Head of world’s largest gay church resigns

Cathedral of Hope pastor will lead social justice group

Michael Piazza has resigned as dean of Cathedral of Hope, the world’s largest gay and lesbian church, to lead a nonprofit, social justice activist group sponsored by the church.

Neither Mr. Piazza nor cathedral board members could be reached for comment Saturday.

Some members of the church attending a potluck dinner there Saturday night said Mr. Piazza talked about his resignation with the congregation last Sunday, but they referred other questions to church leaders. In a letter posted on the church’s Web site, Mr. Piazza said he wanted to devote all of his efforts to leading the group, Hope and Peace for Justice.

That desire was reinforced on Election Day, he said, when 11 states ratified anti-gay marriage amendments. In addition, he said he was also concerned about reports of 100,000 civilians killed in Iraq and the lack of health care and education for the poor in this country.

“As a gay person who has been in love with the same man for 24 years, I am sick and tired of my relationship being used as a threat to turn out right-wing voters,” Mr. Piazza said in the letter. “The fight for justice cannot wait.”

Since Mr. Piazza became pastor at Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope in November 1987, membership has grown from a few hundred to nearly 4,000 members. But the Georgia native’s tenure has not been without controversy.

In July 2003, he turned over his pastor’s credentials in order to end the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches investigation of him for possible financial mismanagement.

Mr. Piazza denied the misconduct allegations, which were filed by a former board member. They involved the church’s insurance, Mr. Piazza’s expense account and his oversight of money being raised for a $40 million complex.

But two weeks after he relinquished his credentials, cathedral members voted to sever ties with the denomination. And after a three-month sabbatical, he returned to leadership of the church as dean.

Staff writer LaKisha Ladson contributed to this report.

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The Dallas Morning News, USA
Nov. 13, 2004
Stephanie Sandoval

Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday November 14, 2004.
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