(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
The Southern Baptist Convention expressed extreme disappointment Monday to news that the Boy Scouts of America will likely approve admission of professed homosexuals as scout leaders, with officials close to the SBC predicting a mass exodus out of Scouting by Baptist churches.
A vote on the matter by BSA is planned during an executive meeting in Irving, Texas, the first week of February.
"This is a catastrophic decision for the Boy Scouts of America. In order to placate their East and West Coast appendages, they are tearing out the heart of their Midwest and Southern support. This decision will lead to a mass exodus of traditional, orthodox Christianity from the Boy Scouts, including thousands of Catholic, Baptist and other traditional faith congregations," Dr. Richard Land, speaking in his role as head of SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told The Christian Post.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, told USA Today that the policy change would be "nothing less than disastrous for the Boy Scouts of America." In a blog post, Mohler asserted that the "new policy announced yesterday is almost sure to please no one and to lead to disaster for the Scouts. Those pressing for a reversal of the national policy are not likely to be satisfied with a local option."
"I am very disappointed the Board is considering this," Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page, an Eagle Scout, told The Christian Post. "This action reverses the findings of a two-year study last July that affirmed their principled stand on biblical morality. From what they told me, they are wilting under pressure from some of their corporate sponsors and they fear they could lose a future court case, despite the fact that they prevailed before the Supreme Court on this very issue."
SBC's president, Fred Luter, who is a former Cub Scout and Boy Scout, also expressed disappointment, reported Baptist Press.
"If that is what the leadership is doing, then I think it will be a sad day in the life of the Boy Scouts of America," Luter told Baptist Press. "This is a tradition that so many of us across the country grew up in. We were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in elementary school, and this organization has always stood for biblical principles – all the things that grounded our lives as a young kid growing up. To now see this organization that I thought stood on biblical principles about to give in to the politically correct thing is very disappointing."
In addition to meeting with SBC, top executives with the Boy Scouts of America had met with top leaders at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church, among others, over the last few weeks to inform them of the policy shift, according to a source who has knowledge of the situation.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), when contacted by CP, released a statement on Monday, but offered little information.
"The Church is aware that BSA is contemplating a change in its leadership policy. However, BSA has not yet made any such change. Until we are formally notified that it has done so, it would be inappropriate for the Church to comment," stated LDS spokesman Michael Purdy.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Roman Catholic Church was unavailable for comment on Monday.
The Mormon Church, Catholic Diocese and Southern Baptist Convention are three of the largest religious organizations that are closely affiliated with the BSA. Troops, as local units are called, often meet in and use church facilities for their weekly gatherings. Many troops are formed solely from within churches given that the BSA's objectives and development programs often run parallel to the doctrine of many major religious groups. However, church membership or religious beliefs are not a requirement for membership in the BSA.
The Southern Baptist Convention was asked last week to not oppose the Boy Scouts, according to Page.
"Wayne Brock (Chief Scout Executive of the BSA, headquartered in Texas) visited with me last week, signaling the possibility they would consider this proposal at their February board meeting. He specifically asked the Southern Baptist Convention not to oppose this move. Of course, I refused to make this concession," Page told CP.
Also, SBC sent the Boy Scouts a letter "strongly asking them to reconsider this decision," according to SBC spokesperson Sing Oldham.
On Monday, BSA gave a statement via email to CP. "For more than 100 years, Scouting's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve," wrote Deron Smith, BSA's director of Public Relations.
"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs," Smith stated.
Christian Post reporter Paul Stanley contributed to this article.