The vote to declare that the New Heart Community Church of La Mirada, California “does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church” came unanimously as the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention met this week in Nashville. It was a solemn moment and a moment perhaps to be repeated any number of times in coming months and years. Homosexuality was the dividing line.
The SBC Executive Committee was acting in its ad interim capacity on behalf of the Convention itself. Between the annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Executive Committee fulfills its functions. When the SBC met earlier this year in Baltimore, Southern Baptists had just learned days before that the New Heart Community Church had affirmed its pastor in declaring a “third way” on the issue of homosexuality — in effect allowing for the affirmation of same-sex sexuality and relationships. In an hour-long video posted to the church’s website, Pastor Danny Cortez explained his personal change of mind on the question of homosexuality and traced his journey back to an August day in 2013 when “I realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.”
When Pastor Cortez told his 15-year-old son about his change of mind, his son responded with the simple declaration, “Dad, I’m gay.” In short order, Drew Cortez, Danny Cortez’s son, posted a “coming out” video on YouTube and Pastor Cortez told his congregation of his change of mind on homosexuality. As he told his church, his change was a “radical shift” that put him at odds with the historic understanding of the Christian church and the SBC’s confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message.
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