LA MIRADA, Calif. – The leaders of a Southern Baptist congregation in southern California have voted to not dismiss their ‘pastor,’ despite recently stunning his congregation in announcing from the pulpit that he believes homosexual behavior is not a sin.
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 “gay” soon after he changed his mind on the homosexuality issue. When his son first broke the news, Cortez emotionally 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,” Cortez 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, in a February 9 sermon, 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, instead of dismissing Cortez, the church leaders voted last month to keep him on staff and re-categorize their church as a “Third Way” congregation.
“This is a huge step for a Southern Baptist church!!” Cortez ecstatically wrote in his letter. “So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment.”
“All of this to say, I believe God is moving in beautiful ways,” Cortez concluded.
After Cortez’s letter was published online, hundreds of people commented on the pastor’s statements and the New Heart Community Church’s leaders’ decision to keep him on staff. Many congratulated the church’s marked change of direction.
“Our children are our future regardless of whether they are gay or heterosexual,” one commenter wrote. “Let’s show our love for them for who they are and enjoy them today for they only want their parents’ love and acceptance.”
“Christians need to start loving and stop condemning people who are different, because then they will be condemned by others for judging,” another opined. “Leave the concept of sin and damnation aside, make your peace with God personally, and let everyone else do the same.”
At the same time, many others chastised the congregation for not heeding biblical passages which condemn homosexuality, like 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1.
“The Bible condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms,” one commenter stated. “People have looked for ways around that, but they have to twist into all kinds of bizarre contortions to achieve that. It just is not there. If you affirm homosexuality, you cannot affirm the Bible. Those two things run counter to one another.”
“I would not want to be in this pastor’s shoes,” another wrote. “God will demand of him an answer, as he gave clear warnings. I am not saying he lost his salvation; I am saying that he will have to answer to God for trusting in man more than God.”
Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned in a Monday blog post that New Heart Community Church has dangerously abandoned the Biblical stance on homosexuality.
“There is nothing but heartbreak in this situation,” Mohler wrote. “Here we face a church that has rejected the clear teachings of Scripture, the affirmations of its confession of faith, and two millennia of Christian moral wisdom and teaching.”