Warren County churches don’t seem to be following the example of a Louisville church that has decided against renewing its charter with a Boy Scout troop in the wake of a vote by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay members.
The Lincoln Heritage Council – which covers 64 counties in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee, including Jefferson and Warren – has only been notified by one organization that it won’t continue to be a chartered partner with the Boy Scouts, according to a written statement from Barry Oxley, scout executive and CEO of the Lincoln Heritage Council.
The Boy Scouts of America voted May 23 to allow openly gay boys to be troop members for the first time. Southeast Christian Church Executive Pastor Tim Hester told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal the church’s decision not to renew its charter was prompted by the Boys Scouts’ decision and the church’s desire not to get caught up in it.
“Southeast Christian Church’s decision to no longer be a chartered partner is not a new development,” a statement from Oxley said. “Southeast Christian Church notified the Lincoln Heritage Council earlier this year that scouting would no longer be offered on their campus in 2014.
“We can’t speak for Southeast Christian Church on why they decided to no longer sponsor Pack and Troop 212. Our focus is helping youth grow into young people of character and integrity through a program of fun and adventure.”
About 300 families participate in scouting at Southeast Christian, according to the statement.
Chartered organizations have the responsibility of providing adequate meeting facilities and quality leadership for the scouting unit and for appointing a chartered organization representative to coordinate scouting operations within the organization, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.
About 70 percent of all chartered scouting units are chartered by faith-based organizations, according to the website.
The Lincoln Heritage Council has been working to find a new chartered organization for Pack and Troop 212, according to the statement. An interested organization has been identified, but the proposed partnership is only in the discussion phase.
In Warren County, 19 organizations work with Boy Scouts to support 28 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing Crews, according to the statement.
Boy Scout Troop 510 Scoutmaster B.J. Jordan said there haven’t been problems with the troop’s chartered organization, St. James United Methodist Church, since the BSA decision. “Our church, St. James, is very supportive of us still,” Jordan said.
Troop 510 has 38 members who are 11 to 18 years old, he said.
The Boy Scouts doesn’t delve into teaching about sex or sexual orientation, Jordan said. The closest they come is a family life merit badge that scouts can earn from talking to their parents or guardians about issues such as sex, he said.
“It’s a youth organization, and any sort of sexual conduct is contrary to the virtues of what we teach,” Jordan said.
There probably have been and probably always will be members of the organization who are gay, he said. The wording of the measure the BSA approved simply allows openly gay members now.
“Personally, I don’t have an issue with it,” Jordan said.
The only concern from troop members’ families so far has been a grandmother who told Jordan that her grandson had been teased by a child saying that the Boy Scouts was going to be a gay organization, Jordan said.
The BSA decision won’t change the troop’s operations, he said.
The Rev. Chris Patterson, pastor of St. James, said his church will continue its charter with Troop 510. “Our greater concern is the support of just any young man who wants to find himself involved in scouting,” he said.
The Boy Scouts is a good organization, and St. James supports Troop 510’s endeavors, Patterson said.
“I’m very uncomfortable with how political we have made certain things,” he said.
Everyone is welcome to attend church at St. James and is worthy of the grace of God, Patterson said.
“All of us are sinners, and we dare not rank one sin greater than the other,” he said.
The United Methodist Church, however, does not allow for the ordination of open and practicing gay individuals. Patterson said he supports that stance.
“It’s one thing to be a participant,” he said. “It’s another thing to be a leader.”
The BSA’s policy on openly gay youths has changed, but its ban on gay adults remains in place.
Though the Bible teaches against homosexuality, Richard Garden, pastor of Richardsville United Methodist Church, said he has no problem with his church continuing to charter its Boy Scout troop even after the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow openly gay scouts.
“That’s a decision that they have to face between them and the maker,” Garden said.
Richardsville United Methodist won’t turn anybody away, he said.
“They are always welcome to come and worship,” Garden said.
David Grout, senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, said the decision on openly gay scouts has not been an issue at any recent church council meetings.
Christ United Methodist is the chartered organization for Boy Scout Troop 79, he said. “It doesn’t at all conflict with the social principles which are part of our United Methodist Church,” Grout said.
The United Methodist Church social principles call for ministering to all people, though the church stands by the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, Grout said.
“Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons,” the principle states. “We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”
The Rev. John Wesley, senior pastor of First Christian Church of Bowling Green, said his church is proud of the Boy Scouts and the decision that it made to allow openly gay scouts.
“We would have been disappointed if they hadn’t of made that decision,” he said.
The church tries not to discriminate against anyone, Wesley said. “I think the gospel teaches God’s love for all people,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.