By Bob Allen
The pastor of a church recently kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention says disunity in the church is a bigger hindrance to evangelism than tolerating differing views about homosexuality.
Danny Cortez, teaching pastor at New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., commented for the first time Oct. 21 in Huffington Post on last month’s vote by the SBC Executive Committee. It ruled the congregation’s “Third Way” of neither condemning nor affirming homosexuality is in violation of a membership policy banning “churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Cortez, who met with Executive Committee members Sept. 23 in a subcommittee meeting open to media under “background” rules forbidding direct quotes or attribution, argued that Southern Baptists already practice a Third Way when it comes to the issue of the Bible’s message about divorce.
“I stated that we all knew pastors who were officiating remarriages in our denomination that were the result of non-permitted divorces,” Cortez said in the Huffington Post. “And according to the SBC, this constitutes adultery.”
Cortez said some pastors refuse to officiate at such marriages, but churches where they take place aren’t kicked out of the convention.
“We don’t draw a line of separation,” he said. “We know how to extend grace to couples who are in these marriages. We know how not to condemn, even in the midst of disagreement.”
“My request was that we extend this same grace to LGBT couples,” Cortez reported. “Because to not extend grace is to grant straight privilege. It is to say that in our Baptist practice we will agree to disagree on straight issues but not on LGBT ones.”
Cortez said members of New Heart Community Church talk openly and sometimes passionately about theological disagreements over homosexuality, but at the end of the day they remain committed to one another and “the body of Christ.”
“There are many sins we can point to as an indicator of the demise of our faith,” Cortez said. “We can look at all manner of sexual sins and violence and greed. But I believe the biggest impediment to fulfilling the Great Commission is the disunity of the church.”
Cortez said disunity prevents the world from seeing the church as Jesus desires in the “high priestly prayer” in John 17 asking that his followers “may be one, even as we are one.”
“We can’t do discipleship alone,” Cortez said. “We need each other, but we have embraced segregation as normative. We have allowed our disagreements to separate us. Our fire burns unconvincingly. We minimized the high priestly prayer, and our message is no longer beautiful.”