The Southern Baptist Convention has expelled a congregation from the denomination because its members agreed to disagree whether homosexuality is a sin.
The Southern Baptists’ executive committee voted unanimously Tuesday to oust New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., near Los Angeles, reports the ABP News/Herald, a Baptist news source. The vote came because the church “does not presently meet the definition of a ‘cooperating church’ under an article of the SBC constitution banning congregations which ‘act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,’” the News/Herald reports.
Earlier this year, New Heart pastor Danny Cortez gave a sermon in which he asserted that he no longer believes homosexuality is a sin, notes ThinkProgress. He said he had come to that belief on his own, but it was reinforced when his son came out to him as gay.
“My heart skipped a beat and I turned towards [my son] and we gave one another the biggest and longest hug as we cried,” Cortez said in the sermon, titled “Why I Changed My Mind About Homosexuality.” “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.” The sermon was posted to YouTube, where it gained a wide audience.
Cortez’s sermon drew intense criticism from Southern Baptist leaders, but the New Heart congregation voted to keep him as pastor and adopt what it calls a “third way” position on homosexuality, deeming it an issue on which Christians can disagree, much as they do on matters of divorce and remarriage. Cortez wrote about the process in a blog post for Patheos.
That position did not sit well with the Southern Baptist hierarchy, leading to Tuesday’s ouster vote. New Heart has “walked away from us as Southern Baptists,” Ronnie Floyd, the denomination’s president, told the Baptist Press news service. “We have not walked away from them. 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.”
Cortez declined to speak with the media after the vote but said his congregation may issue a statement soon.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, with about 16 million members.