Boy Scout Backlash? Youth Organization May See Rapid Decline in Church Support Following Vote to Approve Gay Leaders
The Boy Scouts of America may experience a severe backlash from church sponsors following its recent vote to approve openly gay scout leaders.
A national organization boasting over 2.6 million members, many of the BSA's more than 37,000 troops come from churches that officially state that homosexuality is a sin.
These include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the United Methodist Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the SBC, told The Christian Post that Southern Baptist churches have been cutting ties with the BSA since 2013, when the youth organization voted to allow openly gay members but not leaders.
"Some already have following the 2013 vote. We anticipate that others will following this vote," said Oldham to CP.
"We predicted in 2013 that the Scouts would see an immediate loss in membership with continual attrition over time, something their 2014 and 2015 annual reports clearly demonstrate."
Oldham told CP that while the SBC does not have an official relationship with BSA, there are member churches within the Convention that sponsor troops.
Ernest Easley, professor of evangelism with the School of Theology and Missions at Union University, has called on churches still connected to the BSA to sever their ties.
"The Supreme Court's recent ruling on same-sex marriage played right into the hands of the Boy Scouts as they take ... yet another step away from their own pledge of being 'morally straight.' I suppose it's time to change the pledge," said Easley to the Baptist Press.
"I hope churches that still sponsor troops, that were reluctant to end their sponsorship earlier, will now decide to cut their ties with the Scouts and find other ways … to invest in the lives of young boys."
In July, the BSA executive committee voted to end its historic ban on openly gay adult leaders, a decision ratified soon after by the National Executive Board in a 45-12 vote.
While ending the gay scout leader ban, BSA also stated that church-sponsored troops can still set their own policies on adult leaders.
The Boy Scouts leadership said in a memo that it "rejects any interference with or condemnation of the diverse beliefs of chartering organizations on matters of marriage, family, and sexuality."
Nevertheless, denominations like the LDS church have openly considered reassessing and possibly ending its connection to the BSA.
In a statement released soon after the vote, the LDS Church said they were "deeply troubled" by the BSA's decision, adding that "the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church."
"As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the LDS Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available," continued the statement.
"Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead."
The United Methodist Church, itself embroiled in a debate over its official position on homosexuality, is not openly considering a severance with the Scouts.
A UMC spokeswoman directed CP to a statement by Gilbert C. Hanke, general secretary of the General Commission on United Methodist Men.
"The Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting, GCUMM, has enjoyed partnerships with four civic youth agencies for many years, including the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America," stated Hanke.
"The primary reason for these partnerships is our commitment to ministering to the children and youth of our church communities, including at-risk youth."
Hanke also said that further comments on the BSA policy change may come following the next meeting of the GCUMM Board on Aug. 20-22.