Men's Leader Affirms Scout Decision Delay
February 07, 2013
By Heather Hahn*
A United Methodist Men leader welcomed news that Boy Scouts of America will delay making a decision on whether to have gay members and leaders until after "a more deliberate review."
"This is what we were hoping for, an opportunity to have further dialogue and meaningful discussions," said Larry Coppock, United Methodist Men's national director of Scouting ministries. "This is the correct decision, and we applaud BSA's leadership for taking this step in dealing with such a complex and passionate issue."
The Commission on United Methodist Men is responsible for promoting the use of Scouting ministries and civic youth-serving agencies across the denomination.
The Boy Scouts of America's national board, meeting at the group's headquarters in Irving, Texas, decided Feb. 6 to "further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns."
The group's statement said these discussions "will assist the officers' work on a resolution on membership standards." The 1,400 members of the voting council plan to vote on the resolution in May.
Coppock told United Methodist News Service that he has heard from a Boy Scouts representative who said leaders would listen to United Methodists across the United States before the May meeting.
He encourages United Methodists and other people of faith to contact Boy Scouts of America directly to share their views.
Boy Scouts of America announced Jan. 28 that the group was considering ending its decades-long ban on gay Scouts and gay leaders and leaving that particular question up to charter organizations.
Gil Hanke, United Methodist Men's top leader, released a statement Jan. 29 affirming how the changes would be implemented.
After hearing criticism and questions, Hanke elaborated in a statement Jan. 31 that what he endorsed was moving the responsibility for selecting leaders and members to the local church level.
Boy Scout leaders report that 69.4 percent of Boy Scout units are chartered to religiously affiliated groups.
The United Methodist Church is second only to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the number of congregations that host Boy Scouts of America groups. As of 2012, 6,700 United Methodist congregations served 363,876 young people through 10,868 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews. Venturing crews are open to both young men and women, ages 14 to 20. The United Methodist Church hosts more Cub Scout packs than any other religious group.
Since 1972, the Book of Discipline — the denomination's law book — has identified the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching."
It also affirms that all people are "individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God," and proclaims a commitment to be in ministry for and with all people.
Church law prohibits "self-avowed practicing" gays and lesbians from serving as clergy, but the book is silent about whether they can serve as lay leaders in other church roles.
The United Methodist Church's Book of Resolutions, which contains the denomination's policy statements on social issues, also calls on the denomination to "dedicate itself to a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientation …welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches."
The Book of Discipline additionally supports "the rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation."
The Boy Scouts of America statement
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing its youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers' work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.
*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.