Pastor Danny Cortez says he didn’t plan or budget to attend this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, but he hopes circumstances will change so he can go and explain to fellow pastors his church’s decision to agree to disagree about homosexuality.
A Southern Baptist church in California drew scrutiny from denominational leaders and observers after voting May 18 not to dismiss a pastor who said he had changed his mind about homosexuality being a sin.
New Heart Community Church of La Mirada, Calif., entered a period of discernment and discussion after Pastor Danny Cortez told elders he had changed his stance on homosexuality.
“It was understood this was a radical shift from the longtime stance of our church,” Cortez told church members in a sermon posted on YouTube. It was also a “radical shift from our statement of faith” for the congregation aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention, which calls homosexuality immoral and regards churches which act to affirm it as not in “friendly cooperation.”
Cortez said it wasn’t long after New Heart Community Church began in 1997 that the first church member confessed to him in counseling of feelings of same-sex attraction. He said between one and three persons made similar statements every year, and that he always felt those sessions were different from burdens carried by other parishioners.
Usually, he said, church members would leave counseling feeling better about their problems. When he would talk about the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, he said, it was more a mood of “dread” and “basically me telling them for the rest of your life you can never fall in love.”
The final straw came in August 2013, when in a conversation about the lyrics of a song they heard on the radio his 15-year-old son came out and told him he is gay.
Cortez told the congregation he regrets “dropping a bomb” on the elders by not telling them earlier that his views were evolving and that he understood such a change could have serious implications.
“I realize that it’s grounds for termination,” he said. “I realize that this might be my last message.”
Many people weren’t pleased with the admission, he said, prompting a scheduled vote on whether or not to fire him. On March 9 the congregation voted to postpone the vote and prolong a period of prayer, study and discernment until May 18.
Instead of firing Cortez, a majority voted to become a “Third Way” church, agreeing to disagree on the morality of same-sex relationships and not cast judgment on one another. Cortez called it “a huge step for a Southern Baptist church.”
SOURCE: Bob Allen
Associated Baptist Press