A California church has been kicked out by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest protestant denomination, because the pastor embraces homosexuality.
The SBC announced that New Heart Community Church could no longer be a part of the community because the “congregation’s relatively tolerant take on LGBT issues does not meet the convention’s standards of a ‘cooperating church.’”
According to SBC President and pastor of Cross Church in Arkansas, New Heart has walked away from Southern Baptists.
“We have not walked away from them,” he said. “So it is with compassion that I would appeal to them to reconsider their decision, mostly their position related to the Word of God on homosexuality.”
New Heart pastor Danny Cortez brought attention to the church when he gave a sermon called “Why I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality,” which had the congregation put a formal stance on LGBT issues to a vote. Cortez shifted his views on the LGBT community after his son came out as gay.
“My heart skipped a beat and I turned towards [my son] and we gave one another the biggest and longest hug and we cried,” Cortez said of the news. “And all I could tell him was that I loved him so much and that I accepted him just as he is…If it wasn’t for this 15 year journey and my change in theology, I may have destroyed my son through reparative therapy.”
It was agreed that though many members still believed homosexuality is a sin, those individuals and the church would not condemn the LGBT community, making New Heart a “third way” church.
“There is no third way on this issue,” President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Albert Mohler wrote in a blog. “Several years ago, I made that argument and was assailed by many of the left as being ‘reductionistically binary.’ But, the issue is binary. A church will recognize same-sex relationships, or it will not. A congregation will teach a biblical position on the sinfulness of same-sex acts, or it will affirm same-sex behaviors as morally acceptable. Ministers will perform same-sex ceremonies, or they will not.”
New Heart Deacons submitted letters before the SBC vote saying that their congregation holds many positions on the issue, though their pastor is firmly pro-LGBT.
“Some ‘members in our church’ believe that same-sex marriage can be blessed by God, while other members in our church believe that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman,” a letter read. “While ‘our church’ remains without an official stance on same-sex marriage, our preaching pastor has officiated a same-sex marriage.”
New Heart now joins other churches like Broadway Baptist Church in Texas who was expelled in 2009 after allowing “members who are openly homosexual and unrepentant.”