Several churches in the Charlotte area – including one of the largest, Calvary Church – are moving to cut ties with Boy Scout troops they sponsor after a decision earlier this year by Boy Scouts of America to admit openly gay Scouts.
The nondenominational Calvary Church had chartered Boy Scout Troop 7 and Cub Scout Pack 7 for 20 years before deciding recently to revoke the charter effective Jan 1.
“The ministries of Calvary Church are aligned with our purpose of making authentic followers of Jesus Christ,” wrote the Rev. Jim Pile, pastor of family ministries, in an email to the Observer. “This is not the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.”
But Pile would not say whether the move was a response to the May decision by Boy Scouts of America to allow gay members.
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George Tucker, a Scout leader who has been involved with Boy Scout Troop 7 for the past 13 years, said Calvary sent troop leaders a brief email that said it was ending its relationship with the Boy Scouts.
“Nobody will publicly admit the specifics,” said Tucker, who said he believes the decision was based on the new membership policy.
Tucker said he understands the church’s decision, but troop leaders now are scrambling to find a new sponsor for about 100 Scouts.
Mark Turner, Scout director for the Mecklenburg County Council, said two other Charlotte churches have moved recently to drop their Boy Scout programs – Arlington Baptist in Mint Hill and Grace Covenant, which has locations in Cornelius and Denver. Officials at those churches could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Turner said this is the first time he can recall multiple churches dropping sponsorship of Scout troops at the same time.
“I believe it’s related back to our membership policy,” he said.
“Of course it’s disappointing that the leaders at Calvary have decided to stop supporting the programs of the Boy Scouts of America,” Turner said.
The Boy Scouts national organization decided in May to reverse a ban on gay members, effective Jan. 1.
“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” according to the new membership requirements.
The organization left in place a ban on gay Scout leaders, however.
How churches react
Boy Scout packs and troops depend on charter institutions, which are organizations – many of them churches – that provide a meeting facility, approve troops’ leadership teams, approve membership and appoint a charter representative, Turner said.
There are 275 charter institutions in the Charlotte area, he said.
How churches react to the change in policy will have a big effect on Scouts nationally. About 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are chartered by faith-based organizations, according to Reuters.
Shortly after the Boy Scouts decided to admit openly gay members, the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest U.S. Protestant denomination – expressed “opposition to and disappointment” in the membership policy, according to the Baptist Press. But it affirmed the freedom of local churches to make their own decisions regarding Scout troops.
Other churches in North Carolina and across the country have decided to end their Boy Scout charters. According to news reports, churches in Forsyth, Cleveland and Gaston counties have moved to drop their Scout troops in recent months.
The Gaston Gazette reported that First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia addressed its decision in a church newsletter: “By this change in policy, the BSA has endorsed and condoned behavior that God’s Word clearly condemns as sinful.”
Last week, Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem launched “Trail Life” – a replacement program for the Boy Scout troop it is cutting ties with, according to The Winston-Salem Journal. The program is the church’s response to Boy Scouts’ new membership policy. Openly gay members are not allowed.
Not all Christian faiths have opposed the new policy. Reuters reports that the Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of Scouting troops nationwide, with about 430,000 youth members, supports the admission of gay scouts.
The Scouts’ second-largest sponsor, the United Methodist Church, said it also plans to support the organization. The Catholic Church, the third-largest sponsor, has not condemned the decision.
57 Eagle Scouts
Turner characterized Troop 7 as a medium-sized group that is heavily involved in community service, particularly the Scouting for Food effort. The troop has produced 57 Eagle Scouts.
“That’s a significant number,” he said. “It’s a very impactful troop. It has a dynamic program, dynamic leadership, and has done some pretty incredible things over the past 20 years.”
Turner said that the new membership policy will not bring any changes to the Boy Scouts’ program and mission.
“Scouting is all about leadership and teaching leadership, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”