Rev. Danny Cortez had spent over two decades as a Southern Baptist pastor, and as such was not supportive of homosexuality. When his son came out as gay in 2014, he had a monumental change of heart that would shake up his church.
Rev. Cortez decided he needed to preach a message of support for his son and to let his congregation know not only that he had changed him mind on the matter, but also why.
“That morning I came to church, my blood pressure was super high. I felt so much stress, and everyone was wondering what’s going on,” Cortez told NPR‘s StoryCorps. “But I remember as I was speaking, I felt empowered like I hadn’t felt in such a long time. I knew that what I was sharing that Sunday was important.”
His son was there as well.
“I felt vulnerable,” Drew says. “I just remember thinking what was going to happen after this. This is our life now.”
Rev. Cortez recounted to his congregation when he learned his son was gay.
“I was driving my son Drew to school. And he turned over to me and he says, Dad, I’m gay. I remember, I just turned around and I hugged him so hard. I said, I love you so much, son,” he said.
He also recounted stories of other parishioners coming to him over the years to tell him of their same-sex attractions. He explained that over the years he he had expressed empathy for them but that he would tell them that the scripture was clear, and they had to remain celibate.
“For the rest of your life, you should never fall in love,” he said he realized he was telling them. “I always wondered why of all of God’s commandments, why is this the one commandment that is different from all of the other commandments that seemed to impart life. This one the one that just created so much self-hatred. It was the sense of people feeling like they were imprisoned. A sentence of life with no chance to love.”
Rev. Cortez knew that he was risking his position in the church by speaking out against the accepted doctrine of the church.
He said that when he was asked how it felt to know he might be terminated, he said he felt at peace and that his heart had been “enlarged.”
The church split over the sermon. Rev. Cortez started a non-denominational, LGBTQ affirming church along with other supportive members of the church.
Listen to Danny and Drew tell their story to StoryCorps below, as well as Rev. Cortez’s full sermon and Danny’s coming out video.
Watch Rev. Cortez’s sermon, “Why I Changed My Mind On Homosexuality” below:
Watch Danny Cortez’s coming out video below.