This past week, “The Pathway”, the news paper of the Missouri Baptist Convention, published an article describing the events surrounding a Southern Baptist Church in California. The church, New Heart Church, recently split over the traditional stance on homosexuality and the church. For more information on this subject, I would recommend you read the article “Pastor’s Shift on Sexuality Confronts SBC”, at www.mbcpathway.com. Because there has been so much written, I will assume that you have taken the time to find one of the many articles written and I would like to offer just a few comments for discussion. While this is a very emotionally charged issue, it is an issue that the church will continually be confronted with in the coming years, so I encourage you to engage in the conversation.
I took the time to listen to Pastor Danny Cortez’s sermon, profiled on YouTube, in order to better understand his position before I wrote any of my thoughts. After, trying to carefully be informed of the issues, here are my thoughts:
First, Pastor Cortez made a change in his belief system/theology he says, because of the need for the church to understand how to engage the homosexual community. On this point, I would like to say, that while I do not agree with his change in his theology, he is correct in asserting that the church must learn how to engage the homosexual community. We believe that sin is sin in the eyes of God. That all sin, whether it be homosexuality, lying, adultery, and the list continues; separates us from a Holy God. Because sin separates us from God, we are in desperate need of salvation, redemption, and forgiveness. The only hope for the homosexual is Jesus Christ and His redemptive, finished work on the cross of Calvary. The only hope for the liar is Jesus Christ and His redemptive, finished work on the cross of Calvary. The only hope for all of mankind is Jesus Christ! With that said, the “church” has not always dealt with this issue in a redemptive manner. First of all, the “church” has been bipolar in our response. Some denominations claim homosexuality is a sin, while others ordain homosexual men and women to pastor and lead their congregations. What is a lost world to make of this? The issue has become more about people’s feelings and political correctness. Therefore, the Bible, God’s only inspired Word, has been sidelined – yet, it remains the only source of real truth on this issue. When lost people see the “church” arguing contradictory positions, they are left with a sense that the “church” does not know what it believes. Second, even those who agree with Scripture that homosexuality is sin, have approached the individuals in different ways. Some have spewed vile criticism, while others have just gone silent at the hands of the “politically correct police.” But as a church, we must follow the example of Christ. When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Christ, He did not condemn her, but accepted her in grace. But the story does not stop there…He then commanded her to “go and sin no more.” He called her to a new lifestyle of repentance. The church must take a Biblical stand on this issue. That is, we must be willing to be uncompromising on what God calls sin, but also passionate about the gospel to call sinners to repentance.
Second, Pastor Danny comments much in his sermon about his feelings and the “process” of coming to new conclusions. While I will not take the time to engage in a full discussion, there is one important truth to claim. Our feelings are just that…feelings. Mankind has all kinds of feelings and these feelings change daily (sometimes hourly). Our emotional system is both a blessing and a curse, at times. Therefore, it is important for men and women to have something solid, an anchor to join their life to, that is not as shifting as feelings. What is that anchor? It is God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is our source of truth, there can be no truth outside of it. Therefore, our feelings must not confirm our decisions, but Truth must confirm our decisions. We must always be careful not to make a decision based upon how we feel, for our feelings will always be changing. We must always decide on Truth, then ask God to help us bring our feelings in line with His revealed Truth.
Third, while there is much more to discuss about the specifics of Pastor Cortez’s change of theology, there was something else that caught my attention. As I read up on this subject, I could not help but ask, “How does a Southern Baptist Church come to this position?” Southern Baptists have always been a beacon of conservative theology, we have stood on the inerrancy of Scripture when others would not, and we have been known as “People of the Word.” So while I can wrap my mind around where other denominations are falling, it is difficult to understand how a Southern Baptist Church came to this position – that is, until I examined this local congregation’s polity. The church voted to split (essentially) after some time of prayer and discussion over the issues. But, there are several mitigating factors. First, New Heart Church has no official membership policy. Therefore, anyone and everyone who professes to be a “Jesus Follower” was allowed a vote at this particular meeting. This issue of “loosely defining membership” could cause a number of issues. Second, all “members” who were 12 years of age and older were allowed to vote. This is especially important, considering Pastor Cortez’s son had recently announced that he was a homosexual and therefore, the youth vote (according to one of the church’s elders) was decidedly sympathetic towards the pastor. Third, according to one of the elders, the “membership” at New Heart Church was considered Biblically illiterate (they were not informed and educated in basic Christian doctrine). When you take all of these issues into consideration (and there are more), it is easy to understand how the church came to this position.
With all of this said, what is the church to do in the face of a changing culture? First, exalt Jesus Christ. Herald the gospel…that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, died a sinners death, and was raised three days later to the praise of God the Father to show that He had conquered death, hell, and the grave! Jesus offers the free gift of salvation to all who would believe and in saving faith, any man, woman, or child may receive forgiveness and eternal life! Second, we must be willing to stand on the Truth! The church cannot compromise in such perilous days. We must be willing to take on any issue that challenges us. But be willing to take on those issues with grace and truth. Third, local congregations need to be prepared for the cultural shift. We do not need to be up to date with all of the issues or with what the culture is saying. We need to be prepared with God’s heart, revealed to us in His Word.
Held By Grace,