The Rev. Dan Smith served as the Pastor of West Hollywood United Church of Christ from October 1, 1984-Februay 29, 2020. For 99 years West Hollywood United Church of Christ was a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but due to the Presbyterian Church’s strong anti-gay positions, the congregation voted unanimously in 2012 to leave the Presbyterian Church and join the United Church of Christ. At the same time, Dan left the Presbyterian Church and joined the United Church of Christ.
Dan was called to serve this congregation in a very “unique context of ministry.” West Hollywood Church, which was founded November 2, 1913, is a church that has always been at the forefront of culture change. As early as 1964, five years before “Stonewall” which is often viewed as the beginning of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender civil rights movement, West Hollywood Church began hosting a gay men’s “rap group” and separate mid-afternoon worship service for the gay community. Through the work of the Lazarus Project, a ministry of empowerment and advocacy for the full inclusion of LGBT Christians, West Hollywood Church grew stronger and larger. By 1984 the Church was ready to call a full time Pastor and their preference was for a gay pastor. The Rev. Dan Smith was called and became the first openly gay pastor serving what was, at that time, a predominantly gay and lesbian congregation in the Presbyterian Church.
Dan is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ and served for 6 years at the First Presbyterian Church of Geneva, New York before coming to Los Angeles. He served on the Presbyterian Church’s “Special committee to Study Human Sexuality” and was one of the major contributors to the committee’s report, “Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice (1991).”
He is a cofounder of the Los Angeles GLBT Interfaith Clergy Association and was one of the first religious leaders in Los Angeles to provide spiritual care and support to persons with HIV/AIDS. Dan continues to be a leader in the progressive Christian movement.
(This biographical statement provided by Dan Smith.)
Dan retired from West Hollywood UCC in February 2020. He bought a home in Palm Springs to enjoy in his retirement. He died there on June 12, 2023 after a brief illness. A memorial service was held at West Hollywood UCC on July 22, 2023.
Biography Date: May 2020
West Hollywood UCC released this obituary for Rev. Daniel Smith.
Clergy Activist | Presbyterian Church (USA) | United Church of Christ/Congregational Church
“Rev. Dan Smith | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed December 07, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/dan-smith.
“I met Dan around April 2004 when when my now-deceased partner was introduced to the West Hollywood Parish Church one Sunday when there was a marathon and the road leading to The First Presbyterian Church was closed. My partner decided to attend the Sunday service at the nearest church and got to know Dan who welcomed him with open arms. We soon became friends and when my partner suffered a stroke Dan was there for me. We used to visit my unconscious partner--together at the hospital, Dan was very supportive til the day I left Los Angeles to return to the UK where I had lived for 40 years.
I was very saddened when I got word of Dan's death--having made a search on the Internet when I started to get worried when he did not reply to two emails. I was very happy when Dan told me he had retired in his dream home in Cathedral City after having worked so hard all those years. He brought the gay community together and was a great ambassador for gay rights and also for prostitutes. We had several meals together and was great company and support I will forever miss him. Far too young to die. May he rest in peace.”
– as remembered by Alberto Capaccioli on August 26, 2023
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