Southern Baptist Minister Explains Why He Changed His Mind on Homosexuality

Written by Jack Jenkins

The pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Los Angeles, Calif., announced last month that he is now “gay affirming” and has accepted his son’s homosexuality, a declaration that is causing a rift in his local congregation and sparking controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention.

In an hour-long sermon released on YouTube and a letter submitted to John Shore’s Patheos blog, Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church, told his congregants that after a “15-year journey,” he has shifted away from his negative stance on homosexuality and is now accepting of LGBT people.

“In August of 2013, on a sunny day at the beach, I realized I no longer believed in the traditional [church] teachings regarding homosexuality,” Cortez said in his letter. “And it was especially the testimony of my gay friends that helped me to see how they have been marginalized that my eyes became open to the injustice that the church has wrought.”

Pro-LGBT Christians are becoming more common in the United States, but Cortez’s affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) makes his new gay-affirming theological position highly unusual. The SBC, the largest protestant denomination in the country with nearly 16 million members, decries homosexuality and defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” a view shared by many churchgoers. But in a rare move for a SBC church, Cortez’s congregation did not vote to expel him from the pulpit after he declared his gay-affirming stance, but chose instead to keep him as their pastor and become a “Third Way” church — that is, a worship community where members “agree to disagree and not cast judgment on one another” on the topic of homosexuality. Although some members plan to split off from the church on June 8, Cortez will remain head of New Harmony Community Church as it embraces a live-and-let-live approach “in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage.”

“This is a huge step for a Southern Baptist Church!!” Cortez said.

Cortez, who calls himself “everything that a conservative Christian is,” said his feelings on homosexuality changed just before discovering that his son, Drew, was gay. After hearing rapper Macklemore’s hit single about same-sex marriage “Same Love” while driving his son to school, Cortez asked Drew about the song and mentioned his new gay-affirming stance. Drew, surprised, remained silent for a few minutes, then came out to his father when they arrived at the school.

“My heart skipped a beat and I turned towards him and we gave one another the biggest and longest hug as we cried,” Cortez said. “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 finer details of Cortez’s new theological stance — particularly his exact feelings on whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful — were not immediately clear, although his insistence that LGBT couples should be accepted as they are is a notable departure from conservative Christian churches that refuse to condone the presence of same-sex couples in their pews. Cortez also argued that biblical passages supposedly condemning homosexual behavior were in fact addressing antiquated understandings of sexual domination, and are not applicable to today’s committed, loving homosexual partners. You can watch Cortez’s sermon explaining more details of his position below, and his son’s own powerful “coming out.”

Despite the local church’s inclusive response, however, other members of the larger SBC denomination were quick to express outrage over the decision. Albert Mohler, the influential president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., denounced the church’s stance in a blog post on Monday, calling homosexuality sinful and challenging the possibility of a “Third Way” congregation.

“There is no third way on this issue,” Mohler wrote. “A congregation will teach a biblical position on the sinfulness of same-sex acts, or it will affirm same-sex behaviors as morally acceptable. Ministers will perform same-sex ceremonies, or they will not.”

Mohler’s post appears to be geared towards influencing conversations at the SBC’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Md., next week, where delegates will likely vote on whether or not to dismiss Cortez’s church from the denomination. But while the SBC has expelled churches in the past for affirming homosexuality — it kicked out a Texas church in 2009 for “allowing members who are openly homosexual and unrepentant” — many church leaders are starting to take a closer look at the issue. The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is planning to meet this October to discuss “the Gospel, homosexuality, and the future of marriage,” and several SBC leaders have pushed for a softer approach to homosexuality in recent months, with one minister saying, “We’re all in agreement that the cultural war is over when it comes to homosexuality, especially when it comes to gay marriage.”

The controversy involving New Harmony Community Church also comes on the heels of renewed conversation around homosexuality within the larger umbrella of evangelical Christianity. In February, Ken Wilson, pastor of Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., published A Letter to My Congregation, in which he detailed his experience as an evangelical pastor who shifted from an anti-gay stance to a pro-LGBT position. The book elicited fiery reactions from many conservative evangelical leaders, but is proving influential for many who struggle with anti-gay theology; Cortez specifically cited the book as inspiration for his congregation’s “Third Way” approach. In addition, Matthew Vines, a young evangelical, released another book entitled God and the Gay Christian this spring, which stoked its own round of controversy for making the biblically-based case for accepting homosexuality.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Tim Evanson via Wikimedia Commons


John Stefanyszyn
John Stefanyszyn2 years ago

The love of the baptist pastor for his son is greater than his love for Christ.
The love of the baptist pastor for "freedom of rights / human rights" is greater than his love to serve Christ.
And President Obama embraces and recognizes this "first love" for FREEDOM...for he said in Jerusalem that this FREEDOM is the LIGHT of man and the 'will" of the "common god"....he placed this "freedom" above the One Truth of the Creator.

And this FREEDOM also dictates that it is RIGHT (a right) to be free to worship ANY 'god' as justified by man for his own desires.

BUT the Lord Jesus Christ, The Anointed Son of the One Creator, said that we are to worship Only the One Creator in Truth and Him Alone to serve in obedience and in Truth for Him First and Foremost and love for , and to do GOOD to, the fellowman.

Soon, very soon, The One King Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth in power according to the Will of the One Who Gives Existence to all that Exists and NOT according to man's first love for "his freedom" to do what is right in his own eyes, to serve, exalt, and magnify oneself (XES).
...and man will weep and clench his teeth in anger when "his freedom" will be no more.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Well, I guess Ron doesnt want to discuss my questions…. I will delete the tread from my list

Norma Villarreal
Norma Villarreal2 years ago

Thank you Lord, for opening his eyes and softening his heart in love!

Philip W.
Philip W2 years ago

Religion creates a vicious cycle toward homosexuality. The cycle of hatred and rejection which is imposed on gays in general, but mostly on gay children by parents and society usually because of a religious influence. These children then internalize this hatred and rejection toward themselves and others who are gay, which in turn causes self-destructive attitudes and actions. Religion creates a "straw man", religion creates the problem in order to become the "answer" to the problem and to "solve" it. Religion then becomes falsely substantial or meaningful while the reality of being gay, which is not a choice, is diminished. Religion insists there is a problem that must be solved, then exploits the minds of others to reject homosexuality, which keeps the cycle going. Believing what religion tells them, parents reject, even hate, their own children to the point of casting them out on the street. Religion then creates the answer, which is to "love and accept" these "sinners" under religions condition that they reject who they really are and to accept something that is obscure, enigmatic and even ludicrous. This causes religion to seem legitimate, important and necessary, even noble, while at the same time being the very cause of the problem. If the choice comes down to choosing between your child and religion, I would choose the one you can see, hear, feel, and hold close to your heart... really.

Tim W.
Timothy W2 years ago

I was wondering how many people in this thread actually listened to the whole video. It is long, and yes it is more or less a sermon...something I promised myself I would not sit through ever again...but I think both sides of this argument should sit and listen. No I am not going to get religion from listening to him, but I can say that I wish as a young person I had a minister like him to listen to. I might not have loathed myself for so much of my young life.

Please listen to the whole video, and then chime in and let us know you actually listened to it and what you really think.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Hmmmmm no answer from Ron on my simple question. Thats ok I am patient.

Philip W.
Philip W2 years ago

Martyr complex, From Wikipedia,

In psychology, a person who has a martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need.

In some cases, this results from the belief that the martyr has been singled out for persecution because of exceptional ability or integrity. Theologian Paul Johnson considers such beliefs a topic of concern for the mental health of clergy. Other martyr complexes involve willful suffering in the name of love or duty. This has been observed in women, especially in poor families, as well as in codependent or abusive relationships. It has also been described as a facet of Jewish-American folklore.

The desire for martyrdom is sometimes considered a form of masochism. Allan Berger, however, described it as one of several patterns of "pain/suffering seeking behavior", including asceticism and penance.

Philip W.
Philip W2 years ago

"For I am the Lord, I change not;..." (Malachi 3:6)

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8)

If jesus is god, then all the injustices, stupidities, and atrocities committed by the old testament god were committed by jesus.

god, jesus, the holy spirit, cud chewing rabbits, talking snakes and asses, are just sad, farcical, imaginary characters in a compilation of poorly written books.

Believing these absurd provably wrong stories as fact while rejecting everything that contradicts them tells us a lot about about the character of believers. Willful ignorance plays a major part in the martyr complex.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

Finally one preacher wised up. Now how many more do we need to have a majority?

Tim W.
Timothy W2 years ago

Ron your god's science also created some really cool Meds that can help silence that voice in your head. You might want to try it.