Why church-affiliated Boy Scouts should be first to welcome gay members

Tim Fall

Marta L.
May 23, 2013

If we're being honest with ourselves here, I think we need to realize that identifying as homosexual is very different than the sins mentioned here. Not because homosexuality is inherently worse, but because those things you mentioned are discrete acts. You do them, you repent, you try not to do them again until the next time you fail at it, because we are, after all, human. Homosexual sex acts might fall into that same category, but most people discussing homosexuality are getting at something more fundamental than that. Unless you think our sexuality is mutable (and even most of the Christians I've met are skeptical about that), I'm not sure how someone would repent of homosexuality. They might repent of having had sex, but as I said, I think we're really talking about something a little different.

This isn't really an issue for me because I've come to believe the Bible verses typically interpreted as being anti-homosexuality aren't describing what we understand as homosexuality. But I understand many Christians read the Bible differently, and for those Christians I think homosexuality might be a harder sin to accept because it doesn't fit into the common pattern of repentance and try, try again. That difficulty doesn't let them off the hook, though. Jesus calls us into community and through that life lived together we are made perfect; the perfection comes in time, not before He welcomes us home. I do hope even those churches that disapprove of homosexuality that accepting those folks into the troops they sponsor doesn't mean tacitly approving of what they view as sins.

Karen Swallow Prior
May 24, 2013

Great post, Tim. I agree with your conclusion and most of your points. However, I think the charge of homophobia, or fear of homosexuality, is most often false. Most (certainly not all) Christians who do so do not shun homosexuals because they are afraid of them but because they honestly think that failure to do so is disobedience to God, accommodation of the culture, or what have you. Misunderstanding that motivation impedes real advancement in our ability as a church to navigate these tough issues.

But I definitely appreciate the argument of your post.

Esther Aspling
May 24, 2013

Amen! It's time to stop just proclaiming Jesus and to start living as Jesus.


May 24, 2013

I meant "scared" in the sense that they are afraid of taking the steps necessary to go where they haven't gone before, not that they are frightened of homosexuals in the sense of homophobia. I could have chosen a better word there, so I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to clarify, Karen. It's fear of the unknown, not fear of sexuality, that I'm getting at.


May 24, 2013

Good points, Marta. Accepting, inviting, welcoming these kids is not the same as condoning behavior. Shoot, if we all had to conform our behavior before walking into church, churches would be practically empty on Sunday mornings!

May 24, 2013

Thanks, Esther. Jesus sure knew how to live as he proclaimed, didn't he?

(You might like this piece on lesbian and gay relations: http://wp.me/p2EmLc-Uz )

Bradley O'Brien
May 24, 2013

This is a thorny issue. A friend mentioned how in an NYT editorial they predict eventually the scouts will drop opposition to adult homosexuals in leadership. In our post-Sandusky, post Catholic pedophile environment I'm assuming no gay Scout leader will ever be left alone with any young boy. We likely need more diligence across the board since hetero adults have gained infamy for abusing/molesting school kids [Mainly women teachers and male students]
If gay youngsters arent meeting in a church for Scouting how many will ever set foot in a church at all? I hope a gay high schooler in any church sponsored troop can walk in and freely pick up anything a church can offer him: a Bible, the four spiritual laws etc.
What many find troubling is the assumed "irrevocability" of gender orientation at so young an age. Young boys flip flop continually: one year they like baseball, the next track and field. One year they want a science/pre Med curriculum, the next they want liberal arts or engineering or drama. The same youngster will likely in a span of a few years have a mohawk, a USMC boot camp "high and tight", followed by punk orange hair etc. And we allow and understand all that because youth is a time of discovery.
Perhaps now the churches can point out that one homosexual act of curiosity doesnt mean lifelong homosexuality. We teach our kids that nothing in this world sadly is "lifelong": employment, profession, marriage, career etc. And yet somehow we cannot concede the same for something as fluid and malleable as sexuality.

May 24, 2013

Such great points, Bradley. Childhood is a time of transitions and changes. Let's have the church be part of guiding the kids through it all.

Alex Ritzema
May 25, 2013

Tim, you seem to be advocating we lower the moral standard for Scout membership, simply because Jesus used to frequently "hang out" with those who have been marginalized in society. I think the Boy Scouts should allow visitors, even those who aren't ready to commit to their moral standards, to frequently hang out and have limited participation. But, membership ultimately requires a call to higher standard of behavior, just like it does to be a follower of Christ.

Yes, Jesus associated (spent quality time with) all sorts of people. However, didn't Jesus have criteria for who could ultimately become His followers? For example, Mark 10:17-31 about the rich young man. We should graciously, openly, actively, and encouragingly welcome ANY sinner into our church and allow a certain amount of appropriate participation with us, but yet per Christ's teaching, don't we apply a certain standard for Church membership? Why can't the Boy Scouts apply a similar membership criteria?

So, I guess I'm not completely clear by what you meant by "welcoming" openly gay members into the Scouts? You seem to suggest Jesus would be "...throwing a party and inviting them to come on in." to become full members. I doubt Jesus would advocate such a thing.

The Scouts are a specific group that holds themselves to a certain standard of morality. I think homosexuals should be allowed to visit. But restricting membership to those who adhere to the moral standard they set seems reasonable and appropriate.

Can you imagine this... "Hi. My 8 year old son is a pathological liar. He suffers from no mental illness; he just lacks self control. We're sure he was born this way, so we don't make any attempt to help him change. Nor, do we think he should change. Jesus accepts him the way he is. Therefore, we insist on his full membership in the Boy Scouts of America. Furthermore we insist that he not be made to feel different or be told his behavior is unacceptable in any way. In fact, you should throw him, and other kids like him, a big welcome party. Because, that's what Jesus would do."

None of the sins listed in this article are tolerated by Jesus or the Boy Scouts of America's moral code. If any Scout struggles with these sins and refuses to resist them and make amends for them, I'm sure they'd be kicked out. I think the same should be applied to Scouts with homosexual behaviors.

Simply struggling with homosexual feelings (just like every other moral failing you listed) should not keep a boy from membership in the Scouts, as long as they confess their sin, repent, ask for help, never give up resisting it and praying for God's power to overcome it. But embracing their sin as a proud homosexual and expecting everyone else to accept you as a full member and throw you a party is absurd!

Jesus wasn't for wide open inclusion of every sinner. Jesus was for transformational inclusion. The kind that comes from the Holy Spirit and repentance of our sins...

I respect the Boy Scouts for setting certain moral standards for membership. I'm sad they succumbed to the belief that moral standards are determined by a majority vote.

I think we should all work much harder on behaving much more like Jesus in our mercy and hospitality towards all others. We must remember those are people God dearly loves and, apart from the free gift of God's grace, they are no different than ourselves. But, that does not include dropping our moral standards to afford them full inclusion into every aspect of participation. Jesus never compromised on the moral law. Neither should we.

May 25, 2013

Alex, I think the scouts should set their own standards. Churches, though, should follow Jesus. You see, this post is not about what the BSA should do; it's about churches, particularly those who have threatened to drop scouting rather than allow gay youth to come into their church's sponsored scout troop. My point is that if a church sponsors a scout troop it should welcome the opportunity to minister to gay youth, not threaten to drop its BSA affiliation and sponsorship.

After all, can you imagine if Jesus were on earth in his ministry now rather than 2000 years ago and a religious leader asked about this, Jesus would advise dropping the troop rather than let the gay kids in? Nope, he said he came to set captives free, not shove them aside.

It's like Marta said in the first comment above, allowing kids to take part in scouts is not the same as condoning their choices. And I'd add that accepting them into scout troop membership is not the same as accepting them into church membership.

SO whether the BSA should let gay youth join or not is not the point. It's actually beside the point since BSA already decided to do so. The point is that churches who sponsor scout troops should now take the opportunity to reach out to those youth rather than run from it.


Alex Ritzema
May 26, 2013

Hi Tim, thank you for helping me to see your main point more clearly.

I think whether or not a church should continue their affiliation with the Scouts really depends on how the Scouts will handle homosexual behavior and expression of belief about it going forward.

Previously, Boy Scout membership requirements stated:

"While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."

They also went on to add, "Scouting believes the Boy Scouts of America is not the place to resolve divergent viewpoints in society and believes that if same-sex attraction is going to be introduced or discussed, it should be with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting—but outside of the Scouting program."

So, IF church sponsored groups will still be allowed to stop the actions of open homosexuals who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA, and IF they continue to adhere to their guideline that if same-sex attraction is going to be introduced or discussed, it should be with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting—but outside of the Scouting program... then I could support the church continuing to sponsor the Boy Scouts.

Again, I'm in full agreement with you about encouraging the lost to participate as much as possible with believers in our activities and fellowship. But, IF the activities we are engaged in are intended to teach and build moral character, then certain behavioral standards will need to be set and the truth about immorality needs to be told. If the Boy Scouts are committed to doing this, then great!

However, all that still remains to be clarified by the Boy Scouts. At the moment, their new policy seems to imply or reflect a belief that avowed gay youth can be “morally straight?"

According to their official website: "The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."

Scout Oath:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law:

A Scout is...
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent

If the mission of the Boy Scouts is to help boys become morally good men, and this of course involves some level of a moral standard, then why would a church want to be involved with an organization whose purpose is to develop boys into moral men that does not share the same basic and critical moral values as Christianity?

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul writes, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

Based on scripture, I would support churches continuing to work with the Boy Scouts of America IF...

The Boy Scouts' leadership would publicly commit to completely abstain from endorsing ANY aspects of immoral sexuality, and state that ANY inappropriate sexual behavior (including homosexual), expression, and/or speech is not permissible in Boy Scouts. I'd prefer this firm behavioral standard being set than to simply singling out boys with homosexual desires for exclusion.

But, again, doesn't their new policy endorse a belief that openly gay youth can be “morally straight?"

Unless a church chooses to be unequally yoke with lawlessness, the Boy Scouts are going to have to allow church sponsored Scout programs to treat any boy's actions (i.e. speech that promotes a homosexual lifestyle, boys romantically holding hand/kissing, etc.) as they would any other breech of moral conduct. Mercifully, of course, but ultimately it needs to stop and they need to be provided good counsel and help, because it is immoral.

There are better ways to welcome homosexuals into church groups than to partner with groups who do not fully share our spiritual values, especially ones that claim to instill moral values into our children.

I'll be watching to see how the Boy Scouts specifically amend their membership requirements and what exact guidelines they will adhere to when it comes to homosexual behavior or discussion.

May 26, 2013

Alex, you really captured two of the concerns I have about churches sponsoring scout troops when you wrote of the problem when churches "partner with groups who do not fully share our spiritual values, especially ones that claim to instill moral values into our children."

First, if we partner with group that do now share our spiritual values, we should do so on our own terms, that is, on terms that fulfill the mission of the church and not the mission of the other group.

Second, looking to another group to instill morality is counter-biblical. The gospel is about freedom from rules, not learning how to keep rules better. The scout oath and scout law you quote are just more rules. I'd rather we focus on the gospel of grace, not just add another covenant of law because those law covenants get us nowhere.

My point in this article is really for those churches who see sponsoring scout troops as part of their ministry. For them, this most recent change should be seen as a wonderful opportunity, not a reason to stop ministering to youth in this way.


Alex Ritzema
May 26, 2013

Hi Tim,

I'm really enjoying our discussion. It's really gotten me to think even more deeply about this issue. Hope you are too. Thanks!

You wrote, "First, if we partner with groups that do not share our spiritual values, we should do so on our own terms, that is, on terms that fulfill the mission of the church and not the mission of the other group." I could not agree more! In fact, IF the other group's mission is fundamentally opposed to the church's spiritual mission we should refrain from partnering with them altogether.

I also fully agree with your other comment, "Second, looking to another group to instill morality is counter-biblical." I believe we should not look for the Boy Scouts to instill morality into our children. Again, my concern is I don't want our children, thru direct participation with the Boy Scouts, to be influenced by their errant view of biblically moral principles. This new policy change they've adopted makes me wonder if they haven't already begun to do just that type of thing by embracing the radical gay activist agenda and actively promoting its sexual values. It's a real slippery slope.

Finally you wrote, "My point in this article is really for those churches who see sponsoring scout troops as part of their ministry." If the Boy Scouts new policy does in fact reflect a belief that avowed gay youth are "morally straight", then they are fostering immoral values that may not allow us to fulfill the mission of the church on our own terms. If that ends up being the case, I cannot see how any church in good conscience can partner with and sponsor such a group in their ministry efforts.

Again, I'll be curious to see how the Boy Scouts specifically deploy their new policy, and if they have or will "evolve" on the morality of sexuality like so many schools and other groups have already.



Alex Ritzema
May 26, 2013

Tim, I have one final comment. You wrote, "The gospel is about freedom from rules, not learning how to keep rules better. The scout oath and scout law you quote are just more rules. I'd rather we focus on the gospel of grace, not just add another covenant of law because those law covenants get us nowhere."

I don't think the gospel is exactly about freedom FROM rules. God still expects us to obey His moral law. The gospel is about God's grace transforming and renewing our hearts, enabling us to overcome the flesh to be FREE to obey His commands, because God has conquered sin through the power of Christ... rather than us trying to be obedient under our own power with the erroneous belief we can earn our own salvation. Therefore, I am not advocating adding another covenant of law. I am merely encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ to be on their guard and to resist evil.

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