BALTIMORE—The Southern Baptist Convention at its 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore did not rebuke a church for challenging the denomination’s policy against gay-affirming congregations.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, singled out New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., in a blog June 2 after Pastor Danny Cortez said publicly he no longer believes the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. Instead of firing the pastor, the church voted to take a “third way” on homosexuality, neither welcoming and affirming gays nor judging church members who do so.
New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif.,
“I am confident that the Southern Baptist Convention will act in accordance with its own convictions, confession of faith and constitution when messengers to the convention gather next week in Baltimore,” Mohler predicted.
Disciplining a church
Former SBC vice president Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., stepped forward at the first opportunity to make a motion requesting convention officers to represent convention messengers in visiting discipline on the church for violating a constitutional ban on congregations “which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
An order of business committee determined Drake’s motion was not in order, and the matter wasn’t reintroduced in subsequent business sessions.
Toward the end of the convention, Drake approached a microphone during a report by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeking advice about the proper method for convention messengers to discipline a wayward church.
Seminary President Danny Akin replied that discipline is a matter for the local church, but Southern Baptists can rest assured graduates coming out of their six seminaries are committed to the traditional view of marriage as the union of a husband and wife.
Church ‘likely to remain’ in state convention
Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, told Religion News Service that unless voted out by the SBC, the church likely would remain affiliated with the state convention.
Whittaker described New Heart Community Church as a small mission congregation that gives $80 a month to the Cooperative Program and in no way represents the average California Southern Baptist church when it comes to homosexuality.
The new SBC president, Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, told the Associated Press the denomination has no plans to alter its view that all sexual relations outside of marriage are sinful.
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, said by its action New Heart Community Church had “chosen to disassociate itself with the Southern Baptist Convention” and that the denomination “does not support or condone” such a move.
Four years ago, the SBC severed ties with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, deciding that church’s practice of allowing openly gay members to serve on church committees was not in “friendly cooperation” with the convention’s purposes.