The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee has voted to disfellowship New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA, due to their position to “affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,” which violates Article III of the SBC Constitution. Danny Cortez, the pastor of New Heart, advocates a “third way” in which their leaders can hold varying perspectives regarding same-sex marriage, the Baptist Press reports.
BP also reports that Cortez attended the Executive Committee meeting, addressing both the by-laws and administrative committee—both of whom prayed for Cortez and his church. The vote to disfellowship was unanimous. Cortez endorsed homosexuality back in February, causing a ripple effect and thus this addressing of the issue at the Executive Committee.
In reality, the SBC EC had little choice. Southern Baptists have long stood on the biblical truth of one man-one woman union in marriage, and will not change that direction anytime soon—for which I am grateful. This will not be the last church to come to such conclusions—and it’s not the first. But through this, we see patterns that have plagued churches faithfulness to Scripture throughout history—and New Heart’s position is no exception.
People first, Scripture second. Cortez shared that “I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year.” The danger for all pastors is to look at people’s situations, then judge whether the Scriptures ties in to the ‘reality’ of their situation.
An appeal to biblical ‘context.’ In Cortez’s February 2014 sermon, he argued “Romans 1 does not condemn all homosexual acts but only those committed in a spirit of violence or unbridled lust. He said modern homosexual relationships are different from the ancient forms of homosexuality Paul was referencing” (BP). Let’s look at the passage to which he refers:
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
One does not need to know Greek to recognize that Paul (and ultimately the Holy Spirit) does not give any distinction—especially the distinction of ‘a spirit of violence or unbridled lust.’ The act of homosexuality itself is a shameless act. It’s a difficult task to appeal to context, especially when every portion of Scripture looks at homosexuality as harmful to self and soul (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21, etc.).
The core principle is a failure to honor, thank, worship, or acknowledge God” (Romans 1:18-32). Appealing to context is a way to lessen God’s clear Word for personal and ‘loving’ purposes, thus taking away the necessary accountability needed.
The pattern continues in that those who disagree with Cortez’s stance reflect a lack of love for homosexuals. Do we want an ancient document like the Bible to squelch the love we should have for those, even loving them to the point of affirming their lifestyle choice?
Then there’s a stark denial of orthodox truth. I echo Frank Page, EC President: we love all with the truth, and pray for those who say they love Christ but turn from His Word to repent. God calls pastors to serve as stewards of the truth of God’s Word—not to find a third way between holiness and sin.
Mike Routt, fellow Colorado pastor who serves as chairman of the SBC EC as well as pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, rightly said, “”Mr. Cortez, the issue is not just about homosexuality. It is about the collision of our orthodox faith and your radical theology. We advocate Jude 3: Contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints. You advocate reinterpreting the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.”
So from an associational level to a state convention level to now the Executive Committee, the SBC continues to take a necessary stand. The enemy’s arrows may come, but here they stand. I know a number of men serving on that committee, and they’ve stayed consistent and true to their love of Scripture and the Savior it proclaims.
Again, I’m grateful!