Danny Cortez

Danny is the founding pastor of New Heart Community Church. He is a graduate of Cal State University, Long Beach (B.A.) and Talbot Theological Seminary (M.Div). Danny is married to Abby, has four children and lives in La Mirada. His favorite show is Miss Saigon and his favorite team is the L.A. Lakers. He is a Board member of The Gay Christian Network (GCN) and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) Speaking Team.


Laura Elizabeth Walton

Laura Walton has been attending New Heart since 2006 and pastor at New Heart since 2015. She earned a B.A in Philosophy at Biola University and an M.A in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care at Talbot Theological Seminary. As a pastor and spiritual director, it is an honor to journey along side individuals to help bring awareness of God’s deep love for all people in every season of life –the profound joins, sorrows, and even in the mundane.

Laura lives in Whittier, CA with her husband, Brian, and son, Paxton and eagerly awaits the arrival of baby #2. She enjoys swimming, nature, movies and tv.


Susan Cameron

In February of 2014, Cara sent me a link to a blog post about Pastor Danny. As I watched Danny's video and Drew's, I realized something I had been praying for for 10 years was finally happening right in my neighborhood. I contacted Danny and the church we then attended. Danny responded to my email, and Pasadena Mennonite Church sent Rich and me to come alongside Danny and Abby as they navigated the church's next steps. We came to love and feel the call to New Heart, and a year and a half later, the church asked me to serve as an elder.

I've been in ministry of one kind or another since childhood, but didn't study formally until the early 2000's when I earned my MDiv at Fuller Theological seminary. My passion for justice and my gifting in the area of caring for people in crisis have led me to join other New Heart members in the Just Love Coalition and Matthew 25/Mateo 25, including training for rapid response to police and ICE actions. I am beginning the process of discernment whether to pursue ordination, and covet your prayers, support and counsel in this.

Last year I fell in love with Uptown Whittier and with how First Christian Church is using its building to benefit the community, so you will often find me in the church building. Rich and I downsized and moved to Uptown last year, and host #ThirdWayThursday in our back yard twice a month.

Rich and I have been married over 40 years and have two grown children who also live in Whittier. I love gardening and textile arts


Cara Nilsen

I am an Elder at New Heart. I attended NH for about 5 years in the early 2000’s, then left after starting a relationship with my now-wife, Leah, since NH was not gay-affirming at that time. We returned after NH became Third-Way, and have remained ever since.

I have been part of a church since birth, and grew up in Christian education. But I never seriously considered Christian ministry while growing up since I was always part of churches that believed women’s leadership should be very limited, prohibiting eldership and pastoral ministry. While my own beliefs on that changed over time, it took time to find myself part of a church that also affirmed women in ministry. When this happened, I was first elected to the Vestry board at a previous Episcopal church I attended (during the period that Leah & I left NH), then voted into Eldership at NH after returning there.

I have a passion for justice toward women and LGBT people, especially within the Christian church. Related to these, I feel passionately about helping people correct harmful beliefs based on misreadings of the Bible.

I love spending time with my wife, Leah. We’ve been together since 2008 but known each other since 2000 having initially met studying art at CSUF. I love looking at and creating art — I am an illustrator, holding my MFA in illustration. I also love reading & literature, travel, and British film & TV.



My family and I came to New Heart in June 2010, and we felt welcomed and supported right away. We saw and experienced the gracious possibilities of belonging to a church family: we heard their honest stories; we were invited to share our own; and we began making memories with, and thinking with, and suffering with, and worshipping with, and telling stories with the people here. It’s an honor, then, to have been invited to be an elder.

I grew up Conservative Baptist. I graduated from Biola University and I even taught there a few years. Though I no longer identify as an Evangelical, it’s with (recovering) Evangelicals I find most common ground, as we wrestle together through the difficult issues Evangelicalism has caused and sustained throughout our culture. I welcome doubt, anxiety, questions, despair—since we often begin with these—and I invite us to find our way through together, toward a hope that’s real even if it doesn’t always seem real.

Over the past twenty or so years, I’ve been a volunteer at a high school ministry, a college pastor, a church deacon, a Sunday School teacher, and a host for many good conversations in my home. I’ve been at the front of ministries and I’ve partnered with the those in front. As an elder at New Heart, it’s my privilege to partner with those in front, thinking and praying and discerning through many challenges, learning to practice church as an estuary where many views mix together—even as we are always moving, together, toward the Bread and the Cup.

Outside of church, I teach writing to undergraduates. I’m also a cofounder of the Just Love Coalition, which, along with the other organizations in the Justice Teams Network, aims to fight racial injustice.

I live in Whittier with my wife, our two sons, a dog, two rats, and three ducks.