FRESNO, Calif. — The California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board has unanimously voted to withdraw fellowship from a local Southern Baptist congregation after its minister announced his support for homosexuality.
As previously reported, Danny Cortez leads New Heart Community Church, a small congregation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Last year, Cortez concluded that he no longer agreed with the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality and was instead “gay affirming.”
In a letter to a Patheos blogger, Cortez further explained that his 15-year-old son came out as a homosexual soon after he changed his mind on the issue. When his son broke the news, Cortez congratulated him.
“My heart skipped a beat and I turned towards him and we gave one another the biggest and longest hug as we cried,” he wrote. “And all I could tell him was that I loved him so much and that I accepted him just as he is.”
Several months later, Cortez surprised the New Heart Community Church congregation by announcing his pro-homosexual position. Cortez shared his personal belief that “the body of Christ is segregated every Sunday between gay affirming and non-gay affirming” Christians, and he exhorted Christians to embrace—not denounce—homosexual behavior.
After Cortez announced his change in beliefs, many expected the leaders of New Heart Community Church to dismiss him from the preaching position. However, Cortez announced in May that instead of dismissing him, church leaders voted to keep him on staff and re-categorize their church as a “Third Way” congregation, meaning that they would take no position on the issue.
But an unidentified former elder told Baptist Press on Friday that the congregation actually split over the matter. He said that there were four options presented: fire Cortez, consider the matter further, become “Third Way” or become a “gay-affirming” fellowship. The congregation was to separate if a two-thirds majority was not achieved, which the elder states, is what occurred. Those who sided with Cortez stayed with the congregation.
On Thursday. the California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board voted unanimously to boot New Heart Community Church from its fellowship for violating the Baptist Faith and Message, which reads, “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality and pornography.”
“Should the pastor and congregation … reverse their current stance on homosexual practice and behavior, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss resuming fellowship with New Heart Community Church,” board chairman Montia Setzler told reporters. “I believe restoration is possible, and I think there would nothing but Kingdom joy if that were to happen.”
Some board members also prayed for Cortez in light of his position on homosexuality. It was the first time in 74 years that the board has removed a congregation from its fellowship.