LCMS relationship with BSA ‘no longer tenable’

As of today (Dec. 1), the formal relationship between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is “no longer tenable,” according to LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Office of National Mission Executive Director Rev. Bart Day. The decision came as a result of the BSA’s action, made earlier this year, to allow openly gay Scout leaders.

In a statement released today, Harrison and Day outlined months of conversation and correspondence with leadership from the BSA prior to the Synod’s dissolution of the Memorandum of Understanding with the BSA, noting that “while we understand the legal concerns that led to this new BSA direction, it is simply a place the church is not willing to go.”

Legal concerns were also a determining factor. “Recent federal rulings, including the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, are shaping decisions by organizations such as the BSA,” the statement explained. “Congregations who continue their BSA charters after the Dec. 1, 2015, dissolution of the LCMS MOU should seek local legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally.”

Harrison and Day also noted that they “lament the fact that an MOU between the LCMS and the BSA is no longer possible” and “pray that the Lord of the church will bless congregations and individuals as they consider the information shared here and chart a faithful course forward.”

To read the statement or a shortened version of it, click here.

Posted Dec. 1, 2015

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24 Responses to LCMS relationship with BSA ‘no longer tenable’

  1. Vernon December 1, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    Also included in the Way Forward section of the statement is a paragraph describing the continuing evaluation of a relationship between the LCMS and Scout.

    “To that end, we are calling for the establishment of a task force to consider Scouting and the involvement of the LCMS going forward. The landscape and intersection of church and world — including Scouting — has drastically changed since our Synod’s decision on Scouting matters in the 1950s. We recognize that the BSA and other Scouting programs have a positive impact on the lives of many Lutherans and LCMS congregations and schools. However, the times demand we ask important questions. How should the church engage and be involved going forward? How does the church participate in a faithful way so that our children are able to be involved and the church’s confession remains unhampered?”

  2. Karen December 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    I agree with the LCMS position and Rev. Harrison. Shake the dust off your feet and continue sharing the Gospel. The Boy Scouts of America has decided that homosexuality is natural . The BSA has decided that they condone homosexuality among their members. Never mind that these homosexual leaders will be in close contact with vulnerable young adolescent boys (Penn state??).

    St. Paul writes in his first epistle to the Corinthians: 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. LCMS shake the dust off your feet and move on. Perhaps one day the BSA will be open to the Gospel.
    HUGS. KARE

    • Greg December 2, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      There is a difference between a homosexual and a pedophile. Jerry Sandusky was convicted as a pedophile and Penn State allowed him to be alone with boys. As noted in another response, adult leaders – male or female – in the BSA are never allowed to be left alone with their scouts. The BSA does not allow pedophiles to participate in its activities. Period. Furthermore, one does not have to look far to see increasing instances of heterosexual pedophilia in the school system (involving both male and female adults).

      The BSA did not accept homosexual leaders because it wanted to: it was facing ruinous legal exposure and had suffered a significant loss of corporate donors because of its previous policies. I did not see the LCMS courageously come to the rescue with its checkbook while the BSA was trying to maintain its previous prohibition on homosexual leaders, but maybe I missed something. Or maybe this is a moral issue that is still convenient to “take a stand on” with the laity – much like divorce was in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Last time I looked, the LCMS now has divorced ministers, teachers and principals on its roster.

      The BSA is one of the few secular organizations that actually promotes religion in its activities and mission statements. I am not sure how the LCMS can conclude that it can’t support Scouting (which, again, does not require sponsoring congregations to allow homosexuals as leaders) because it folded to developing laws and sensibilities in the western world and does not enjoy the legal protections enjoyed by Church bodies like the LCMS. The BSA folded by doing the least it felt it possibly could and by deferring to the sponsoring organizations (i.e. congregations) as to whether they would allow homosexual leaders in the troops they sponsor.

      As a life-long member of the LCMS, I don’t support the developing sensibilities around homosexuality any more than Pastor Harrison does. I also don’t believe that pulling away from the secular organization that presents the “best deal” as a positive influence on boys, given the current social and legal environment in which it operates and we live (i.e. “we will leave it up to your discretion to allow or forbid homosexual leaders in the troops your sponsor”) is constructive to our boys. This action seems to be a further form of disengagement from the communities that we are supposed to be ministering to. It is hard to be heard when you can only be found – sought out – talking to each other behind closed doors on Sunday morning.

      • David Brugge December 2, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

        Amen.

    • Trevor December 3, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      I’m glad to hear that you feel these young boys are just dust on the feet of the LCMS. In the scouting organization we are training up these young boy and turning them into young men. And your comment on having these homosexuals being in close contact with these vulnerable boys; tell me, what’s the difference in that and having a female leader with the boys? There are measures in the scouting organization to ensure that kids are never one on one with the boys. It’s called two deep leadership, and for the boys they have the buddy system. Just because the person may be gay, does not make them an instant pedophile. I understand why the LCMS is doing this, if they don’t start standing up now, then when do they. i believe it was the governments doing in making the BSA start excepting gay scouts and then gay scout leaders. I just pray the BSA and the LCMS can come to an agreement of some sort, so the boys don’t miss out on an important and worth wild program.

  3. Steve December 1, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    I find this to be a terrible decision. The BSA has sufficient protections in place, including the policy that no Scout be left alone with a single Leader, to protect the boys. Therefore, this is purely about the obsession with homosexuality. I do not recall ever seeing a ranking of sins in the Bible. Since we are all sinners, I don’t see the issue here. Is the church going to stop allowing divorced people to remarry? It was Jesus himself that said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6b). Yet the church routinely allows divorced people to remarry. Why does the LCMS see reason to rank sins?

    This, among other things, is causing me to reconsider whether I wish to remain a member of this denomination.

    • Pedro the donkey December 2, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      C’mon man. Maybe there’s not a ranking of sins in the Bible, but it would be ridiculous to say that murder is equal to telling a white lie. We know one is worse than the other. And God expects us to use our minds–and His word–to determine what sins are more grave than others. (We all know there are “deadly sins.”) Can’t you see that the dissolution of the family is the single most important reason young people are suffering today? And you think it would be beneficial to normalize homosexuality and divorce? I want my religion to be critical of our culture–not an institution that blesses every selfish decision of adults.

    • Rev. Bob McCanless December 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      WRONG. Not only will the BSA develop an “alternative LUVVV” merit badge in short order, our own LCMS children would NOT be safe in the same building with them OR their leaders.

      After 37 years a member, including having worked for them, my sons & I were voted OUT of the BSA on 5/23/13, for REMAINING, morally straight. There are BETTER alternatives now to the BSA & GSA; take advantage of them. Get thee likewise to a Bible study.

      • Steve December 3, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

        I find it hard to believe that BSA will develop an “alternative LUVVV” merit badge. There is no such merit badge for “normal Love”. I think your comment is absurd to the extreme.

        The Boy Scouts are not endorsing homosexuality. They are merely accepting that they do not fall under the religious organization exception to discrimination laws, and have no choice but to give up their fight and allow both gay members and gay leaders. The cost of defending lawsuits threatened to bankrupt them.

      • William December 5, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

        Rev. McCanless – setting aside your needless sarcasm about the merit badge, I’m disappointed that you make the statement about children not being safe in the same building as ‘them.’ Setting aside the reality that BSA has better youth protection measures in place than most churches, if you are suggesting that scouts would be more vulnerable to abuse with homosexual leaders versus heterosexual leaders, you are ill-informed. If you want to base your views on your theological beliefs, fine. If you attempt to buttress them with misstatements of fact, that is not speaking truth in love.

    • David Brugge December 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

      Steve, to play devil’s advocate a moment, of course there is no ranking of sin in scripture, but there is a big difference in those sins we do unwittingly and for which we repent, and those that we do openly, purposely, and without repentance. Homosexuality falls into the latter category.

      But as you have pointed out, there seems to be a bit of hypocrisy in the LCMS decision. It is my understanding that even though the BSA was forced into accepting practicing homosexuals into their organization, the individual church sponsored troops are not required to do so. According to the BSA, their new policy allows church-sponsored units to choose leaders based on the congregation’s religious convictions.

      So, it seems to me that the action by LCMS is more of a protest against the acceptance of homosexuality than about “protecting’ its young members. However, how far does this go? Will we now disassociate ourselves from organizations that allow its member to live together without marriage, or from organizations that do not censer the members who do not list all of their earning on their tax reports? These are usually willful and unrepentant sins.

      Has anyone noticed that, as the LCMS continues down its historic road of isolation, we hold our heads high with our feelings of righteousness, even as our numbers grow smaller and smaller?

      • Steve December 3, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

        This is obviously about the obsession of protesting the acceptance of homosexuality. It certainly is not about the worry of pedophilia. The Boy Scouts have allowed female leaders for many years. Was there any concern about heterosexual pedophilia? If there was, it certainly was not expressed very loudly. What about hanky-panky going on in the leaders section of campsites, perhaps even contributing to adultery? I didn’t hear any complaints about that.

        As you note, where do we draw the line on what sins are “acceptable” and which are not? If the LCMS continues to withdraw support for organizations that don’t meet every bit of what the LCMS believes, then the church will be preaching only to those that happen to come in through the doors instead of going out into the world and trying to reach everyone. If the only way we grow is by members having babies, then I would suggest it is only a matter of time before the Synod disappears.

    • Tim Schenks December 5, 2015 at 6:26 am #

      Correct, no ranking of sin but you’re advocating we ignore or promote impenitent sin.

  4. Carl Vehse December 2, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    “LCMS relationship with BSA ‘no longer tenable’ “

    And so for the “best course of action for the LCMS,” Pres. Harrison and Exec. Dir. Day

    “are calling for the establishment of a task force to consider Scouting and the involvement of the LCMS going forward. The landscape and intersection of church and world — including Scouting — has drastically changed since our Synod’s decision on Scouting matters in the 1950s.”

    Wait!! What?!?

    Wasn’t the Memorandum of Fabulous Understanding with Scouting and its policy of openly homosexual Scouts and Scoutmasters just trashcanned?!?

    Since a Federal Charter gives the BSA exclusive right to the names “Boy Scouts of America”, “Scout”, “Boy Scouting”, and “Scouting”, as used within the United States, Trail Life USA and other organizations for boys are not allowed to use the term “Scouting” or “Scouts.” (GSUSA has a similar Federal Charter and exclusive use of “Girl Scouts”, “Girl Scouting”, etc.)

    It is incongruous that the LCMS warns its member congregations about the dangers and legal hazards associated with BSA troop charters, then turns around and promotes establishing a task force to positively consider LCMS involvement with the homosexual Scouting organization.

  5. Mark December 2, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Steve you beat me to my same points. This is a disgraceful decision. This Synod is stating that they cannot be associated with a group that accepts sexual sinners. With that logic they cannot associate with any outside group. I am also reconsidering my association with this hypocritical group. Maybe I will nail these points to their door. What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.

    • Rev. Bob McCanless December 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      My sons have Autism – it is hard for them sometimes to tell me they have to go to the bathroom – how are they supposed to tell me if they are being molested?! I will NOT have some pervert – REGARDLESS the uniform – USE them as pawns while working on their “alternative LUVVVV” merit badge. NEITHER will they prey on the rest of my children at Concordia.

      As the undershepherd of Christ, my duty is to the flock with which I am charged. And when necessary, FIGHT off the wolves.

  6. Trevor December 3, 2015 at 1:11 am #

    I agree with Steve and Greg. Do you look at someone with lustful eyes? Do you not love your neighbor? Do you ever use the Lords name in vain? I’m praying you haven’t murdered anyone as well. All are sins, no ranking or anything. Did Jesus not take in the prostitute in? Did he not bring the tax collector down from the tree and have dinner with him? Isn’t that our jobs to be more like Jesus? Are we to stop new comers at the door and ask them their sexual preferences? I don’t think that is our job. Our job is to open the bible especially to those far from God. As a Scoutmaster from one LCMS church, I strive to put God in our outings, and in these boys lives. And as a member of an other LCMS church, this whole issue has me concerned. I thought it was the churches discretion to decide to or not to allow gay adult leaders. So don’t allow them. There should be other opportunities for the gay leaders to go elsewhere and not be a part of LCMS churches. This decision seems to have put a stiff arm out to the community, gay or not.
    PS. I love both of my churches, the one I’m a member of and the one I’m the scoutmaster for. I pray all will work out.

  7. Christopher Meyer December 4, 2015 at 1:30 am #

    This is very unfortunate. I grew up in the LCMS, and was in a Cub Scout Pack and Troop chartered by our church. I’ve been an Eagle Scout for 24 years. Over the years I tried the ELCA and Wisconsin Synod, but came back to LCMS because they supported the BSA, while the Wisconsin Synod doesn’t accept them (no lie – that was the deal breaker for me in joining a Wisconsin Synod church). This is seriously making me question whether the LCMS is the right place for me.

    I’m a Cubmaster for a Cub Scout Pack serving two elementary schools in a low income neighborhood. Scouting has a positive influence on these boys, and in some cases it is the only positive influence in their lives. At all ranks in the Cub Scout program, the boys are now required to explore their ‘Duty to God.’ Again, for many boys the chapel services we have at camp are their only exposure to religion.

    In all of my years in Scouting, there was only one instance where the topic of ‘sex’ in any form came up in conversation between Scouts and an adult leader. When I was a Webelos Scout, my dad was the Cubmaster and Webelos leader. That day in school, one of my fellow Scouts had been looking at the encyclopedia entry on sex. This Scout brought the topic up at our Webelos meeting, at which point my dad told the young Scout that this was a topic he needed to go home and discuss with his parents. That was the end of the discussion.

    The Scouts have two deep leadership at all events, no one-on-one contact between adults and youth, and numerous other safeguards in place. When these are followed (by parents as well as by Scouts and Leaders), there should be no opportunity for anyone of any gender or sexual orientation to abuse a Scout. (I know homosexual does not equal pedophile, but this type of nonsense is what I hear most often in the homophobic rhetoric that this topic seems to bring out).

    If sexual intercourse or sexual orientation comes up in the context of a Scouting event, in my opinion the way my dad handled it is the right way to do it – this isn’t a topic that should be discussed in the context of Scouting, you need to talk to your parents, pastor, teacher, etc. If a leader of any gender or sexual orientation were to bring up the topic, I think that a Chartered Organization would be within their rights to ask that leader to resign because it isn’t a topic that is, or should be, part of the Scouting program.

    The fact that the BSA ever had a policy on this is in my mind ridiculous. Frankly it put them into the position they now find themselves, of having to reverse their stated policy and upset a lot of people. In my opinion, their current stance is the right one – no chartered organization should be forced to compromise their own beliefs on this topic. Some chartered organizations wanted a non-discrimination policy, while others (including the LCMS) want the right to choose leaders based on their religious beliefs. That’s what the BSA has given all of us. The only thing the LCMS will accomplish by breaking ties with the BSA is that they will no longer have any say in who the Boy Scout leaders are for the units serving LCMS youth. If the LCMS stops chartering units, it won’t stop LCMS members from joining the BSA, they’ll just find themselves joining units chartered by other religious and civic groups. If you don’t believe me, fine, but I see plenty of Wisconsin Synod youth in the BSA and they pretty much treat membership in and of itself as a sin.

    Finally, I saw a Reverend above bring up ‘morally straight.’ As an Eagle Scout, I think the good Reverend needs to go back and review his Boy Scout Handbook. Being morally straight means “become a man of strong character. Be thoughtful of the rights of others. Be clean in speech and actions. Be faithful in your religious beliefs.” You can’t claim to be ‘morally straight’ under that definition if you aren’t willing to be thoughtful of the rights of others.

    • Harlan December 6, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

      Thank you Eagle Scout Meyer. I am with you.

  8. Rev. Bob McCanless December 4, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    The BSA voted the LCMS OUT of Scouting. THEY changed – we DIDN’T. End of story.

  9. Keith Freie December 4, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    The recent turn of events with the Boy Scout organization is unfortunate but it is a decision, if nothing else, to condone homosexuality. That decision is wrong in the eyes of God. So it should be wrong in the eyes of a true Christian. Many boys and young men will suffer from this decision, not necessarily at the physical hands of a pedophile, but rather the “statement” by the organization this sin is ok. Doesn’t matter whether the sin I commit is lying, theft, lust, homosexuality or murder, ALL ARE SINS. If I condone one sin, I condone all sin.

    • Carmen December 9, 2015 at 10:31 am #

      Well said, Keith. Thank you.

  10. Trevor December 5, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    To Rev. Bob Mc Canless- As a Scoutmaster we encourage all parents to stay at the meeting and go on the camp outs with us. Especially if you have special needs children, it would be mandatory. You are also judging the leader by calling them a pervert. Homosexuality does not automatically make you a pervert, or a pedophile. And you make it sound like, if you put your kids in scouting they are automatically going to get molested. I for sure can tell you, that is not the case. When you hear about a priest sexually molesting children, does that mean you should stop going to church? I for one would not go to that church, but I would still go to an other. I’ll pray for your family, for our churches, and for the BSA.

  11. Patrick December 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Membership in the Boy Scouts is in no way a sin, what is a sin is accepting those that live in open sinful relationships. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s expectation of what we should be. The LCMS must strive to hold a higher standard than the rest of the world does. We can not give in to accepted sinful lifestyles for any reason. To accept any deviant practice as normal is denouncing our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Legally we can not discriminate against anyone for their sexual orientation, therefore we must exclude all that might be deviant, as we describe it. This doe not exclude any LCMS persons from being active in the BSA. We can not however endorse any BSA activities as they may be in open violation of our Christian values.

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