After a pastor's son reportedly came out as gay in February, the preacher revealed that his traditional views on homosexuality had changed and he -- and the Baptist congregation -- had some soul searching to do.
But after exploring the issue and holding a vote, parishioners at New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California, decided not only to keep Pastor Danny Cortez, but to also change the house of worship's official stance on homosexuality, according to the Huffington Post.
Cortez shocked the church with news that he no longer agreed with its conservative stance on homosexuality apparently after his son, Drew, posted a video to YouTube about his sexuality in February.
Following this revelation, members opted to explore the theological issues surrounding homosexuality, voting March 9 to more carefully look into the matter.
Watch Drew's video below:
And on May 18, the church reportedly came to its conclusion, voting to keep Cortez, while also moving away from the more traditional stance held by its Southern Baptist congregation. These events were documented in a letter that Cortez reportedly sent to Patheos blogger John Shore.
In it, the pastor said that he first realized in August 2013 that he could no longer subscribe to traditional teachings about homosexuality, though he waited months to tell church elders and parishioners.
"As I was trying to figure out what to tell my church, I was driving in the car with my 15-year-old son Drew when a song on the radio came on. I asked Drew who sang it, and he said, 'Mackelmore,'" Cortez wrote. "And then he asked me why I was interested in it. I told him that I liked the song. He was startled and he asked me if I knew that the song’s message was gay affirming. I told him that I did know and that’s why I liked the song. I also told him that I no longer believed what I used to believe."
After that conversation, the letter recounts that Cortez's son told him he is gay and the two hugged and cried together. Later, in February 2014, Drew apparently published the "coming out" YouTube video, which Cortez described in his letter.
It was that same month that the pastor told his church about his new position -- an evolution that left some members dismayed and disheartened.
Watch Cortez's sermon titled, "Why I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality" below:
"Unfortunately, many weren’t pleased, so the church had to vote whether to terminate me or accept my proposition," he wrote. "On March 9, the church voted instead to prolong the period of prayer, study and discernment until May 18. We then invited teachers, both gay and straight, from both sides of the debate to speak to our church."
In the end, though, the church decided that it would become a "third way church," which means that it would "agree to disagree and not cast judgement on one another." New Heart Community Church will now accept gays and lesbians -- even those in relationships -- under this new paradigm.
"We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences," he added. "We see that this is possible in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage. In this issue we are able to not cast judgement in our disagreement."
Some people who disagree with the policy will be leaving the church, a house of worship Cortez described as "conservative" and "evangelical." Read the entire letter here.
A voicemail left for Cortez seeking comment has not been returned to TheBlaze.
The pastor's message comes at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention is also revisiting its handling of human sexuality, among other issues facing Christian churches.
The denomination recently held the Ethics Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Summit, which featured a panel that instructed pastors to “stop spreading falsehoods,” and to consider becoming friends with gay people regardless of whether Christians believe their sexuality aligns with the Bible, according to Nashville Public Radio.
“We’ve run off at the mouth, said things we shouldn’t have said. We’ve run around like a peacock all over the platform,” said Pastor Greg Belser of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss. “We have said things because we were playing to the home team, and they all liked our act. On this issue, nobody likes our act, except the redneck factor.”
Despite the candid discussion, the denomination, which is the second largest in the U.S. behind Roman Catholics, hasn’t changed its views on the Bible’s stance on gay marriage and homosexuality, though, affirming that gays who refuse to become celibate cannot fully immerse themselves in the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville Public Radio explained.
(H/T: Huffington Post)