By Kathi Bliss
Breaking up is hard to do.
Ending a relationship after 20 years is bound to bring up questions and hurt feelings. In some cases, though, it seems like the only reasonable thing to do.
That is the position of the First Lockhart Baptist Church Deacon Body this week, as they prepare to bring forth a recommendation to their church family to end their relationship with Boy Scout Troop #215, which has been in a charter agreement with the church since 1992.
The decision comes on the heels of a mandate from the Boy Scouts of America national organization, which conducted a historic vote earlier this year to remove a restriction that denies membership based on sexual orientation alone, effectively opening the door for homosexual members to participate in Scouting. That mandate has been widely condemned by the Southern Baptist Convention, and is at the root of a difficult choice for FLBC.
“In making this decision, we want to make sure that people understand that we don’t have any problem with our troop, or with our boys,” said FLBC pastor Bro. Gary Rodgers. “This decision is because of the choice made by the national organization to support a lifestyle that we believe goes against God’s Word, and goes against nature.”
Rodgers stressed that the Deacon body does not want to lose the troop or hurt the boys who participate in scouting through FLBC, but rather they hoped their decision would add another voice to a group of churches hoping to send a message to the Boy Scouts of America.
“We believe that the next thing that will happen is that the national organization will allow for gay leaders, in addition to gay members,” he said. “We can’t see how they can accept a young man until he’s 18, and then send him away as soon as he turns 19. Accepting gay leaders is the next step…”
That “next step,” he said, is something that flies in the face of church doctrine, and something that the church cannot be a part of.
Still, he reiterated, the decision to recommend terminating the charter with the troop is based on the decisions at the national level, and not borne of a problem with the local troop.
“That’s the hardest part, trying to make people understand the difference between our relationship with the local troop and our feelings about the national decision,” he said.
Troop 215 Scoutmaster Cody Baird said he understands the position of the church, but is concerned about how the decision will impact both current and future members.
“I understand that this is the church’s belief, and I support them in doing what they feel like they have to do,” Baird said. “But the boys… the kids don’t care. For them, it’s not about gay members, or sin, or any of that.”
Further, Baird said on a personal level, he questions whether the church truly understands the national BSA decision, and the impact that decision will and won’t have on young men.
“The decision doesn’t say that troops or Scoutmasters support a gay lifestyle,” he said. “What it says is, we won’t turn a member away just because they are homosexual. Just like the church won’t turn a member away for being gay. We’ll still take them in and try to teach them…”
That teaching, he said, does not and should not focus on specific lifestyle choices, rather on training boys to be men.
“If we don’t teach them to be men, who will?” he said. “Gangs? Other influences? What the national decision is saying is that, regardless of this one factor or choice a young man has made, we will still embrace them.”
A May 23, 2013 statement from the Boy Scouts of America reiterates that, despite the decision to allow openly gay members, the Boy Scouts of America has not wavered on its position of a high moral standard for their members.
“The resolution… reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” it says. “While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.”
Going forward, the memorandum promises, the organization will “continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”
That may not be enough, though, for the membership of FBLC.
“We do not believe we can sponsor or endorse any organization whose moral beliefs are contrary to God’s Word,” a statement from the Deacon body reads. “God’s Word clearly states that homosexual behavior is a sin and the lifestyle should not be condoned.”
While the future of the troop hangs in the balance, pending the Sunday vote by the church body, Baird said he is still encouraged.
“In the end, [Troop #215] will wind up somewhere that we’re wanted,” he said.