With clapping, cheers and hugs, a Protestant congregation Sunday defied its denomination's rule against ordaining active homosexuals in the ministry and installed a gay man to serve as pastor of Hollywood Lutheran Church.
The 100-member congregation could face disciplinary action, including expulsion, by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the nation's fifth-largest Protestant denomination, which did not formally recognize Sunday's appointment of the Rev. Daniel M. Hooper.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, with 10,700 affiliated churches and approximately 5 million members, ordains men and women with homosexual orientations, but requires them to be celibate.
Hooper, 56, of Silver Lake, said he's been in a committed, non-celibate relationship with his partner, Carl Hunter, for nearly 28 years.
"This congregation has welcomed me and has welcomed my partner," Hooper said to more than 100 supporters, some from as far as Seattle, who attended the ceremony. "This congregation has torn down the barriers and asked other Lutheran churches to do the same."
Bishop Dean Nelson, who presides over the Lutheran church in the Los Angeles region, did not attend Hooper's ceremony. He could not be reached for comment Sunday.
No protesters attended the ceremony.
Congregants elected Hooper by an 82% majority vote in March.
On Sunday, congregants and church visitors agreed that having Hooper preach outweighs the risk of disciplinary action from their denomination.
"I'm really proud of my church for taking a stand," said Janet Weber, 63, a lesbian and church organist who has belonged to the congregation for five years. "Gays are the last group that people think it is OK to discriminate against. I hope [Hooper's appointment] does encourage other churches to do the same."
In San Bernardino, the Rev. Jennifer Mason, a 41-year-old lesbian, was installed last month as pastor at Central City Lutheran Church.
Hooper and Mason were ordained as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
However, they were later removed from the official church clergy roster when the church learned that they were in committed same-sex relationships.
Hooper said he hopes their ordinations prompt change within the church.
"I expect to see a lot more of this," Hooper said before Sunday's ceremony.
"There is definitely a movement afoot."
In Minneapolis, the Rev. Jay Wiesner, 30, who is openly gay, is scheduled to be ordained at Bethany Lutheran Church on July 25.
Hooper said one of the reasons he was appointed pastor was because the church wants to reach out to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"We want to bring the good news of Christ to everyone," he said.
Hooper said Hollywood Lutheran's openness will also attract heterosexual worshipers who embrace the church's acceptance of people of all sexual orientations -- as well as other backgrounds, including race.
Virginia Fawcett believes Hooper is correct.
A heterosexual mother of five, Fawcett and her husband came from Santa Monica to support Hooper and the congregation. "This is something I believe in," Fawcett said. "I hope the [Lutheran denomination] sees that it is a good thing to ordain openly gay and lesbian pastors.... It took years for the church to ordain women."
Times staff writer Larry B. Stammer contributed to this report.