Church of Christ, as Associate Pastor.