LOS ANGELES - Well before the national gay-rights movement sprang from the Stonewall riots, West Hollywood Presbyterian Church started Los Angeles' first gay men's rap group. The year was 1965.
The congregation launched the Lazarus Project in 1977, sending gay men and lesbians into Presbyterian churches across the country to share their stories of faith and family at a time when the denomination was poised to declare that "homosexuality was not God's wish."
The small church just off the Sunset Strip was the faith's first to hire an openly gay pastor - 27 years before the Presbyterian Constitution allowed homosexuals to be ordained. The Rev. Daniel Smith is still West Hollywood's pastor.
After decades spent trying to make the Presbyterian faith embrace its gay and lesbian members, West Hollywood has become a pioneer yet again.
Hundreds of congregations have left or begun the process of leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the last five years, joining denominations they believe hew to a stricter interpretation of Scripture.