by Mark Tooley
By Mark Tooley (@MarkDTooley)
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) seemed to have stepped back from overturning their policy against homosexuality. Today’s (Wednesday, February 6) executive board meeting deferred any decision until the BSA’s National Council, with about 1,400 voting members, meets in May.
The postponement may have been at least partly prompted by the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force, which on February 4 unanimously asked BSA to delay any policy change pending more participation from the religious groups that host Boy Scouts. Present at that meeting and supporting its decision was Larry Coppock, United Methodist Men’s national director of Scouting ministries. Seventy percent of Scout units are sponsored by churches and religious groups. One million of 2.7 million Scouts belong to units hosted by the three largest church sponsors: Mormon, United Methodist and Roman Catholic.
Coppock told United Methodist News Service that BSA leadership would listen to United Methodists, and Coppock encouraged church members to contact BSA with their views. Although most of the denominations involved in Scouting oppose homosexual practice, BSA is under pressure by GLBTQ friendly corporations to end BSA’s prohibition on homosexuality. Two of BSA’s executive board members are corporate executives on record opposing the BSA’s current policy. The more broadly based National Council is likely to be friendlier to the current stance.
Meanwhile, Larry Hollon, head of United Methodist Communications, blogged in favor of BSA’s accepting homosexuality. “The decision the leaders of Boy Scouts of America are considering is not a radical leap forward,” he wrote. “It’s a modest half-step toward inclusion. But it’s one that should be supported and affirmed, for the sake of the children, boys and young men for whom Scouting is a helpful guide to a better adulthood.”
Hollon also suggested that a more GLBTQ friendly Boy Scouts might broaden its base: “While attention is focused on churches that might leave Scouting if the ban is lifted, it’s also possible that churches that have not sponsored troops because of the ban might reconsider and make Scouting even more inclusive.”
In a similar vein, the ultra-liberal United Church of Christ, on Facebook, teasingly posted a rainbow banner of welcome to BSA, saying: “Though the Boy Scouts of America moved their policy decision on gay scouts and leaders until their national meeting in May, staff from the UCC Church House showed their support for ALL Scouts during today’s chapel.”
The LGBTQ friendly United Church of Christ has lost 50 percent of its membership over the last 47 years.
Canadian Scouts overturned its policy against homosexuality in 1998 and lost 57 percent of its membership in five years. Its total membership loss over the last 15 years has been two thirds, having sunk from 300,000 members to just over 100,000 members.