Southern Baptists expel church that defied marriage doctrine

by Leigh Jones
Posted 9/24/14, 05:30 pm

The Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday voted to remove a Los Angeles-area church from its membership after its pastor announced support for same-sex marriage and homosexual relationships.

The national organization’s action came 10 days after the California Southern Baptist Convention voted to remove New Heart Community Church from its fellowship

Posting on Twitter, Russell Moore, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), described the move as “sad but necessary.”

In an explanation for the decision, the ERLC said Pastor Danny Cortez erred “personally and publicly” by voicing support for same-sex marriage. Cortez made his announcement in February around the same time his teenage son posted a video to Facebook announcing he was gay. Three months later, his congregation voted to become a “Third Way Church,” a theological compromise in which members (and their leaders) agree to disagree on the issue of homosexuality. In June, members of the congregation who did not agree with the church’s new direction voted to separate from New Heart.

In 1992, the Southern Baptist Convention expelled Pullen Memorial in Raleigh, N.C., and Binkley Memorial in Chapel Hill, N.C., over their affirmation of homosexual relationships. And in 2009, the SBC severed ties to a Texas church that had several openly homosexual members. According to Baptist Press, this is the first time the convention's executive committee has voted to expel a church, rather than taking the matter to the group's entire membership.

While Cortez’s stance has separated him from his orthodox denomination, it has earned him accolades from other same-sex marriage supporters. He will serve as a guest speaker at a training conference organized by The Reformation Project, the pro-gay organization started by Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian. Earlier this year, Cortez was invited to the White House for a celebration of LGBT Pride Month.

During a June sermon about the controversy, Cortez said he was “continually getting emails” from people who said his position was heresy, a description he seemed to embrace.

“There needs to be a community of people that are willing to go and move toward the edge of heresy, in the same way Christ did, I believe, push the boundaries and make people question tradition,” he said.

But Cortez’s position isn’t new or happening in a vacuum, wrote Andrew Walker, the ERLC’s director of policy studies, and Denny Burk, an associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College.

“His interpretations and the actions swirling around him will become precedent for future pastors and churches looking to somehow escape the difficult and controversial topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage,” Walker and Burk wrote. “In response, it is necessary for the Southern Baptist Convention to be proactive in creating its own precedent to lovingly and biblically respond to churches that violate official Southern Baptist teaching. … A response to such error is a matter of fidelity to the demands of the gospel and to the clear commands of Holy Scripture.”

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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