Signs and Wonders: Inclusivity and its consequences, polygamy, and more on scouting

Newsworthy | Warren Cole Smith

Signs and Wonders: Inclusivity and its consequences, polygamy, and more on scouting

Boy Scouts recite the Scout Oath during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State in the House Chambers at the Texas capitol, in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay, File

How’s inclusion working for ya? Is it just my imagination, or are religious denominations that say they are inclusive and diverse becoming increasingly exclusive and homogeneous? A couple of months ago, I noted this phenomenon in the Episcopal Church. The latest example is the United Church of Christ (UCC). The annual report of its Pension Board laments the fact that the UCC saw a 35 percent decline in membership during the first decade of the 21st century. Sunday school attendance dropped by an even larger 41 percent, suggesting fewer young people in the church. The number of congregations fell by 12 percent. The pension board report also says “the rate of decline is accelerating.” The denomination now has fewer than 1 million members, less than half the number it did when formed by a merger of predecessor denominations in 1962.

Scouting woes. The National Board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is widely expected to vote today on whether to change its policies to allow homosexual leaders. My sources tell me that the mood at the three-day meeting in Dallas is tense. For one thing, the hotel where most of the meetings take place has been overrun with media. Conspicuously armed police staff both the hotel and the parking lot. And homosexuals aren’t the only problem the Scouts have to deal with. Because of the recession, declining BSA membership, and a massive investment in a new national Scout facility in West Virginia, called Bechtel Summit, the Boy Scouts are in a tenuous financial situation. The Scouts’ investment in Bechtel Summit was supposed to be about $150 million, but before all is said and done, it could exceed $1 billion. The Scouts developed the Summit in part to host the 2013 Scout Jamboree. The Scouts used to hold the Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. Atheist and other groups protested that the Scouts’ use of the land was an inappropriate “establishment of religion” because the Scouts require duty to God. It’s another example of how the Scouts have been forced to pay dearly for their principles.

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While we’re at it. Pro-homosexual groups and some within the Boy Scouts have argued declines in Scouting membership could be reversed by making the program more tolerant and inclusive. If the experience of the United Church of Christ, cited above, isn’t enough to refute that claim, consider the experience of the Boy Scouts of Canada, which in 1999 made the change their American brothers now contemplate. During the next five years, Scouting membership fell consistently, from about 200,000 to about 120,000. Since then, it has continued to fall, and Scouts Canada, as it’s called, now has fewer than 100,000 members. It’s hard to imagine the BSA wouldn’t suffer similar consequences.

Polygamy blog. I was surprised to discover the Salt Lake City Tribune has two reporters who produce a “Polygamy Blog” for the paper. Who knew there was enough news about polygamy to require its own beat? A quick glance at the blog, however, tells me that there is indeed enough news, and some of it is pretty interesting. The bloggers mostly track the activities of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which despite protestations of the State of Utah and of the “mainstream” Mormon Church, still has close to 10,000 members and remains a political and social force in parts of Utah and Arizona.

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