Local Hero: Pastor Dan Hooper

Pastor Dan Hooper (photo by Ed Krieger)"Let's hope that Gay Pride Month is really a month to celebrate the best in all people, because everybody can be a hero. I meet some every day!"

A third-generation Californian, Dan Hooper is an LGBT rights activist and the head Pastor at Hollywood Lutheran Church; Chair of the Bishop's Task Force on Prison and Jail Ministries; and President of the HIV/AIDS education and advocacy organization Hollywood Remembers. Pastor Dan's community involvement and volunteerism spans more than 40 years, including nine years as a member of the Los Angeles Queer Interfaith Clergy Council, as well as numerous groundbreaking efforts to realize social justice, full inclusion and equality for the LGBT community.

Ordained in 1974 by the American Lutheran Church, Pastor Dan served for 14 years in pastoral ministry. In 1981 he helped revive the Los Angeles chapter of Lutherans Concerned, the largest organization of Lutherans working for full inclusion of LGBT people in the church.

In 1985, Pastor Dan co-authored A Call for Dialog, Lutherans Concerned's first public theological statement on the full social, spiritual and civic equality of LGBT people. As a result of his advocacy, he was forced to resign from his parish and was dropped from the official clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Despite his dismissal, Pastor Dan continued to speak and write on issues affecting LGBT people.
In February 2004, he and his partner Carl Hunter traveled to San Francisco City Hall and became one of the first same-sex couples in California history to be issued a marriage license.

One month later, Pastor Dan was elected by an overwhelming majority of members of Hollywood Lutheran Church to serve as their Pastor, despite the threat of ecclesiastical sanctions against the congregation. This same year, Hooper and Hunter were publicly recognized by Lutherans Concerned/North America in 2004 for their life-long contributions, and awarded honorary life-time memberships. Because of the efforts of brave people like Pastor Dan, the ELCA is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve as clergy.

In 2005, Pastor Dan opened the doors of Hollywood Lutheran to the Los Angeles Queer Interfaith Clergy Council, which continues to advocate for LGBT equality today. Three years later he worked with fellow HIV/AIDS advocates to found Hollywood Remembers, a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring and remembering the lives of those lost to AIDS, through service to those who live with, and continue the fight against HIV today.

Hollywood Lutheran Church officially adopted a vigorous stand against Proposition 8 and authorized Pastor Dan to speak and act to defeat it. While same-sex marriage was briefly legal before the proposition passed at the polls, Pastor Dan and Carl were united in marriage in the Sanctuary of the church before a hundred guests.

In 2009, he formed a team to launch Mariposa Prison & Parole Ministries, which provides direct services to inmates and ex-offenders seeking to lead constructive lives and reintegrate into society. To this end, in April 2013, Pastor Dan also began working directly with the Education Based Incarceration Bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to help educate and assist gay and transgender ex-offenders through the S.M.A.R.T. Continuum program.

Under Pastor Dan's leadership, Hollywood Lutheran has also become home to organizations that address many other challenges in the community, including drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, and even a children's community theater troupe that was in need of a home.

To find out more about Pastor Dan Hooper and the Hollywood Lutheran Church, visit
www.hollywoodlutheran.org.

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