Boy Scouts of America: Why the Proposed Policy Change Matters

A statement by the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison,
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
May 16, 2013

[download PDF statement]

Western culture is at a crucial moment in history. After 103 years of existence, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may vote to change drastically its membership policy. For those who may be unaware, the BSA, in recent months, has discussed allowing both gay Scouts and Scout leaders into its organization. Recently, however, the BSA has changed its course. Now the vote will determine only whether to include openly homosexual Scouts as members.

LCMS leaders have been carefully monitoring the proposed BSA policy changes. When news of the proposed change was made public, I sent a letter to BSA, imploring its leadership not to make the proposed policy change. And even though the initial proposal to focus on Scout leaders has been shelved, I believe the current proposal still has unknown implications for the future of BSA as well as LCMS support and involvement. The proposed change will highlight sexuality, which has not been and should not be a matter of focus for Scouts. I suspect it will make it more challenging to care for young people struggling with same-sex attraction and perhaps open our churches to legal action.

This vote matters to the LCMS. The proposed change in BSA policy on values and membership to include openly homosexual Scouts adversely affects, even supersedes, the authority of the local pastor and congregation by allowing and promoting a moral position that we as LCMS Lutherans believe is against the will of God and in opposition to Holy Scripture.

This vote matters because, if enacted, the proposed change to BSA policy on values and membership will cause a crisis of conscience for our church leaders, pastors, parents and congregations. Even if the decision of values and membership remains at the local level, Scouts from troops sponsored by congregations of the LCMS will be affected because, as part of the scouting program, they also participate at regional and national scouting activities.

This vote matters because, for more than a century, scouting has sought to uphold moral values at a level greater than that of general society. The capitulation now to societal pressures would mar the long and honorable history of the Boy Scouts to honor the natural law of God, which at least for now, is still reflected in the current scouting membership policy.

For these reasons, I and some 25 other Protestant church leaders have signed onto a statement, copied below, that implores BSA not to change its policy, noting that, “In our current culture, it’s more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.”  The statement will be released in conjunction with its delivery to the BSA office and before the organization’s vote, which will take place May 24.

I share this with you today because it is difficult to know which of our LCMS BSA members will be part of the 1,400 members who will vote on the policy change later this month. I am hopeful that all of you will share this information with those in your congregation who are involved with BSA and even those in your community who will cast votes later this month.

As the church awaits the BSA vote, we still have much to do. We repent, and we pray. We confess Christ and elevate marriage among us. We do what the church does best: We bear witness to Christ, show mercy to those in our midst — including those challenged by same-sex attraction — and care for all in our life together.

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Statement

We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision.  Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions.  Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future.  A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation or preference” for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions.  In our current culture, it’s more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.  We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well.

Bishop David C. Anderson, Sr.
President, American Anglican Council

Sara L. Anderson
Executive Vice President
Bristol House, Ltd. (United Methodist)

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
Chief Operating & Development Officer
American Anglican Council

Dr. Robert D. Benne (Lutheran)
Jordan Trexler Professor Emeritus
and Research Associate
Religion and Philosophy, Roanoke College

Dr. Robert H. Blackburn
Past Chairman, National Association of Covenanting Congregations

The Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop
The North American Lutheran Church

Pastor Mark C. Chavez
General Secretary, North American Lutheran Church

The Rev. Sue Cyre
Executive Director of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry (PFFM)

The Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Doug Harvey, Executive Director
Disciple Heritage Fellowship

The Rev. Charles Huckaby
Dean, Western Classis of the Calvin Synod Conference United Church of Christ Term 2010– 2013

Dr. Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church

John Lomperis
Director, United Methodist Action

Alex McFarland
Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics

Senator Patricia Miller
Executive Director, Confessing Movement (United Methodist)

Bob Morrison
Secretary, REVIVE! (Iowa United Methodist renewal)

The Rev. Dr. Mary Holder Naegeli
Minister-at-Large, San Francisco Presbytery; Moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition

Rev. Kevin C. Rudolph
National Covenant Association of Churches
Windwood Presbyterian Church
Houston, TX

The Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Schumacher
Executive Director, American Lutheran Publicity Bureau

The Rev. W. Stevens Shipman
Director, Lutheran Coalition for Renewal

The Rev. Paul Stallsworth
President, Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality

David M. Stanley
Director, Institute on Religion and Democracy
Chairman, United Methodist Action Steering Committee
Co-Chair, REVIVE! (Iowa United Methodist renewal)

Bishop Ray Sutton
Ecumenical Officer, Anglican Church in North America

Mark Tooley
President, Institute on Religion & Democracy

The Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism
The North American Lutheran Church

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
General Council of the Assemblies of God

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10 Responses to Boy Scouts of America: Why the Proposed Policy Change Matters

  1. Neta Sue & Albert Jenkins May 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    We wholeheartedly support your stance regarding the BSA’s proposed change to their membership policy.

    In HIS name,
    Albert and Neta Jenkins
    St. John Lutheran Church,
    Massillon, OH

  2. lwuelser May 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Thank you so much for speaking out and standing together on this important matter.

    The vote this Thursday matters greatly. We hope, too, that the current membership policy of the Boy Scouts remains.

    Friends in California

  3. Laurie Trlak May 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I wonder how much longer the Scouts can withstand societal pressure, despite the calls from so many churches to continue their current policy. And if they do change the policy, I wonder how much longer Scouting will survive.

  4. Matt Thompson May 24, 2013 at 1:02 am #

    What do we do now?

    • LCMS Church Information Center May 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

      We hope to know more in the next few weeks. Please keep checking back. Blessings.

  5. Rev. John C. Stennfeld May 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    I don’t believe we have any business taking a position on who the BSA allows into membership. While we as Christians know and teach very clearly that God would not have His people continue to walk in sin (be that lying, cheating, gossiping, or living out a homosexual lifestyle), our calling and our commission as Christians is not to proclaim a standard of morality to the world so that they can then be saved, but rather to proclaim Christ and his death and resurrection through whom (alone) salvation is gained. There is a terrible confusion of Law and Gospel, and a terrible mixing of Luther’s two kingdoms taking place in our synod’s desire to change and control the course of organizations that are “outside” the church.

    • Erich Faulstich (cubmaster) May 31, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Rev. Stennfeld,
      I respectfully disagree that the BSA is “outside” the church when our own youth are involved in groups that are sponsored by and carry the name of our congregations. The standard of morality is not required of the world, but of members of our cub scout packs and boy scout troops that are a direct extension of our congregations, our church and therefore our synod. We have stood by too long and watched our society erode our Christian values without a word besides the proclamation of the gospel. I agree that there is much “mixing” of the two kingdoms, some of that is required if we are to be salt and light to this earthly realm we are required to walk in. We must fight immorality in the earthly kingdom for the sake of our children who will see acceptance as endorsement.

      • Cal Van Wagner June 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

        Amen! Many denominations sponser scouting groups as an extension or outreach of their church. As a Christian there is nothing wrong with me explaining my values, should that be necessary, where there are any events my son is involved in. In fact if my children are to be involved in activities where a moral code of conduct is required I will ABSOLUTELY be involved in understanding that code. IF that code asks me or my children to lift up or call something acceptable which is NOT acceptable before God as determined directly from His Word (For example in Leviticus) then it won’t happen. So much as I may be a leader(which I am) or parent with children in said organization It is both my right (In the United States) and my moral duty to God to proclaim the truth. How we proclaim truth is very important. I can’t ever remember winning a single soul to the Kingdom through yelling and anger. In the end this is about allowing sexuality(of any type) into the BSA. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened. And in so doing we have just placed an X on the back of any openly gay young men. We have singled them out. I know of no scout leaders that will allow tenting or showering privileges to openly gay young men. They will do these things by themselves. In our country the law of the land still says that you can not grant or gives as a right something to one person and thus infringe upon the rights or privacy of another. It is a convoulted argument all-around because of our country’s newest religion, relativism. That is why we have the Word of God which is timeless. Perhaps we should all read it again, “for the first time”.

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