COLUMBIA - One Baptist church in mid-Missouri withdrew sponsorship of its Boy Scout troop, and another is considering the same, while another reaffirmed support for its chartered scout troop Thursday. The decisions come in light of the Southern Baptist Convention condemning the Boy Scouts' recent change in membership policy, allowing openly gay youth to join the organization.
The convention affirmed their "opposition to and disappointment in" the Boy Scouts' policy change, saying it "has the potential to complicate basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts." However, the convention also put the power to decide whether or not to support or charter local troops in the churches' hands.
The scouts voted May 23 to change their membership qualifications so that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
Great Rivers Council executive Doug Callahan said Thursday that volunteers with First Baptist Churches in Tipton and Moberly told him the churches withdrew their sponsorship of the troops. However, the Moberly First Baptist Church told KOMU 8 News it is still considering that action. Callahan said there are six Southern Baptist churches that sponsor seven Boy Scout troops or Cub Scout packs in the council.
First Baptist Church pastor David Stephenson in Tipton said the church voted on June 5 to remove sponsorship of the troop, due to a recommendation from the church's deacon body. Stephenson said the troop may continue to keep its gear and other belongings in the church until it finds an organization to sponsor it.
Callahan said the council is actively searching for sponsor organizations for the two dislocated troops, and any council troop removed due to the convention's stance.
"In both of those cases, we've found other organizations, other churches within those communities that will move the sponsorship to other units," Callahan said of the the Tipton and Moberly troops. "Even though we'll no longer continue our partnership with those two churches, specifically, we're not going to lose any units, because we'll just find a different sponsor within that community."
Callahan said the Lion's Club in Tipton and St. Pius X Catholic Church in Moberly expressed interest in chartering the two dislocated troops in their town.
In Jefferson City, pastor Doyle Sager said his church cut ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in the early-2000s, and the church would continue supporting Troop 11. Callahan said the scout volunteers at the Baptist church that supports scouts in Columbia plan to continue their support.
Three other Baptist churches aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbia, Ewing and Cairo did not immediately return KOMU 8's phone calls.
The Great Rivers Council voted May 16 on the national resolution on gay membership. The council voted 50 to 28, sending two "yes" votes and one "no" vote to the national tally. The final vote ended 61-percent in favor of changing the organization's membership policy to allow openly gay youth members, effective January 1, 2014.
"It's a very controversial issue," Callahan said Thursday. "We have people passionate on both sides. Since the Boy Scouts passed the resolution nationally, I've heard a lot of our volunteers, a majority voicing support of the resolution, and some who are unhappy with the results. But we're reaching out to everybody, no mnatter which side of the issue they fell on, trying to unite everybody, and get them focused back on the business of Scouting."
"People have different opinions on this one issue, but there's more things that we do agree on, and we're trying to get people refocused on those things...and continue to deliver a quality Scouting program," Callahan continued.