'Third way' church may face expulsion
LOS ANGELES (BP) -- A California Baptist association's executive board has recommended that the body not seat messengers at its fall meeting from a church whose pastor has said he does not believe all homosexual acts are sinful.
"We adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message and the amendment of 2000," Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association director of missions Mark Hammond told Baptist Press. New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., a congregation that cooperates with the association, "has stated verbally and in text that they do not adhere to that. When you come in our association ... you agree to the Baptist Faith and Message. Therefore they are out of fellowship with the rest of the churches of the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association."
Article XV of the BF&M states, "Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."
If the association votes at its Oct. 11 annual meeting not to seat New Heart's messengers, it will not receive any more of the church's contributions, Hammond said. The association has not cashed New Heart's checks since news broke of pastor Danny Cortez's February announcement that he approves of some homosexual acts and the church's subsequent division over the issue of homosexuality, he added. The portion of the church that remained with Cortez retained the name "New Heart Community Church" and planned to adopt a "third way" position on homosexuality, allowing members to disagree on whether it is sinful.
The executive board's voice vote to recommend not seating the congregation's messengers was without opposition.
If the association votes not to seat New Heart's messengers, all of its uncashed checks will be returned, Hammond said.
At the executive board meeting, pastor P.J. Tibayan of Crossview Church Los Angeles moved that the association "remove the right hand of fellowship from New Heart Community Church ... in accord with Article 9, paragraph 2 of our Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association bylaws."
Article 9, paragraph 2 states, "While this association does not assume any authority over the churches and their members, it does reserve to itself the right to withdraw the hand of fellowship from any church which shall become corrupt in faith or practice, or shall demonstrate a continued disinterest in the cooperative endeavors of the association."
Following discussion, the executive board adopted a substitute motion recommending that the association not seat messengers from congregations that disagree with the Baptist Faith and Message.
Tibayan told BP if the recommendation is adopted by the full association, he plans to ask for clarification regarding whether it definitively withdraws fellowship from New Heart. Though Hammond told BP the motion does apply to New Heart, Tibayan expressed some confusion regarding the procedural and parliamentary particulars of the action.
In a meeting between Tibayan and Cortez the day before the executive board meeting, Cortez said a motion to withdraw fellowship from New Heart was "premature" because there should be dialogue preceding such an action, Tibayan reported. In response, Tibayan told Cortez that there is room for continued discussion, but not within the association, where churches have agreed to a confessional statement condemning homosexual acts as sinful.
The Gospel involves "calling sinners to repentance," Tibayan told BP. "Repentance is from all sin in principle, but even the particular sins and temptations each person faces, whether it's greed or adultery or murder or hatred or gossip or homosexuality. With any of those sins, we're calling for specific repentance as well as general repentance."
New Heart cannot share the Gospel accurately with homosexuals because people involved in same-sex relationships cannot find "the forgiveness and grace of God" without repenting of their behavior, Tibayan said.
Hammond has also engaged in conversation with Cortez, including offers to study Scripture with him and bring in Greek experts to explain nuances of the New Testament text, Hammond said. Other pastors in the association have made similar offers, but Cortez has declined all such invitations to discussion, Hammond said.
Cortez did not respond to BP's request for comments.
Any action taken by the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association does not bind the California Southern Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention, with which New Heart cooperates. Both conventions are autonomous and must take independent action regarding the church.
The SBC Executive Committee could consider action related to New Heart at its September meeting. The CSBC told BP in June that it was gathering information and deciding what, if any, action to take.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).