Statements & Letters

LCMS Releases Statement on Scouting

Comments (27)
  1. Lynette Haerer says:

    Dear Rev. Harrison: Well said and true to the faith and theological teaching of the church. We, after all, do have an obligation as members of any congregation to support our youth. If, we have a current BSA or TL group associated with the congregation, then it becomes a true moment to teach and develop the theology of Christ in the Church. Kudos to you and everyone involved in coming to this very brave and honorable decision to allow food for thought for all the congregations involved with the BSA and TL. My own brother was an Eagle Scout and there was a BSA group in Mt. Pleasant, IA that occasionally utilized the sanctuary for their Eagle Scout honorees. I have also thought how sad that society has come to this and basically will end up destroying such a great traditional to train leaders of our nation. Many former president’s were also Eagle Scouts. God’s blessings to you as you continue to lead the LCMS through tough times in today’s world.

    1. Jason Kelly says:

      I ask, which is more important, to hold to tradition or to hold to what is right and clearly proclaimed in scripture? Other commenters on this thread have already pointed out that the allowance of the BSA extends beyond homosexual youth, but includes bisexual and transgendered youth as well.

      While there is a right desire to reach out to all youth with the love of Christ, the LCMS cannot maintain integrity in its proclamation of the Gospel if does not also first proclaim the Law in its fullness. LCMS Boy Scout troops who accept LGBT youth may give an appearance of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle that is contrary to scripture.

      Worse still, is the characterization of the BSA as a non-sectarian organization. This should not be interpreted to mean that the BSA is merely a secular organization as I am afraid it has been. In fact, the BSA is a religious organizations as the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod well pointed out years ago. This continuing failure by the LCMS leadership to recognize the BSA a religious organization is troubling. The BSA effectively promotes Unionism and Syncretism in its approach to religion. The LCMS casts a blind eye to this long standing problem. Worse still is the BSA teaching on Duty to God, which effectively promotes legalism or pietism, which runs counter to the pure gospel that the LCMS proclaims.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Respectfully, I ask: why are we to concern ourselves with how the Roman Catholic Church is responding to this BSA issue?

  3. Dan Sheppard says:

    It is clear, that from this excerpt “…to aid in the formation of young men by instilling in them wholesome, positive values”, just what the intent is.

    What concerns me is those pastors, who may see this as an opportunity to be “free-spirited” in their interpretation. But it is clear that homosexuality is neither godly, nor a wholesome, positive value to be instilled in any of our youth.

    The Bible is clear. So what is not clear about that!

  4. Don Huskey says:

    I was in boy scouts and I owe where I am today because of scouting. The explorer post I was in got me into electronics and flying. I passed my written pilots exam but never had the money to fly. I also got my general class amateur radio license and also a commercial license. This helped me a great deal in my work. I also worked as a rifle instructor and radio operator for 2 summers. This was in the days before cell phones, and the radio was our only means of communications in the cascade mountains.

  5. Jason Kelly says:

    The BSA is a religious organization that promotes concepts of Duty to God, which is effectively legalism. I believe the emphasis on moralism runs contrary to the pure gospel message proclaimed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. I believe our emphasis and instruction to our youth should be rooted in both Law and Gospel. The BSA sadly omits the concept of God for Us and instead promotes a Duty to God concept that can’t be reconciled with the one true Christian Faith of which we are a part. I urge all members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to withdraw from the BSA and instead promote an alternate organization such as Lutheran Pioneers or the Walther League.

  6. deb says:

    They didn’t say what the change was?? Is boy scouts allowing gays in now or what?

    1. LCMS Church Information Center says:

      We would encourage you to read Pastor Harrison and Pastor Day’s statements, posted earlier this year, that explain why the BSA’s policy change matters and what it means. You’ll find links to their statements at the bottom of this page:

      1. Bob says:

        Dear LCMS CIC,
        Pastors’ Harrison and Days’ earlier statements are non-sequitur and so much empty bloviating in light of their follow-up to BSA’s May 23rd decision. What counts is the non-committal and Biblically void statement issued here which says nothing and offers no leadership, or Biblical reference. Worse yet, using the RCC (Roman Catholic Church) for precedent.

        “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Mt. 27;24 ESV

        Hence, our Synod washes it’s hands of this sinful and volatile issue and leaves congregations to individually twist in the wind.

    2. Mark says:

      No, they have changed their membership standards so that a “youth may not be denied membership due to sexual orientation alone.” This includes more than just homosexuality.

    3. Robert says:

      Yes. President Harrison and Rev. Day have made it clear that the national LCMS will abide by the new BSA policy, which allows self-identified gays, bisexuals, and transgendered boys as young as age 6 to participate in Scouting at local LCMS congregations.

  7. Steve Sheward says:

    Thanks for all of your hard work and consideration on this very difficult issue.

  8. Bob Rogers says:

    The Bible clearly condemns Homosexuality….if the Boy Scouts had a statement endorsing and promoting adulterers or murderers or thieves …etc… as acceptable to the Scouts standards, I bet you wouldn’t welcome them to use the LORD’S Facilities as a place to gather. If you stand on the Bible and not your feelings…we would be justified and are justified to have them meet elsewhere. Why did it take so long to come out with a statement in the 1st place? When someone pastor says this or that on this subject…read the Word of God! If your pastor or the LCMS says otherwise than what God’s Word says…Guess what? GOD’S WORD IS THE FINAL WORD! END OF STORY!

  9. Gene White says:

    This controversy over homosexuality being allowed by the BSA brings tears to my eyes. I too followed the trail to Eagle Scout and stayed with them as a jr. leader until my tour in the Navy, and Asst. Scoutmaster after until I moved later that year. Yes, it is legalistic, and moralistic, if one takes to heart all of the oaths, motto, etc. and I did. On the other hand, this was most helpful in guiding me to adulthood and becoming who I am today. There were really no other influences in my life at that time that had such a positive effect. This experience set the stage, so to speak, to seek out the Lutheran faith. Ah, but that is another story by itself.

    Now, our extended family will need to consider the BSA versus whomever situation thoughtfully and prayerfully as the grandchildren approach the age of participating.

  10. Robert says:

    According to a St. Louis area Scouting representative, youth can be gay, bisexual, or transgendered and still participate in Scouting. This means that they can self-identify as gay, bisexual, or transgendered, and that that alone will not prohibit them from being a Cub Scout or Scout.

    How a person as young as the age of 6 can already self-identify as gay, bisexual, or transgendered is not addressed by the “Memorandum”. Also not addressed is on what justification a person, who self-identifies as gay, bisexual, or transgendered, should keep quiet about it, especially among his peers.

    The effect of the “Memorandum” is similar to President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” which lasted only 8 years, until being overturned by President Obama.

    Although decisions to participate or not in Scouting are made at the local level, that is, between local affiliates of the LCMS and BSA, the national LCMS has in effect agreed to abide by the above change in national BSA policy (it was the national BSA organization that made the change), thus creating room for LCMS congregations and pastors to keep Scouting in their congregations, while not incurring guilt for doing so.

    Think of the “Memorandum” as an indulgence.

  11. George Whitcraft says:

    What part of Leviticus 20:13 KJV Don’t you understand?
    If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    Or Romans 1:18-32
    God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    Romans 1:16-17
    The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

    This is a slippery slope that the LCMS is taking. Grace and mercy must be present! The truth must also be present!

    Harrison also said both the Boy Scouts of America and Trail Life USA, a new Christian-based alternative scouting program, seek to instill wholesome, positive values in young men.

    I wonder how allowing boys to have a same sex relationship is teaching them to have wholesome, positive values?

    I am a wretched sinner, saved by Grace. The Holy Spirit testifies that the WORD of Christ is Truth and I must follow HIM and not the world. Even if the world tells me that sodomy is ok.

  12. Matt says:

    Why in the world do otherwise intelligent (I assume) individuals continue to equate “homosexual” and “having gay sex”?

    A kid who is “homosexual” is merely attracted to his own gender. The word “homosexual” does not, in any way, imply whether the kid believes having sex outside of male/female marriage is in any way acceptable nor that he is acting on his attraction. Same with the phrase “gay identified.”

    There are many many Christians who are attracted to their own gender who, nevertheless, choose celibacy because of their trust and obedience to Christ. The old rules barred these faithful Christians kids from taking part and denied them a useful tool in their battle against their temptations.

    I used to think the gay community was exaggerating when they talked of Christians hating homosexuals. Now, I’m not so sure.

    Jesus threatened the Pharisees with hell because they would not forgive the tax collectors, who had actually done many awful things. I wonder what will happen to churches who refuse to forgive teens merely for being tempted?

    Perhaps the reason the Christian Church is suffering and shrinking today has less to do with the fact that we are at odds with the culture and more to do with the fact that God simply will not bless any “church” that chooses to put aside the cross and, instead, builds on a foundation of self righteousness by condemning without hope those who face temptation.

    I am very glad the Boy Scouts made a change that should have been made a long time ago and very much respect President Harrison and his advisers for a carefully thought out and Gospel centered response.

    1. Jason Kelly says:

      Technically Matt, you are correct about the use of the term Homosexual. In my experience, there is generally no distinction attempted or made by the media when reporting on issues affecting Homosexuals in this regard. This may be the root of the problem that you identify.

      Yes, we definitely do want Homosexuals in church. But, we don’t call them Homosexuals. We call them sinners, just like everyone of us. We are all sinners together confessing our sins and receiving full forgiveness of our sins. Once our sins are forgiven, we don’t continue to bear the title of our sins or even our temptations. Instead, we all bear the title of saints. We are no longer adulterers, pedophiles, etc. Christians who struggle with the temptation, or sin for that matter, of Homosexuality shouldn’t identify themselves as Homosexuals. Doing so, implies a certain acceptance or contentment, or even commitment, with the temptation or sin that I believe to be in error.

      1. Matt says:

        Cool story bro, except

        1: It’s not just the media. the word “homosexual” from it’s very beginning was invented to express the concept of an individual attracted to his or her own gender.

        2: We are dealing with the Boy Scouts here, not the church. How else are they to express the idea that sex is off limits but a boy is still welcome to participate if he is attracted to other boy, that temptation does not disqualify him? In order to do so they have to use the common language.

        This is no technicality but a reality. Simply using the excuse “we don’t identify a person by their temptation” does not change the fact the they are tempted toward a particular sin. And besides, let’s be honest, LCMS churches and pastors don’t really practice “not identifying people by their sin.” Just try confessing to a pastor that you are attracted to your own sex and see how much participation in the church is left for you. Believe me, it’s not much.

    2. Robert says:

      “Homosexual,” Matt, is a fictional nineteenth-century term rejected even by homosexuals. In The Invention of Heterosexuality, Jonathan Katz, who is gay, argues that even “heterosexual” was a term of “deviance” created to label “straight” people, who wanted to have non-procreative sex. Sexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, as well as “God’s gift of sexuality” are pure fictions.

      The Bible doesn’t speak about homosexuality, it only speaks reservedly or euphemistically, or when it does speak specifically, about God-displeasing activities by persons of the same sex. The Bible’s explicit discussions of these matters is very technical, especially in the Greek. Paul knows what he is talking about.

      The Bible also makes it abundantly clear that Holy Baptism erases all such labeling: even persons, who in their previous unregenerate lives engaged in such activities.

      “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11

      The word “were” there is a very, very strong way of saying, “were, and are no longer” in the Greek (aorist passive). You may be tempted to drink, but you are not a drunkard in Jesus Christ. You may be tempted to steal, but you’re not a thief in Jesus Christ. You may be tempted not to be chaste (whether with men or women), but you are washed, sanctified, and justified in Holy Baptism.

      That’s what the Bible says.

      1. Matt says:

        But we aren’t dealing with people with a mature Christian world-view, are we?

        We are dealing with 12, 13 and 14 year old kids, many of whom may have heard little about Christ.

        They know they are attracted to their own sex. they know this is generally called “homosexuality.”

        Expecting kids to have a mature Christian understand that even many adults lack before they can join Boy Scouts is, well, let’s be honest, just plain nasty.

        1. Carl Vehse says:

          Scouts may up to 18 years old. “Expecting kids to have a mature Christian understanding” is a red herring.

          It is definitely not “nasty” (except in a leftist, antichristian mindset, and now in a LCMS-signed MOU) for a Lutheran church-sponsored scout troop to refuse membership to those who are openly homosexual.

  13. Rev. Bob McCanless says:

    Heidelberg Disputation, pt. 21A

    “A theologian of the Cross, CALLS a thing WHAT it IS.”

    The Boy Scouts of America now welcome predatory sodomite youth; this policy will ONLY lead to welcoming predatory sodomite adults. This is incompatible with Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and Christian faith. Scouting henceforth, is IN-compatible with Christians, and with the LCMS.


    For 37 years, I enjoyed membership there; long before I was a Lutheran – long before I was in the LCMS – long before I was a Pastor. I achieved the Arrow of Light Award and the rank of Eagle Scout. I earned numerous awards as an adult – Woodbadge, District Award of Merit, Scouter’s Training Award, Vigil Honor in the Order of the Arrow, amongst many others. I even worked for the BSA for several years, including while a student at CTS – Ft. Wayne. But on May 23, I, my sons, and ALL MORALLY STRAIGHT Scouts & Scouters, were voted OUT of the BSA. Did OUR morality change? Or did the BSA’s? WE – the MORALLY STRAIGHT – WERE voted OUT.

    I intend to burn my Eagle medal, all my uniforms, and every badge, patch, award, plaque, & certificate I was ever awarded, and mail them BACK to the BSA – postage due. I will NEVER allow a PREDATORY SODOMITE to disgrace anything I ever earned.

    For those who continue to charter BSA units, keep these MANY things in mind;

    1) The BSA formulated this policy last fall, and foisted upon the membership, for their 30 pieces of silver from AT&T, and other pro-homosexual businesses, who – like termites – had wormed their way into the BSA’s national executive committee.


    3) WHEN (not, “if”) you catch two teenagers making out in the corner of your church basement during a Scout meeting, and you attempt to break it up, YOU – and YOUR CONGREGATION – WILL BE SUED for sexual harassment, discrimination, & the like, and the SYNOD WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PROTECT YOU LEGALLY! Our classical position notwithstanding, your Scouting charter will trump that (since obviously you KNEW the position of the BSA, and decided to keep the unit anyway), and legally, you will be ON YOUR OWN.

    4) Pastors – you ARE the shepherd of your flock – and as such, you MUST sometimes FIGHT OFF THE WOLVES. WILL YOU ALLOW the predatory sodomites to prey on YOUR YOUTH? Your members? Your congregation’s good name & standing in the community? Because you are INVITING the wolves INTO your fold, by remaining with the BSA.

    Offer your units the ability to BECOME Trail Life USA units, or DUMP THEM. IMMEDIATELY. As you SHOULD’VE done on May 23rd, when the BSA ceased being MORALLY STRAIGHT.

    What hath light, to do with darkness? What hath the LCMS to do with the BSA, and their PREDATORY SODOMITES? NOTHING at all.

    1Timothy 1: 3-11

    Warning Against False Teachers of the Law

    3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

    Rev. Bob McCanless
    Concordia – Pittsburgh

  14. Jason Kelly says:

    Scouting while non-sectarian should hardly be confused with being a secular organization. The BSA promotes Unionism and Syncretism. Worst still, the BSA promotes Pietism. I am surprised that Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison does not address this in greater detail in his response on the subject. I raised this issue early on in this discussion. Unfortunately, my comments have not been given any apparent consideration.

    Scouting seeks to develop good habits and moral uprightness in boys and girls, but without Christ. A scout must believe in some god, but scouting cannot tolerate belief in Jesus Christ alone as the only basis for a really righteous life. Scouting may teach a boy or a girl how to become a useful, helpful, morally straight citizen; in the process, however, it may also develop in that boy or girl a crusted coat of self-righteousness, which protests, “I need no Savior.” Then “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The last state of the man will be worse than the first.

    “We maintain,” said one-time WELS President, John Brenner, “that the scout program still contains elements of religion, that it perverts the teachings of Holy Scriptures; and that, therefore, the Scriptures bid us to avoid it.” President Brenner said that in 1945. We must still say that in 2013. That’s where I and my family still stand. Where will you and your family stand? Where will your congregation stand? And going forward, where will the LCMS stand? Will the LCMS continue to be indifferent on the matter?

  15. Andrew Plath says:

    In lieu of this issue, would it be possible for LCMS congregations to partner with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod to give our members the option of sending their children to Lutheran Pioneers

  16. Russ Wernli says:

    Quite a few years ago I was an impressionable, naïve young man who loved the Boy Scout experience. I can honestly say that in those tender, impressionable years, scouting was one of my most positive influences and helped keep me on the road to becoming a strong, Christian, family man. I now live to serve my family, my country, and my Lord as Evangelism chairman in my LCMS congregation. My faith is well grounded in the Holy Bible which I believe to be the complete, true and inerrant word of God. I believe also that every word is God breathed and I see it as the most incredible book ever written. I see no confusion in what the Bible says and teaches, or what is morally correct in the eyes of God. Man may, and for centuries has, created laws and practices that contradict this. He has continuously tried to re-interpret or deny Biblical truth in an effort to justify his own despicable actions. God’s law, however, is undeniable and unchangeable.
    So far, the scout oath that I learned has not changed either. I remember it to say:

    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.

    A quick review of Romans 1: 18-32 will tell us what God commands about the so called “alternate lifestyle.” I believe these words, inspired by our Creator, cannot be simply ignored or swept under the carpet.

    The recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to openly condone homosexuality is a plain and undeniable attempt to do just that. At a time when they were given the opportunity to stand up for what is morally straight, they instead made the decision to succumb to the pressure of man’s law and ignore God’s law. Instead of recognizing duty to God and country, they bowed their knee to Baal. As a result I am compelled to withdraw any association with the Boy Scouts. In the memorable words of Martin Luther, “my conscience is held captive to the Word of God… to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Before accusing me of being uncompassionate to my fellow man, please understand, I recognize that all sins are equal in the eyes of God. Condoning homosexuality is no different than condoning drunkenness, thievery, murder, child molestation, or any other of a long list of sins that would violate the bounds of morally straight. I do not see them voting to condone any of these, however, one has to wonder what will come next.

    One of the most disturbing consequences of this decision is the possible damage that will be done to the scouts themselves and to the declining family values of this country. If you go back to my opening sentence you will see that I used the words naïve, and impressionable. I’m not implying that boys will be exposed to or learn to practice homosexuality, I’m saying that they will be taught that this lifestyle is morally correct, and an alternative to Christian family values. At a time when these young men need strong guidance, they are being taught weak ungodliness. At a time when they need re-enforcement of family values, they are being taught “alternate lifestyle.” They now recite an oath that is in direct contradiction to what they shamefully practice.

  17. Carl Vehse says:

    With the October 7, 2013, signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, Pres. Harrison and the LCMS plight their troth to “respect the membership standard of the Boy Scouts of America.” That BSA membership standard allows boys (11-17) to be scouts regardless of their “sexual orientation or preference alone.” The BSA website defines this standard as no longer banning “openly gay youth members,” reported, as well, in many news articles.

    Pres. Harrison had also previously described this new BSA membership standard of “openly homosexual scouts” as a “crucial moment in history,” a “crisis of conscience,” “promoting a moral position that we as LCMS Lutherans believe is against the will of God and in opposition to Holy Scripture,” “effectively will have superseded the authority of our church teaching,” and “perhaps even placing us in legal jeopardy.”

    With the signed obeisance of the Missouri Synod, congregations who sponsor BSA troops will be on their own (so much for “walking together” as a synod) in future civil or other court cases involving any alleged action taken with a scout member or applicant who only declares himself to be openly homosexual or some other openly non-heterosexual orientation or preference.

    Instead of standing firm on the right position, the LCMS has ended up (again) tapdancing to the “Newtown Flip-Flop.”