Key Churches Support Scouts' Policy on Gays
After Boy Scout leaders took their long-awaited vote in late May to permit openly gay boys to be members, some church leaders predicted there will be a swift exodus of church groups from the Scouting organization.
"We believe that the BSA policy change will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program," the Assemblies of God denomination declared minutes after 61 percent of 1,400 delegates to the Boy Scouts of America meeting voted May 23 to change the policy.
In balloting that was seen as a potential watershed in the culture wars, not even the compromise resolution worked out months earlier by the BSA, which allows gays to be Scouts but bars gays from serving as Scout leaders, appeared to satisfy evangelical church leaders.
"We're absolutely not telling them you have to endorse homosexuality," said R. Chip Turner, national chairman of the BSA's Religious Relationships Task Force. "You may not deny that membership based on that one characteristic."
Turner acknowledged there will likely be fewer units, notably among religious groups, which have composed about 70 percent of BSA sponsoring organizations. Other conservative leaders, including Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver and Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, are also talking about a "mass exodus" in response to the change, which takes effect on January 1, 2014.
However, three large church bodies in the U.S. that have traditionally supported the Boy Scouts--Mormons, United Methodists and Roman Catholics--have said they will continue to work with the BSA.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more BSA troops than any other organization, "will continue to sponsor Scout units for its congregations in the United States," said spokesman Eric Hawkins. He does not expect any to disband.
United Methodist Scouting officials, the BSA's second-largest sponsor, are continuing to support the BSA, as are youth organizations such as Girl Scouts, 4-H and Big Brothers. About 6,700 Methodist churches currently sponsor Boy Scout groups.
The U.S. Catholic Church's top liaison to the Boy Scouts of America is telling Catholic Scout leaders and troop sponsors that the BSA's new policy welcoming gay Scouts "is not in conflict with Catholic teaching" and they should continue to support scouting programs. …