Two local churches cut ties with Boy Scouts

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Leaders say acceptance of gay youth into organization conflicts with Biblical convictions

By Marty Finley

At least two local churches will dissolve their charters with the Boy Scouts of America once they expire later this year because of a new policy accepting gay youth into the organization, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown and Rineyville Baptist Church have disavowed their partnerships with scouting because the new policy contradicts Biblical and church standards adhered to by both congregations, church leaders said Tuesday.

In an email circulated to its members, Severns Valley Baptist Church said it will end its affiliation with the Boy Scouts when the charter expires in December. The church in the email said the organization has “rejected their 103-year commitment” to “keep their duty to God” and remain “morally straight,” as outlined in the Boy Scout oath, because they are opening the organization to gay youth.

“By introducing homosexual identification into Scouting, the Boy Scouts have effectively required church-sponsored Scouting units to endorse that which they consider incompatible with Scripture,” the letter states.

Jeff Wilson, associate pastor of leadership and equipping, said the vote was cast Sunday by senior pastors and the deacon body and was unanimous “because of our Biblical standards and how we view these actions.” The church is home to more than 4,000 members, Wilson said.

Asked if Severns Valley will seek to create an alternative program for youth, he said no decision has been made.

“It has not been discussed at this point,” he said. “We’re taking our time (with this).”

While the church, which is home to Upward sports programs, is not opposed to a new program, Wilson said, it will not rush its development.

“The last thing we want to do is have a knee-jerk reaction in terms of finding a substitute,” he said.

The church has hosted the Friends of Scouting dinner in the past, but the fundraising effort has recently been held elsewhere.

The Rev. Mitch Ash, pastor of Rineyville Baptist Church, said his congregation has not taken formal action but he thinks it will not renew its charter with the Boy Scouts when it expires this fall. He said the Boy Scouts abandoned the churches by adopting the policy, leading some to move in a different direction.  

“We’re not in line with the decision they made,” he said.

Ash said he has spoken with other organizations as the church considers the incorporation of an alternative program similar to the Royal Ambassadors, a faith-based mission discipleship program for male youth.

Ash said the choice was made with a heavy heart because the church has supported the Boy Scouts for 25 to 30 years. Some leaders within the church’s scout pack have said they are leaving the organization, he said, and some parents of scouts have raised concerns with the new policy.

“We just cannot support that decision,” he said.  

There will be some who view the church’s determination as a hateful one steeped in bigotry, Ash said, but this is a false judgment.

“We hate the sin but love the sinner,” he said. “Some people say it’s not a sin, but I disagree. The Bible is very clear on the issue.”

The announcements come after several churches in Hardin County pledged their continued support to the Boy Scouts despite the controversial vote.

Retired Maj. Gen. Bill Barron, district chairman for the Lincoln Heritage Council Boy Scouts of America, said some churches will choose to end their association with scouting, and he respects their right to make those decisions.

“You’re going to have some leave scouting because of this,” he said. “But you’ll have some new people coming into scouting.”

Barron said he cannot predict the future and does not know if it will be a “zero sum game” when the fallout from the policy subsides.

“We may lose more than we gain,” he said. “We may gain more than we lose.”

Displaced scouts will be placed with other existing troops, he said.

Barron has said fundraising totals are up in scouting’s local programs but commenting on what the impact could be for future fundraising efforts would be purely speculative.

He reiterated the notion that sexual orientation is not something scouting focuses on in its mission but is designed to build better youth.

“We’re not going to turn away any young man,” Barron said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com