Southern Baptists Completely Kick Out California ‘Third Way’ Church from Convention

Executive Committee chairman Mike Routt, lead pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, presides over the Sept. 23 plenary session, while Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page (right) follows along. (ABPnews/Herald photo by Bob Allen.)
Executive Committee chairman Mike Routt, lead pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, presides over the Sept. 23 plenary session, while Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page (right) follows along. (ABPnews/Herald photo by Bob Allen.)

The Southern Baptist Convention has kicked out a California church that voted in May to agree to disagree about whether the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Acting on behalf of the convention between annual meetings, the SBC Executive Committee voted unanimously Sept. 23 that New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., 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 ouster vote by the full Executive Committee was unanimous and without discussion. New Heart Pastor Danny Cortez met with the subcommittee that brought the recommendation to the floor, but those sessions are open to the media only under background reporting rules, which prohibit direct quotation or attribution.

After the vote, Cortez said he wasn’t giving media interviews, but the congregation might issue a statement in the days ahead.

Cortez, a self-described conservative, preached a sermon in May posted on YouTube titled “Why I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality.” The message divided the fellowship and prompted a vote scheduled for March 9 about whether to terminate him as pastor.

Instead of firing Cortez, the congregation voted for a period of prayer, study and discernment until May 18. In the end a majority voted to become a “Third Way” congregation, neither endorsing nor condemning homosexuality but viewing it as a matter about which sincere Christians can honestly disagree in the same way Christians differ in their understanding of the Bible’s teaching about divorce and remarriage in a 21st-century context.

The decision reached a wider audience May 29, when Cortez told the story in a guest post on a Patheos blog, describing the vote to not make homosexuality a test of fellowship as “a huge step for a Southern Baptist church.”

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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Bob Allen