It has been widely reported in the media, though in my opinion strongly skewed by most media outlets. It is the story that has moved to the back burner, but soon will be front page headlines once again. On May 22, the national meeting of Boy Scout leaders will be presented with a proposal to change the long accepted membership and participation requirements for local chartered troops.
The policy currently reads that the Boy Scouts do "not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, but does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the Boy Scouts of America."
The National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America has proposed a new resolution, which includes the statement that "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
While the majority of parents and Scout leaders nationally have voiced opposition to this change in the policy, it appears very likely that the new policy will be adopted. The three largest "faith-based" groups that charter BSA troops are the Mormon Church, Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Churches. Unfortunately, the Mormon Church has stated their approval of the proposed "compromise" that allows gay boys, but still bars gay leaders. There has been no word from the Catholic Church as far as I know. Southern Baptist Churches, with our autonomy, will most likely have some who oppose and others who affirm the compromise.
As stated in a previous blog entry, our church strongly opposes the proposal.
I met with a great group of Scout leaders this evening. It was a difficult, but needed meeting. These volunteers serve our boys and Scouts and have done so for years. Boy Scout Troop 20 has been chartered by First Baptist Church of Orange Park for 35 years. Cub Scout Pack 20 has been here for 13. We have experienced a wonderful relationship with the Scouts for years. Numerous Eagle Scouts have emerged from our Troop. Many church members have participated as well. That being said, I want it to be clear that we love Scouting and have wholeheartedly enjoyed our partnership for years.
However, this resolution leads us to some difficult choices.
The bottom line is that if BSA approves the proposed policy change, based on our understanding of the Scriptures and the Truth of God's Word, we will no longer be able to charter Pack 20 and Troop 20 at First Baptist Church.
I met with our Deacon body last night and this issue was discussed at length. The affirmation by this body was clear - we cannot continue as a charter organization if the policy moves forward.
I echo what some Scout leaders have told me personally "We feel like we've been kicked in the gut." I have yet to find a vocal Scout leader or parent in our group that approves of the change. These families placed their boys in Scouting based on the history, heritage and purpose of Boy Scouts. Now, it appears everything is being changed. Scouting may never be the same, regardless what happens at the national vote.
Troop 20s leadership is appalled at the potential policy change. The North Florida Council (BSA) is opposed to it as well, from what I hear. Word is that regardless the vote later this month, there will be local charter organizations (mostly churches of different flavors and faiths) who will discontinue their relationship with BSA.
I fully understand that many will see this move of discontinuing our charter as nothing more than another "Baptist church hating on gays." While there are some groups that wear the name "Baptist" and do little more than shout all that they are against in the world, this is not the case. This is not about discrimination or being hateful.
I have stated from the pulpit numerous times that we are a church for all people. That means all are welcome to come. That means we are open to LGBT people attending our church. However, welcoming those seeking Truth, regardless of lifestyle choice does not mean we affirm the LGBT lifestyle or any other lifestyle opposed to the nature of God. Why? Because we believe the Word of God and the pointed verses speaking of the lifestyle. Now, I understand there are those who view the Scriptures differently and would love to debate the veracity of these verses. Nevertheless, we are a body of believers who see the Word of God as infallible, immutable and inerrant. The Gospel is God's love letter to us and His desire is that all of us be rescued from our lives of sin and despair. Yes, we believe openly gay lifestyles are sinful, but no more sinful than any other lifestyle choice that is opposed to God and His Word. That is why we all need a Savior. Therefore, we do not affirm anyone's openly sinful lifestyle. Yet, we love them (you) any way. At least that is our desire.
You may not agree with us on this. You have that right. I wouldn't begin to assert you do not.
However, for our church to continue to charter Troop and Pack 20 with a national BSA policy in place that clearly opposes our biblical mores, would be hypocritical at best.
Some questions about how this fits with a missional theology have arisen. These are questions I have had to wrestle with as well. We own a building (well, almost - the bank owns most of it still.) We have been placed in a community strategically by God to impact it for the sake of the Gospel. We open our facilities for numerous groups at times. Whether a local school band, sixth grade graduation, baccalaureate services, sports team practices, narcotic recovery groups, community gatherings, music lessons, etc. we still see the use of our facilities as nothing more than a stewardship of God's facilities for the sake of reaching our local world for Christ.
What's the difference in just handing the keys to the rooms to our Troop/Pack and letting them continue? The difference here is that, in a very real sense, we "own" these groups. The name of our church is printed on every Boy Scout's neckerchief. T-shirts for Pack 20 have "First Baptist Church of Orange Park" emblazoned on them. We have been proud to allow and have even encouraged this. Yet, if the policy (which in our view is opposed to biblical teaching) is adopted, we cannot allow this. Oh, and even if the groups remove our name, we would still be the charter organization, so this is deeper than a name silk screened or embroidered on an item of clothing.
An initial option proposed by the national board as they attempted to push through an agenda affirming openly gay lifestyles, was to allow the local charter organization the right to choose to allow or disallow openly gay boys and leaders in the Troops. Had that option been moved forward, it would have done nothing but set us up, as well as other charter groups who oppose admitting gay participants, for a lawsuit. There is no doubt in my mind that groups such as the ACLU would be bringing numerous churches to court over the issue. This would be nothing more than a distraction and even if the suit were won, a loss of funding for the mission of God.
That proposal was shelved by the Board after much opposition was experienced.
This new proposal supersedes this and eliminates the option for local Troops/Packs and charter organizations to disallow openly gay boys. It does state that openly gay Scout leaders are prohibited, which, to me and even to gay rights activists seems ridiculous. In other words, it's OK for a boy to be gay up to age 18 and then not.
If this proposal is approved, it is widely known that it is nothing more than a first step. Openly gay scout leaders will be next on the agenda. I would not doubt if, down the line, a situation much like the Girl Scouts were facing a couple of years ago would be next. Boy Scouts would eventually be positioned to allow transgendered participants.
As one mother stated in tonight's meeting, "It's a slippery slope."
The most frustrating thing about the entire issue is that it pulls Scout leaders, charter groups and Scout parents away from that which Scouting is all about. The meeting tonight should never have had to happen. The BSA is creating a problem and the collateral damage will be the boys, regardless the outcome later this month. I feel the greatest empathy for those close to earning their Eagle Scout.
While I truly hate this, I must stand on the Word of God. In fact, we, the church must stand on the Word of God. If the BSA approves the proposed change on May 22, it ultimately means that Boy Scouts of America has nullified the agreement with First Baptist Church of Orange Park. Sadly, that means that come August 2013, Troop 20 and Pack 20 will no longer be meeting at our church, nor proudly wearing our name. In other words, we are NOT kicking the Scouts out. The BSA has chosen to enact a policy that eliminates our ability to partner with them. So, we wait.
But. . .
The vote hasn't happened, yet.
Join me in praying for the national leaders of BSA as well as our local Troop, Pack, leaders, parents and boys. My prayer is that come May 23, we will breathe a sigh of relief and continue on in our healthy relationship as charter organization and Scout troop. Regardless what happens, pray for the boys and their families.
Will Boy Scouts of America die over this? I doubt it, but it will be harmed greatly and may never recover fully.
We, however, must stand firm on God's Word. That is not up for a vote.