Black churches stand by Boy Scouts
The Boy Scouts of America’s lifting of its policy against admitting openly gay scouts has led to churches across the nation cutting their ties with the organization. Calvary Baptist, a Forsyth County mega church, recently became one of those churches.
Calvary announced that its nearly 60-year-old Boy Scouts troop will be disbanded next year, when the new Boy Scouts policy takes effect. Calvary Baptist officials say they are seeking alternative programs to implement for youths.
The Boy Scouts’ policy change has caused discussion at other local churches. Scout Master Victor Jordan, who heads Union Baptist Church’s decade old Troop 898, said he discussed the issue with Union’s pastoral leadership and all agreed to continue the scouting program.
He said banning scouts based the acts and activities deemed as sins would impact many.
“If we eliminated scouters or scout boys for any of those vices, we would have virtually nobody in our scout group, leaders or youth,” said Jordan. “It becomes a point of ‘let ye who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ We have all sinned and come short.”
Union has 18 Boy Scouts between the ages 11–17 and will soon restart its dormant Cub Scouts pack for boys ages 7–10. Jordan, who has been a scout leader for almost 28 years, said scouting is an asset to the community, exposing young men to a wide array of positive options while teaching them everything from how to fish to how local government works.
Steve Wilburn, the CEO of the Old Hickory Council (the local scouting governing body), said he’s always sorry to see organizations like Calvary end their relationships with the Boy Scouts but is encouraged that most charter organizations are long-tenured and new ones are added regularly. He said a few other scouting partners in the council are also discussing the possibility of leaving because of the policy change. He is hopeful that they will stay put.
“Keep in mind that the values of scouting ideals has not changed, and we’re hopeful that they will continue their scouting partnership,” he said. “It can be a powerful outreach program for their organization and a very important program for helping … youth grow into adults with good citizenship skills, a strong character and a sense of fitness.”
The Boy Scouts, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, found itself under intense pressure earlier this year when it agreed to admit openly gay members. The organization’s longstanding policy of banning homosexuals had resulted in a batch of national cases of adult troop leaders and some scouts being ousted because of their sexual preferences. The Boy Scouts lost the support of many corporations and municipalities as a result. It’s policy change has not quelled the controversy, as the ban on openly gay adult scout leaders is still in effect.
Wilburn said no one in his 10 years at the Old Hickory Council has been expelled because of their sexual orientation. He said he is a fan of the policy change because it allows all children to learn the positive ideals that scouting pushes.
“Scouting has always been one of the most inclusive organizations through its 103 year history, and I think this is just another avenue of inclusiveness,” Wilburn said.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church’s longtime ties with scouting aren’t changing, according to Scout Master David Timmons, who heads Troop 869.
One of the oldest African American scouting organizations in the city, the troop was rejuvenated two years ago under the leadership of Pastor Dr. Serenus Churn after being inactive for at least 20 years. The Troop has eight active scouts, and a Cub Scouts Pack, led by Michael Stroud, with 16 members.
Timmons said there has been no discussion at Mt. Zion of dropping the program, and he doesn’t expect any. Timmons said the church’s goal is to give all young men the chance to be scouts.
“Because we’re an African American troop in the center of the community, we want to give an alternative lifestyle to people instead of being on the street or going to jail or something,” he said.
Scout Master Handy Douglas, head of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church’s Troop 912, said there’s been no talk of ending the church’s program, which began anew two years ago after a lapse. In fact, he said, the church’s troop and Cub Scouts pack, led by Kevin Stewart, are looking to grow beyond their 27 current members. A scouting program open house will be held at the church on Saturday morning.
Douglas, who’s been involved in scouting for nearly a decade, said the inclusive policy will allow scouting to teach even more young men how to be leaders. He said scouting continues to be an important way for churches to touch young people.
“(Scouting is) reaching out to the community, really,” Douglas said. “(It is) bringing the youth into the church and having something for them to do.”