June 13, 2013
How Many Churches Will Leave
By Mike McManus
Last February Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, asserted that if the Boy
Scouts of America (BSA) voted to allow gay boys to become
Scouts, “It would be a catastrophe for Boy Scouts, 1.1 million
of whom are sponsored by Mormons, Roman Catholics and Baptists
who are overwhelmingly opposed to this change.”
This week Southern Baptists meeting in Houston overwhelmingly
voted to oppose the Boy Scout’s decision to admit gay members,
declaring that homosexual conduct is contrary to a Scout’s oath
to do his duty to God.
However, the resolution allows member churches to individually
decide whether to stop sponsoring Scout troops. There are 4,000
Baptist churches that sponsor 108,000 troops.
During the debate, Wes Taylor, pastor at Tabernacle Baptist
Church in Newport News, VA, said it is “ungodly and
unacceptable” for young boys to be exposed to homosexuality. “I
am very sad to say that it seems as though (Boy Scouts) are
moving away from the principles they were founded upon.”
Others argued that the denomination should embrace gay members
of scouting and seek to guide them toward a more Christian life.
One pastor stated that a young boy who claims to be gay is most
likely the victim of abuse or otherwise needs guidance, and that
the church or Scouts should not abandon them.
“Such a boy needs our love,” asserted Charlie Dale, pastor of
Indian Springs (AL) First Baptist Church. “So let’s bring him in
and show him what real biblical manhood is about.”
The Baptist resolution calls on churches that decide to sever
ties with the Boy Scouts, not to abandon their ministry to young
boys and to consider expanding a “Royal Ambassador” ministry
designed to develop “Godly young men.”
By contrast, the Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of Scouting
nationwide, with 430,000 youth members, expressed support for
permitting gay Scouts. Michael Otterson, public affairs director
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that
“BSA in reality reintroduced and reinforced some of its
century-old core values and nailed those colors firmly to the
mast in an unmistakable message.”
What were those principles? A few hours after 1,400 BSA
delegates voted to allow gay Scouts but not gay Scoutmasters,
Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of The Church Latter-day
Saints, noted that the Boy Scout Oath has boys pledge “to do my
duty to God.”
“If boys truly understand what their duty to God entails and
lived it, they would grow safely into manhood… It is this belief
in duty to God that has forged the iron-strong connection with
Boy Scouts of America” and Mormons.
Otterson noted one key line in the BSA resolution: “Any sexual
conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of
scouting age is contrary to the virtues of scouting.”
By contrast, Catholic Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, VA,
blasted BSA “for caving in at the cost of its moral integrity.”
He felt the Scouts’ traditional stand of denying membership to
gay Scouts demonstrated “principled and steadfast resolve.”
On the other hand, the U.S. Catholic Church’s top liaison to the
Boy Scouts says the BSA’s new policy welcoming gay Scouts “is
not in conflict with Catholic teaching,” and urged local
churches sponsoring troops to continue their support.
“Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to
all youth,” said Edward P. Martin, chairman of the National
Catholic Conference on Scouting in a letter to “fellow Catholic
Scouters.” Catholic Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the hierarchy’s
official advisor to NCCS, said after the BSA meeting that while
he was “not particularly encouraged” by the vote “we can live
About a tenth of the 2.6 million Boy Scouts are in troops
sponsored by Catholic congregations. Some led by Knights of
Columbus have announced they will encourage troops to affiliate
with their Columbian Squires youth groups.
The much smaller Assemblies of God predicted the new BSA stand
“will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program.”
BSA conducted a poll before it voted by a 61% margin to allow
gay youth, and estimated that 100,000 to 350,000 troops would
leave. That’s a low estimate. Ten years after Canada took this
step it lost more than half of its members.
But where would they go? John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout who
leads the Florida Family Policy Council, is organizing a meeting
of denominational leaders and decorated veterans of BSA to
create a national alternative to the Boy Scouts this month.
He told me, “We will provide some liberty for churches opposed
to allowing open and avowed homosexuals” to proselytize among
impressionable boys. See www.onmyhonor.net.
May that alternative to the Boy Scouts emerge and prosper.
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