The Southern Baptist Convention, holding its national meeting in Houston, approved a resolution Wednesday expressing disappointment in the Boy Scouts of America for allowing openly homosexual boys into the organization.
The resolution also calls on the Boy Scouts to remove executive and board leaders who pushed for the policy change.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the country’s largest Protestant denomination, with 45,000 congregations and 16 million members. Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths, according to the Boy Scouts of America. Because Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, this resolution is not binding, but such resolutions are influential.
The resolution does not recommend that Southern Baptists drop ties with the Scouts, but it expresses support for those churches and families that decide to do so. It also encourages churches and families who choose to remain with the Scouts to work toward reversing the new membership policy.
Several Southern Baptist churches have already acted to sever ties with the Boy Scouts. Former Southern Baptist President Bryant Wright recently announced that the church he pastors, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., would stop sponsoring a troop after 13 years. Wright explained in a video posted on the church’s website that the problem with the new policy is not that it would allow gay Scouts, but that it would not allow Scout masters to counsel those Scouts to “live a life of sexual purity according to Scripture.”
The new policy, Wright said, “condones homosexuality as being consistent with the Scout oath of duty to God and moral uprightness.”
The Southern Baptist Convention is also considering a motion asking the denomination’s Executive Committee to appoint a task force to look into Scouting alternatives. That motion was referred to a committee. The Southern Baptist Convention already has a youth group for boys, the Royal Ambassadors, and the denomination could work to expand that program. On June 29, a group led by John Stemberger and OnMyHonor.Net will meet in Louisville, Ky., with youth leaders from around the country to discuss the creation of an alternative to the Scouting program. Stemberger said the meeting was “invitation only” and would include only national leaders, but he also said he expected senior Southern Baptist leaders to attend.
About 70 percent of the nation’s approximately 116,000 Scout units in the United States are sponsored by religious organizations.