Henry Blackaby said in his very popular book Experiencing God that everyone would come to a crisis of belief at one point or another. Recent events and upcoming decisions may be causing the majority of the world to think that the Southern Baptist Convention is facing such a crisis. But the reality is that there is no real crisis at all.
Here is the situation: With the Southern Baptist Convention convening today in Baltimore, Maryland, a church in a suburb of Los Angeles has announced its decision to affirm members involved in same-sex relationships as well as those who were part of same sex marriage. Pastor Danny Cortez made his personal journey known both in a sermon to his congregation at New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California on February 9 of this year (the video of this message can be found on YouTube) and in a letter that he also posted shortly thereafter on the internet.
Cortez said that he came to his own “crisis of belief” in August of 2013 and realized he no longer held to the idea that homosexuality was wrong or immoral. Not long after that, he told his son about this. The son, Drew, responded by telling his father that he was gay. According to Cortez, the two hugged and affirmed their love for one another.
After that, Cortez says that things began to snowball. On February 7 of this year, Drew posted a video of him “coming out” on YouTube. Two days after that, the Pastor preached the aforementioned sermon. In his message, Cortez acknowledged that his new beliefs on this issue would put him in conflict with both the doctrine of the church and the Southern Baptist Convention (of which his church is a member).
Many in the church were not pleased. The congregation agreed to take some time for prayer and consideration and on May 18, voted to formally split. New Heart Community Church adopted the idea of becoming what has been called a “Third Way Church.” They would allow both heterosexual and homosexual members. They would even allow for disagreement. But they would “agree to disagree” and “not judge others in our disagreement.” Those who disagreed and held to a more traditional Southern Baptist view that homosexuality and same sex marriage was wrong would be allowed to go their separate ways. On June 8, the church will have their final service with members from both camps. Cortez says he is hoping it will be a service of reconciliation and affirmation to all involved.
Now, the Southern Baptist Convention has to confront a situation on June 10 and 11 in Baltimore. To allow this congregation to continue as a member church in the denomination is to affirm the “third way” idea of doing church. It is affirming the idea of ignoring homosexuality and refusing to address the idea of whether or not same sex marriage is sinful. It is wrong.
First of all, as Albert Mohler points out, there is no third way in scripture regarding this issue. The scripture is full of nothing but condemnation for the act of homosexuality. There is no acceptance of that behavior. Southern Baptists will be quick to point out, however, that they do not condemn individuals. Just the behavior.
The reader needs to watch the wording of this article and not misinterpret. When the Bible addresses the issue of homosexuality, it is talking about condition and not behavior. On behavior, not condition, God loves sinners, but condemns sin. And the Bible’s verdict on homosexual behavior, as with all sexual immorality, is that it is sinful. There is much said in Scripture that can provide a wealth of information and understanding for those who wish to study what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Consider Genesis 19. A group of males together outside a home demanding the visitors be sent out for the purpose of a sexual conquest. The men are actually angels inside the home. When the occupant of the home comes out, he calls their intentions “wicked.” In the New Living Translation, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 call the act of homosexuality “detestable.” Finally, Romans 1, which the pastor so grossly misinterpreted in his sermon, calls the act of homosexuality both “abnormal” and “shameful”.
Again, this is not referring to the person but to the act. Many homosexuals want to define Christianity as a religion or sect that is nothing but people hating others who disagree with them. Most Christians do not subscribe to the idea of hate. They may hate what someone does just like they often hate things that they do. But they do not ask anyone to hate. To do so would be asking them to go against scripture. That is something they do not want to do. This has been something that many Christians have said over and over and over in sermons, in blogs, and on the radio. Unfortunately, most in the homosexual lobby only hear what they want to hear. Their mind is already made up. Just like they accuse Christians of being narrow minded, they are even more so. Just like they accuse Christians of hateful and bigoted stereotyping, they are quick to instantly label anyone who claims to be part of the Christian faith with equally unfair stereotypes.
Is this true of all of those who support the homosexual agenda? No, of course not. But, in the same way, it is not true of all who support the Christian faith and its viewpoint on the same subject.
But moving on… Southern Baptists have always believed in the inerrancy of the word of God. To a true Southern Baptist, the Bible is true from start to finish. It is not an allegory. It is not a book of fables. It is truth. It does not have any mixture of error.
For this reason, there is not a crisis of belief when it comes to this church in California and what the Convention must do. The denomination cannot affirm the inerrancy of scripture and admit even one church to its membership that does not.
Therefore, this church must be removed as a member church. Southern Baptists can continue to pray for them and ask them to pray for Southern Baptists. They are not questioning the salvation of the members of New Heart Community Church. They are not questioning their belief in God. They are not questioning their compassion. They are not even questioning their place in Heaven. They are simply stating that their belief in scripture does not line up with the denomination.
The convention has fought hard since 1979 to keep a conservative interpretation of Scripture. It must continue to fight for that at all costs. More than likely, when the convention meets this week, this will be an issue that will surely make headlines. But it will not really be a crisis for Southern Baptists. They will hold the line on their beliefs concerning same sex marriage.
Opinion by Rick Hope