A Biography of Dr. Neal

Background:

The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Commerce, Texas, and Rector of Grace Incarnate Ministries. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University with the B.A. in History, Religious Studies, and Russian Language; Duke University with the M.Div. in Theology and Biblical Studies; and Trinity Graduate College with the Ph.D in Systematic Theology and New Testament Textual Criticism. His doctoral dissertation was in the field of Sacramental Theology and dealt with protestant and Methodist understandings of the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Essential elements of Neal's work on this subject have been re-drafted into readable English and have been published in his
book: Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is now in its second edition.


Ministry Credentials and Pastoral History:

Rev. Neal is a “Clergy Member in Full Connection” of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, having been ordained a Transitional Deacon in 1991 and an Elder ("Presbyter") in 1994 by the Reverend Dr. Bruce P. Blake, then-resident Bishop of the Dallas Episcopal Area. While trained as a theologian, Dr. Neal is nevertheless called to the pastoral ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ. During his 27+ years in ministry he has served as Associate Pastor and Pastor at several United Methodist Churches in North Carolina and North Texas.

The North Carolina Conference

  • Associate Pastor of Rehobeth and Westover (June - December 1989)
  • Pastor of Pinetop, Temperance Hall, McKendree, and Marvin (Jan 1990 - June 1992)
The North Texas Conference
  • Pastor of Celeste-Kingston-White Rock (June - December 1992)
  • Pastor of Cockrell Hill in Dallas (January 1993 - June 1996)
  • Pastor of First Trenton/Blue Ridge (June 1996 - June 1997)
  • Pastor of Beverly Drive in Wichita Falls (June 1997 - June 2001)
  • Senior Pastor of First Seagoville (June 2001 - July 2007)
  • Senior Pastor of St. Stephen in Mesquite (July 2007 - July 2011)
  • Senior Pastor of Northgate in Irving (July 2011 - July 2014)
  • Senior Pastor at First Commerce (July 2014 -- To Present)
Dr. Neal's years of ministry in North Texas have been full and fruitful. His bishops have appointed him to churches that have been all over the theological spectrum, from conservative to progressive, formal to contemporary. He has served a few small town-and-country churches, two inner-city churches, three suburban churches, and a vibrant university church. He has been sent to churches struggling with financial difficulties and to congregations that have been severely divided and dysfunctional. As something of the problem-solver and trouble-shooter, Greg has been particularly successful at helping conflicted and fractured congregations to forge lasting and meaningful reconciliation between estranged groups.

Activities:

In addition to his pastoral duties in the local church, Rev. Neal has served on several boards and committees of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, including four District Committees on Ordained Ministry, the Ecumenical Ministries Commission, and the Conference Planning Committee. He has served for many years as a district and conference statistician, written extensively for the Conference newspaper, and been a mentor-pastor for many young clergy.

Beyond these District and Conference responsibilities, Dr. Greg has also been involved in several mission, ministry, and educational initiatives at the denominational-level: from 1994 - 2006 he taught in the General Board of Global Ministries' Schools of Christian Mission in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia, and also served as Dean of the North Texas Mission School from 1996-1997. Since 1997 he has been involved with the Walk to Emmaus, a Ministry of the Upper Room and the General Board of Discipleship, serving as Spiritual Director for innumerable weekend retreats and as the Community Spiritual Director for the Red River and Dallas Emmaus Communities.

Dr. Neal has taught
This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion to numerous lay and clergy groups across the denomination since its adoption in 2004 as the official position of the UMC on the meaning and practice of the Lord's Supper. As a popular speaking on many Biblical and Theological subjects, including Sacramental Theology, Rev. Neal has lead spiritual retreats, revivals, classes, and study seminars for groups all across the United Methodist Church and in other denominations. Dr. Greg is a past member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the United Methodist Order of Saint Luke. His love of liturgy, the sacraments, and the contemplative life, as well as his keen interest in the ecumenical movement, led to his being invited to become the first United Methodist Associate of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an Anglican Monastic community which has spiritually fed him for 27 years.

Interests:

Dr. Neal is interested in many fields of Theological, Historical, and Biblical study, including Pneumatology, Christology, Philosophical Theology, New Testament Canonical and Textual Criticism, Pauline, Johannine, and Synoptic Studies, but his field of specialization is Sacramental Theology. Dr. Greg is an author of many articles and several books. One of his most important works is
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is now out in a second edition and is available online or in your local Christian bookstore. Never one to be idle, Dr. Neal is currently working on several books, each of which focuses upon topics within the field of Sacramental Theology.

Among Rev. Neal's many interests may be found a love of languages, and especially the study of linguistic theory. Over the past 35 years he has been a student of 10 languages, including Latin, Koine Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic,
Akkadian, Old Church Slavonic, Russian, Theological German and Dutch. Recently, Dr. Greg began learning Polish.

Like many ministers, Greg is an avid reader of many different literary genre. In addition to the theological and biblical fields, he particularly loves Science Fiction and Fantasy; his favorite authors include Robert A. Heinlein, James P. Hogan, Larry Niven, Andre Norton, Harry Turtledove, Isaac Asimov, and David Weber. He also enjoys Tom Clancy's “Jack Ryan” series, the “Father Dowling Mystery” novels of Ralph McInnery, the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling, and the works of Mark Twain and Anthony Trollop.

Reverend Neal's interests include both near and deep space Astronomy. He enjoys spending clear, crisp evenings outdoors and away from city lights, with his 10 inch reflector and 4 inch refractor telescopes, slewing across the night sky in search of distant galaxies, nebula, planets, comets, and other amazing celestial works of God's creative genius.

Dr. Neal loves motion pictures and television programming of many different kinds, including classic films and current releases. His favorite classic-movie actors were William Powell and Cary Grant and his all-time favorite actresses were Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn. Being a Science Fiction fan, it should not be a surprise to anyone that Greg is also a fan of Star Trek (in all its incarnations), Stargate (the movie and the three TV series), the Battlestar Galactica re-boot, The Big Bang Theory, as well as classic and current DoctorWho. He also enjoys British Comedies, including The Vicar of Dibley, Waiting for God, and the classic Are You Being Served. Current or recent television shows of interest to him are 24, The Blacklist, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Grace and Fankie, Downton Abby, and the Walking Dead.

Dr. Greg is also an avid world traveler, and especially loves ocean-going vessels and cruise ships. The Holland America Line is his Cruise Line of choice; although he has traveled on ships of other Lines, he particularly loves the charm and old-world grace and high level of service that is provided by their officers and crew. Thus far, he has enjoyed nearly 500 days aboard HAL ships as a passenger, and over 100 days as a Volunteer Chaplain, and looks forward to many more years of ocean voyages on the decks of HAL's “Damships.”