Southeast Christian Church, a megachurch in Louisville, Ky., has announced that it will cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America because the youth organization has become too polarizing.
Last Thursday, delegates of the Boy Scouts' National Council voted overwhelmingly to adopt an amendment to its membership policy that lifted a longstanding ban on gay youth in the more than 100-year-old organization.
Sixty-one percent of the delegates voted in favor of the amendment while 39 percent voted against it at the organization's National Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.
Gay adults remain banned but gay rights activists continue to lobby for that portion of the membership policy as well.
In a report on Sunday, Tim Hester, the church's executive pastor explained that a discussion was ignited in the church by the Boy Scouts' initial decision to start talks on admitting openly gay youth in the organization. While this was the catalyst for the discussion at the church, however, it wasn't the deciding factor that led the board of elders to not renew the church's charter with Troop 212. Regardless of what the vote was, they argue, the charter would still have been broken.
"We want everyone, including ourselves, to live by biblical standards," said Hester in the report. "Truly for us it's a logical decision … We cannot be distracted from the mission God has called us to."
Troop 212 now has until the end of the year to relocate from the church's campus.
Barry Oxley, CEO of the Boy Scouts' Lincoln Heritage Council, said they were given notice of the decision earlier this year and are working to find a new organization to charter Troop 212 and Cub Scout Pack 212. About 300 families participated in Scouting in the two groups at the church campus.
Several church and family-oriented groups expressed regret over the Boy Scouts votes last Thursday. The Assemblies of God predicted an exodus of church-based scouts from the organization.
"A majority of scout groups are sponsored by churches or other religious entities, which have as their foundation a belief in biblical teachings that identify homosexual behavior as outside of God's plan for sexuality," said the church body.
"While we agree that youths who experience confusion or same-sex attraction need to be welcomed, in our churches they are confronted with this biblical teaching and will be counseled and prayed with that God will help them to align their lives in conformity to that teaching. We agree with the BSA that we need to demonstrate compassion and welcome those who are struggling with sexuality issues, but not in a way that condones such behavior, which is what the new BSA policy does."
"We believe that the BSA policy change will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program, as Assemblies of God and many other churches can no longer support groups that are part of an organization allowing members who are openly homosexual. However, as a positive alternative, we offer a program – the Royal Rangers – that operates with values consistent to that of the BSA prior to today's change," it further noted last Thursday.