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January 13, 2015

“Gay Christian” Conference Features “Third Way” Pastor

“What if I’m wrong?” recalled Rev. Danny Cortez to over 1700 people gathered in Portland, Oregon for the annual Gay Christian Network Conference (GCN), January 9th. Remembering a time where he was conflicted about Christian teaching and homosexuality, Cortez said, “Then I realized maybe I no longer believe the things I use to believe. I think I no longer believe my traditional understanding of Scripture. And I thought oh dear God, did I just become liberal?

Cortez is the pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California. Dubbed a “third way” church, Cortez and his congregation declare same-sex unions can be blessed by God. This unorthodox stance on marriage and sexuality landed Cortez and New Heart Community Church’s membership within the Southern Baptist Convention at odds, and ultimately, lead to the church’s dismissal in 2014.

The Eight Year Journey

The biggest question Cortez wrestled with before changing his mind in regards to traditional teachings on sexuality and marriage was, “are we applying Scripture correctly?” So the “third way” pastor went on an eight year journey to understand why, if we were following Christ’s teachings, did the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community feel judged and marginalized.

“I went on this journey and I realized that I had a pretty homophobic upbringing. When I heard the word homosexual or thought about people who were homosexuals immediately I thought of disgusting, just sexual, perversion kind of things.” Cortez continued, “I knew that if I were going to engage in this study I needed to detox myself.”

To “detox” Cortez found himself in the middle of Hollywood’s gay community. According to Cortez, “Slowly but surely my stereotypes of the gay community began to change. I began to realize these were beautiful people. They were normal.”

The Bible apparently deserved a  detox too, because according to Cortez, “As I began through my study I decided that it would be good for me to not read into the Scriptures the Western understanding of what homosexuality is.”

He continued, “The more I read into [Greek and Roman antiquity] the more I realized this homo-erotic culture in antiquity was very perverse. I mean, there was pedophilia, there was cult prostitution, there was slavery, all these things and I remember thinking this was the reason why Paul and others condemned this because there was so much evil.” Cortez explained that because these “homo-erotic” characteristics did not reflect the gay people he knew, traditional Christian teaching must have got it wrong.

Cortez’s study, combined with his 15 year old son expressing his own same-sex attraction, encouraged he and his wife to attend the 2014 GCN conference in Chicago. It was after hearing the stories and perspectives of gay Christians that Cortez came to “realize that the theology was not as important as the aspect of family.”

The Break-Up

At the 2014 GCN conference, Cortez also believed his orthodox view of marriage had been “part of the problem.” Cortez recalled thinking, “I have been a part of the Evangelical community of pastors that had been bringing shame to [the LGBT] community.” At last year’s GCN open mic and to the GCN audience Cortez shared, “I’m so sorry. I am so sorry for the shame and the hurt that our teaching has caused you. I’m so sorry to make you feel like there was something wrong with you. For not valuing who you are.”

After the 2014 conference Cortez knew that he had to go back and tell his church that he no longer believed homosexuality was a sin. “The leaders of the church realized I had fallen off our statement of faith and traditional understanding of the Scriptures and there was this realization that I needed to be terminated,” said Cortez. “But they gave me one more opportunity to preach and I told my story.”

For four months the church listened to lectures and arguments from various sides of the same-sex theological debate. After that period, the New Heart Community Church went through a “painful split.” According to Cortez, approximately 50 percent of the congregation voted to keep him on as pastor while 40 percent of all members left the church.

But for Cortez, it wasn’t about tradition, nor theology. Instead, his new worldview rested upon the questions, “What gives life? What is more compassionate?”

Addressing the Critics

In the aftermath of his decision to move away from orthodoxy, Cortez shared that fellow Christians would ask him, “How can you as a pastor accommodate sin?” Cortez’s response was simply that “in the field” traditional Christian teaching on marriage “is not working.” Cortez said, “We need to think long and hard about the way we are interpreting Scripture, because when I look at Jesus interpreted Scripture it was to give life.”

Eventually, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) heard of Cortez’s “third way” teaching on same-sex issues. Cortez recalled traveling to the SBC headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. He was invited to speak to the 83 Executive Committee directors. For two days, he met with Southern Baptist leaders and awaited the Executive Commitee’s vote on whether or not to dismiss Cortez’s church for abandoning the sanctity of marriage.

Ina final address to his Southern Baptist detractors Cortez said, “[I]n a couple of hours you will most likely move to dismiss our church, but I want you to know that the vote that will happen in a couple of hours will not matter in the eyes of God, because God will still see us as one Church.”

Cortez directed his last thoughts to his Evangelical friends, stating, “The goal of our faith is not marriage equality. The goal of our faith is not religious freedom. The goal of our faith is to love.”

It is unlikely that Cortez’s Evangelical brothers and sisters will take up his “third way” and deviate from 2,000 years of agreed upon teachings in the West and East on marriage. Not because Evangelicals have not love, but because we love with the firsthand knowledge that Jesus Christ’s transformation of our selves is, ultimately, what offers real life.

 

 

 


 

9 Responses to “Gay Christian” Conference Features “Third Way” Pastor

  1. DD says:

    Sorry, but “gay Christian” is and always will be an oxymoron. Christianity makes demands on people, calling us all out of our sins, teaching us to say no to ourselves. I can understand people rejecting that, but to reject it and still wish to call yourself “Christian” is just plain wrong. if you love to eat meat, don’t become a vegetarian. If you like having sex with your own gender – or outside marriage – don’t become a Christian. It’s pretty simple. There is no universal “right” to become a Christian. If you can’t handle the “repent of your sins and lead a new life part,” then you can’t handle Christianity.

  2. Dan says:

    Bad theology. The goal of our faith is not “to love.” The result of our faith in Jesus as the son of God is to be forgiven of our sins and granted eternal life. “To love” is an outgrowth of the faith given to us through God’s grace. That love compels us to tell others the Good News and what it means for them. Yet again, fuzzy theology confuses same sex acts with love. So sad, yet so predictable in our society. I guess the pressure to conform was just too much for Cortez.

  3. Orter T. says:

    In regards to his comment that he decided to spend some time with LGBTQ persons: today’s Daily Text at seedbed.com is based on Proverbs 13:20; it is titled “#GrowWise. “You Are The Average of The Five People You Spend the Most Time With.””

  4. Mike Ward says:

    How is this a “third” way? I take it the first two ways are acceptance and rejection of gay marriage. To me, a third way would have to be some delicate tightrope walk through the middle (neither condemning not conding for instance), but, “Cortez and his congregation declare same-sex unions can be blessed by God,” seems like one of the first two ways to me. I don’t see anything “third” about it.

    • Namyriah says:

      They didn’t find this “third way” in the Bible, that’s for sure. Liberals (Hellary Clinton being Exhibit A) like to push their agenda stealthily by pretending to advocate an alternative or a compromise position. Only fools get fooled.

      • Mike Ward says:

        I think you are basically correct that this is a stealth possition. The only other thing I could think of is that they are saying that even though they support gay marriage they are not going to codemn those who do not, but I don’t see that as a real third way. It may avoid the extreme, but it is still squarely in one of the existing two camps. I guess everyone thinks they’re a centrist.

  5. MarcoPolo says:

    Oddly, I find myself agreeing with Namyriah and Mike Ward when it comes to the binary aspects of Biblical descriptions regarding male and female.

    However, as in Science and Nature, there are deviations, and I dare to suggest that human sexuality is not immune to these same variations.

    Personally, I believe Rev. Cortez has struck a harmonic chord with a broad swath of humanity who are seeking an ecumenical connection.

    May God bless him and his Church!

  6. Monsoon Harvard says:

    “The goal of our faith is to love.” –

    No, he left out a Word.

    The goal of our faith is to love God.

    Sometimes, false teachers are very easy to spot. This is one of those times.

  7. PC says:

    What does this man mean by “love”? Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6). Truth applies to theology, with the Scriptures as the authority. Danny Cortez needs to ask himself by what authority he determines his decision? All of the Scripture, or just the parts that make us feel good?

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