The 175-church Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association is expected to vote this fall on whether to expel a member congregation for embracing a “Third Way”—neither condemning nor affirming people who identify as homosexual. At its Oct. 11 annual meeting, the association will consider an executive board recommendation to not seat messengers from congregations that disagree with the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, which calls on Christians to oppose “all forms of sexual immorality, including … homosexuality.” The motion is directed at New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., a congregation that recently split after voting not to fire a pastor who told the congregation in February he changed his mind about what the Bible says about homosexuality after a 15-year journey and his own son’s coming out as gay. Pastor Danny Cortez attracted nationwide attention in a Patheos blog announcing the church voted not to dismiss him but instead become a “Third Way” church, agreeing to disagree on homosexuality without casting judgment on those holding another view. A vote by the association would have no bearing on New Heart Community Church’s membership in the California Southern Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention, which are interrelated but autonomous. The state convention could take similar action, however, when it meets in annual session Oct. 21-24 in Clovis, Calif. The SBC Executive Committee, which makes recommendations during the SBC annual meeting and is authorized in certain cases to act between convention gatherings on the denomination’s behalf, also could take up the matter when it meets Sept. 22-23 in Nashville, Tenn.
Gaza Baptists request prayer. Baptists in Gaza appealed to Christians to pray for their city that endured a month of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas. Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church who lives in exile in Amman, Jordan, reported food shortages in Gaza. Relief efforts he put into place in collaboration with Gaza Baptist Church helped 130 Christian families, and organizers have plans to help about 1,000 Muslim families. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Aug. 5 that 520,000 Palestinians in the Gaza strip, about 30 percent of the region’s population, may have been displaced, of whom 273,000 were taking shelter in 90 schools. More than 485,000 internally displaced people need emergency food assistance.