Since the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban against gay youth members in May, a handful of churches around the Puget Sound area have decided to cut ties with the organization. Meanwhile, some churches have indicated they are awaiting guidance from national leadership before they make any changes to their existing charters with Scouting units.
On Wednesday, national leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution that opposes the Scouts’ recent policy change. Southern Baptists charter about 4,000 Scouting units across the country, including some in the Northwest.
Gary Floyd is the mission ministries strategist at the Northwest Baptist Convention, a regional network for about 450 Southern Baptist churches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“I probably would not have voted for the resolution,” Floyd said. “I think Scouting at this point still does not impose any social issues on its chartering organizations.”
The resolution approved at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston still leaves it up to churches to decide whether to cut ties with the Scouts. Yet, it also expresses support for those churches and families that do part ways.
Part of Floyd’s job is to work with churches on their programs for boys and young men. He said that despite the resolution, he’ll still promote Scouting as good option, at least for now.
"If Scouting comes out with some different decisions, it’s possible that they could make some choices that could make this a real game changer for everybody," Floyd said.
That game changer could be if the Scouts decide to allow openly gay adults as troop leaders. Floyd says it’s the church’s job to minister to young boys who may be questioning their identity, but not to endorse homosexuality.
“That runs significantly contrary to who we are as a part of the Christian community at large, and specifically as Southern Baptists," Floyd said.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest protestant denomination in the country, and it’s just one of many faith groups grappling with this membership policy change in Scouting. The Mormon Church and United Methodist Church have both come out in support of gay Scouts. The Catholic Church is currently reviewing its position and a spokesman for the Seattle Archbishop declined to comment while that review is pending.
Across the country, religious organizations sponsor about 70 percent of Boy Scout troops. Scouting leaders around the Puget Sound area say so far they’ve seen minimal backlash from the policy change, although at least three churches have said they’ll dissolve their charters with the Scouts, including Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton and Cedar Park Christian Church in Bothell.
“Scouting’s youth member policy is not about the Boy Scouts of America condoning homosexuality, or forcing its chartered organizations to do the same,” said Sharon Moulds, Scout executive of the Chief Seattle Council, which oversees Scout units across Western Washington.
“This change allows Scouting to be more compassionate in its response to a young person who expresses a same sex attraction, but is not engaging in sexual activity, by no longer calling for their automatic removal from the program," she said.