THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn
A California congregation voted May 18 to retain their pastor, Danny Cortez, who had announced three months earlier that he affirms same-sex lifestyles. The decision by New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Ca., brings the Southern Baptist Convention to “a moment of unavoidable decision” just before its annual meeting in Baltimore, said Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler.
Cortez blogged May 29 on Patheos.com that New Heart will “formally peacefully separate” June 8, when a group affirming traditional church teachings about homosexuality leaves the congregation. The church took three months to study and pray over the issue after Cortez told them about his beliefs in February. Prior to Cortez’ confession to his church, his teenage son told him he was gay and posted a “coming out” video on social media sites.
In May, the church voted to keep Cortez as pastor and become a “third way” church that stands in the middle ground between condoning and condemning same-sex relationships.
“So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship,” Cortez wrote on Patheos.com. “We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment. We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences.”
Despite the church’s decision, “there is no third way,” Mohler said on his blog.
“A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships on sinful, or it will affirm them. Eventually every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue. It is just a matter of time (and for most churches, not much time) before every congregation in the nation faces this test.”
That New Heart’s decision is in conflict with The Baptist Faith & Message, the SBC’s statement of faith, could result in discussion and/or action when messengers gather in Baltimore.
“I am confident that the Southern Baptist Convention will act in accordance with its own convictions, confession of faith, and constitution when messengers to the Convention gather next week in Baltimore,” Mohler said.
“But every single evangelical congregation, denomination, mission agency, school, and institution had better be ready to face the same challenge, for it will come quickly, and often from an unexpected source. Once it comes, there is no middle ground, and no ‘third way.’”
Poll: Most believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt
A new Gallup poll shows 63% of Americans believe same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt a child. The percentage of approval is higher than approval for same-sex marriage, which, according to another recent Gallup poll, is at 55%. Read more at Gallup.com.
Imprisoned pastor still sharing the Gospel
The wife of a U.S. pastor imprisoned in Iran says his sentence may be extended because he’s leading people to Christ. “I don’t see him [witnessing] as an act of defiance,” Naghmeh Abedini told Baptist Press about her husband, Saeed. “Knowing Saeed’s heart as a pastor, he’s seeing people in such a dark place…on death row for murders and rapes, and just seeing people who are in prison whose future is so dark. Knowing Saeed’s heart, I know that his heart was to give them the hope that he’s found in Christ that no one can take away, even in prison.”
Abedini, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for his involvement in the Iranian house church movement. He moved to the U.S. in 2005 and was arrested two years ago during a trip to build an orphanage in Iran. Read more at BPNews.net.
SBC leaders call for ‘renewed passion’ amid declining numbers
Southern Baptist churches reported more than 310,000 baptisms in 2013, but the total was 1.46% less than the previous year. The Annual Church Profile report, compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions, also showed declines in church membership (down 0.9%) and primary worship attendance (down 2.2% to 5.8 million worshipers).
“I am grieved we are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “I continue to pray for revival and a renewed passion for the Great Commission in our churches. May God renew all of us, including me, with a greater heart for the lost.” Read more at BPNews.net.
A Southern Baptist task force addressed declining baptisms in a report released in May, ahead of the denomination’s June meeting in Baltimore. Read their report here.
Viewing habits: What do we all have in common?
Sheldon Cooper, at least according to research by the Barna Group. Their survey found “The Big Bang Theory” is the most commonly watched show among American adults (30%) and the Millenial generation (31%). And with 23% it was #2 on the list for practicing Christians. Among that group, Sheldon, Penny and the gang lost out by two percentage points to “NCIS.” Read more at Barna.org.