By Bob Allen
Boy Scout troops that lose the sponsorship of Southern Baptist congregations over the organization’s lifting its ban on gay Scouts are welcome in the United Methodist Church.
“Our troops are open to all persons, regardless,” Chuck Jones, president of the National Association of United Methodist Scouters, told ABC affiliate WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tenn. He said church leaders have decided that if a Southern Baptist congregation kicks out a Boy Scout troop, they’ll take them in.
This week the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution supporting churches and families who choose to withdraw from the Boy Scouts over moral objections to a recently adopted membership policy. Effective next year, the policy states: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The resolution stopped short of a call for a mass exodus from the Scouts predicted by SBC leaders, including outgoing Ethics & Religious Liberty head Richard Land. It affirms “the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA.”
The SBC resolution encourages greater involvement by churches and families that remain in the Boy Scouts. That includes advocacy against any future change in leadership and membership policy that “normalizes sexual conduct opposed to the biblical standard.”
The Scouting Ministry Office of United Methodist Church said any of the 3,981 Scout units dropped by a Southern Baptist church would be warmly welcomed by neighboring United Methodist congregations.
“The United Methodist Church is the second largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts with 363,876 Scouts in 10,868 units chartered by 6,700 churches,” said Larry Coppock, director of scouting ministry for the denomination.
“I would love to see those numbers increase,” Coppock said. “Scouting remains one of the finest youth-serving agencies in America, and it will continue to serve as a positive influence on boys and young men.”
Only the Mormons sponsor more Boy Scout troops than United Methodists. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors 10 times as many Scout units as Baptists, says, “Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops.”
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting determined the May vote lifting the ban on gay youth to be “not in conflict with Catholic teaching” and something by which “we should be encouraged.”
Jones cautioned that the denomination’s official stance doesn’t mean all United Methodists support the Boy Scouts’ policy change.
“It hasn’t been resolved by this vote, and it’s not going to be resolved legislatively at all,” Jones told WATE-TV. “It’s going to be resolved in the hearts and minds of individuals as they begin to understand that to love your neighbor is to love your neighbor without conditions.”