NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 12)–– Meeting in Houston, the Southern Baptist Convention stopped short of disassociating with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), but they urged the national organization “to remove from executive and board leadership the individuals who earlier sought to allow gays as both members and leaders without consulting the many religious groups that sponsor Scout troops.”
Scouting officials with the United Methodist Church had also criticized BSA for not consulting with BSA Religious Relationship Task Force, a committee composed of representatives from various faith groups that represent 70 percent of BSA’s units and 62 percent of its membership.
Southern Baptists also agreed to support churches and families who drop ties with the Boy Scouts. The resolution asks chuches that leave the BSA to explore a faith-based alternative, the Royal Ambassadors.
The Scouting Ministry Office of United Methodist Church said any of the 3,981 Scout units dropped by a Southern Baptist Church would be warmly welcomed by neighboring United Methodist congregations.
“The United Methodist Church is the second largest sponsor of the Boy scouts with 363,876 Scouts in 10,868 units chartered by 6,700 churches,” said Larry Coppock director of scouting ministry for the denomination. “I would love to see those numbers increase. Scouting remains one of the finest youth-serving agencies in America and it will continue to serve as a positive influence on boys and young men.”
The Southern Baptist Convention took the action following the BSA decision to allow gay Scouts less than 18 years of age to participate in scouting activities. The policy prohibiting gays to serve as Scout leaders continues.
“Scouting has been part of our reach to children and youth within the church and community since 1920,” said Coppock. “The former Methodist Episcopal Church said scouting is “a proved and approved weekday program for the boys of the Sunday school.”
Since the 1996 creation of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, scouting ministry has expanded to include the BSA, Girl Scouts of America, 4-H, Camp Fire USA and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Within the past three years, the office has recruited and trained 215 persons to serve as scouting ministry specialists to encourage churches to expand their ministries to the community through these youth-serving programs.
“More than 1.5 million participants and family members are estimated to be affected by scouting ministries in the United Methodist Church,” said Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men.
“Scouting ministries provide local congregations the opportunity to mentor children and youth in the areas of spiritual and character development through service projects, Bible based resources, and healthy peer and intergenerational relationships.”
“Our office has already received notices of invitation from local churches and United Methodist annual conferences,” said Hanke. “They are welcoming Scouts, leaders and their families to join existing or new Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops hosted and staffed in United Methodist Churches, if their current scouting program needs to find a new home.”