On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced a policy change admitting homosexual youth to Scout programs effective Jan. 1, 2014. At the same time, the BSA reaffirmed its longstanding policy of not allowing openly homosexual adults to serve as scoutmasters or leaders in any capacity.
That changed on Monday. The decision of the BSA officially to change its adult leadership standard policy has many again asking The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to respond and offer guidance to congregations who charter troops in their congregation.
Last month, on June 2, 2015, via conference call, Chief Scout Executive Mr. Wayne Brock spoke with LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission. Mr. Brock explained what was coming, indicating that a proposed change in the BSA adult leadership standard policy would be considered by the BSA in mid-July. While few details were shared, it was clear that the BSA felt that their existing national policy prohibiting gay adults from serving as leaders was no longer legally defensible.
At the same time, the BSA’s commitment to “duty to God,” as noted in the Scout oath, and the right of religious chartered organizations to select their leaders was unwavering. The BSA believes those two principles can coexist with a new policy that will pass legal scrutiny but also protect religious freedoms.
On July 13, 2015, additional information was shared. That email communication noted that the Executive Committee met July 10, 2015, and unanimously adopted changes to its adult leadership standard policy. The National Executive Board was asked at a meeting July 27 to ratify this resolution, and that took place on Monday.
Such a decision certainly and rightly raises concern for many LCMS congregations that have enjoyed longstanding relationships with the BSA. The LCMS has appreciated the open and forthright conversations with the BSA over the last two years, but while the legal pressures are certainly understandable, Lutherans as a whole cannot help but feel frustration and disappointment over the decision. It is a sad day when any organization, seeking self-preservation, must bend the knee to the civil authorities in a way that marginalizes and potentially excludes many who have participated in and been supportive of that organization for so many years.
While the BSA believes yesterday’s decision is the best way forward and that these two principles can coexist, the LCMS is not willing to accept that conclusion. As such, while President Harrison and Rev. Day received information from the BSA over the last two months, including a draft document that outlines religious organizations’ protection, the LCMS simultaneously sought the input of the Synod’s legal counsel and others involved with the BSA.
To that end, a meeting is planned for early August to review the Memorandum of Understanding between the BSA and the LCMS and determine the best course of action for the LCMS, based on Monday’s decision. Harrison and Day have assured the BSA that before a final determination is made, an additional conversation with BSA leadership will occur.
Today the LCMS simply asks for prayers, patience and time as Synod leaders continue to look into the full meaning of the decision and its implications for LCMS congregations and their involvement with the BSA. And as those conversations occur, may the Lord have mercy on the Church — and especially her young people — as she seeks to remain faithful to Christ, even as she continues to share the Gospel in a world increasingly unwilling to hear it.
For more resources on the topic, visit lcms.org/freetobefaithful (Youth Organizations).
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod
The Rev. Bart Day
Executive Director, LCMS Office of National Mission
Please consider Trail Life USA as an alternative to BSA.
i have been reading about their growth and progress as an alternative to BSA.
For young girls, American Heritage Girls.
I hope the links will work for you.
If not, a quick internet search will locate these groups for you.
At this point, separation from government ties/control must be a priority for parents, families, churches, faith based schools.
Humanists and atheists must be separated from control of U.S. and world governments and citizenry. A minority of highly organized activists is causing havoc for the unorganized majority.
They are effective, but they are not too much for God.
BSA leaders, resulting from corporate and government pressures, have made decisions that do NOT respect or reflect scouts’ wishes, or their parents’ wishes!
Well put em bailey! We could all elaborate on this subject, however, as a former den leader and participant in numerous scouting activities for my two sons, one of the most important considerations as a parent is what values do you want to raise your children with? The recent news of what BSA decided for their value system, while defensible in the real world courts, in a faith based world, I don’t believe they passed the test! If I had children scouting age, I would look to the alternatives on God based faith principles as the BSA promoted to all of us. However, given time, i don’t know what other organizations will eventually fall under the same scrutiny the BSA did and will secumb to the legal ramifications the BSA did. However, if Luther had secumbed to public scrutiny for his stand to his critics, where would Lutherans be today? An over simplification to all involved is to ask yourself and your boards, is “What would Jesus do?” If we can’t follow his word, what does that really say about our vow as Christians in all our daily actions and beliefs!
Last year, Pres. Harrison signed a Memo of Understanding” with American Heritage Girls National Executive Director Patti Garibay.
As a family of scouters, my boys are working towards Eagle, and my husband is a Scoutmaster, I ask you to provide support for troops who wish to continue meeting at LCMS churches and who want to continue to include Christian values at the core of what they are doing.
There are many who plan to continue as usual, as the decision given by the BSA executive board reads:
“Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders, and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
We need more LCMS leaders and greater support by churches who wish to instill meaningful values (influencing others for Christ at the core of this) to back up the leaders who will be called on to make hard decisions in the next month. If a gay person is passed by for leadership, who will back up the troop making this decision based on religious belief?
Prayer is indeed needed so that people directly affected by this decision can make choices that will be God honoring.
While I see your point, and understand your emotional attachment to BSA, I still can not understand why LCMS would partner with BSA.
As Christians we are not to love the world: if we are friends with the world we are enemies of God. James 4:4
BSA has sided with worldly viewpoints. LCMS should not affirm or condone such agreements.
This is more than an emotional attachment.
And maybe I’m incorrect in thinking that the LCMS has Boy Scout organizations that meet in their churches and has charter troops. I am not a legal expert, so I don’t know the actual relationship that our church body has with the Boy Scouts of America.
On a practical level, I do know that, through chaplains and troops, churches, including Lutheran Church Missouri Synod churches, are able to reach young men and women, and have positive influences in an arena beyond typical church ministry. There are individuals who have chosen to dedicate time to make positive and godly impacts on the scouts as well as the leaders with whom they work. It is not all we do, but just one of our ways of participating in the community. It is one of the ways that we have stood for Christ, in a world where many don’t have positive encounters with Christians.
What other organizations do we need to speak against, companies, political parties, civic organizations, governmental bodies so that we can declare our righteousness? We should just live at church and worship; all else has an element of sin attached.
I don’t agree with the decision passed by the executive board of the BSA, and I know better than to think it will go away. I love my friends who have begun Trail Life groups and participate in American Heritage Girls, but I agree with my husband, who serves as a scout leader, in staying involved in our boys’ troop, because, there is a need for people to continue working with these boys…not always saints…but always in need of good leaders to stand up for them. There is a need at the local level for leaders who don’t just talk about serving others and living moral lives. This need hasn’t changed by a policy change. Isn’t it even more important then, that those who have a strong center in the truth, stay and stand for it?
My original comments were meant to bring awareness that there are individuals (and I know there are more than just my family) who are engaged in this issue on a very real level; who are not just looking at it from a philosophical or theological viewpoint. For those involved in more than just policy, I continue to humbly ask for prayer.
There are two valid points to be made and supported on the subject as I see it. First and foremost, direct sponsorship of BSA by LCMS or an LCMS church is a statement of support for the values of the organization, and the BSA’s policy is no more in line with those values now than LCMS is with other Lutheran synods. LCMS churches should stand as respectfully in their community as possible while defending their values and LCMS Pastors and trained church workers who are likewise affiliated should consider standing in similar opposition. Secondly, and to your point as a Christian and involved parent, we as Christians should not turn our backs on those around us who need to hear and receive the Word. Sometimes the Christian response to real world issues is portrayed as a slammed door or turned back rather than a denouncement of the behavior, policy, legal decision, etc. Unfortunately, for many believers that is their response. We should always try to reframe these opportunities to see the window of opportunity they provide for outreach and evangelism. That ,of course, is always easier said than done. Were my sons still in scouting I might also be struggling with the decision to stay or go, but I hope I would have the courage to stay with the intent of simultaneously supporting my sons while proclaiming and defending my own faith through my thoughts, words and deeds.
Just to clarify my last statements. I do believe I would be obligated to resign my leadership position if I had one at the time. I’m not sure I would force my sons to abandon the program if they were already close to obtaining Eagle.
Pray for all the youth that LCMS will continue to support BSA. These are difficult times when a great youth program is damaged by intense national politics and societal shifts.
If an organization is willing to accept as a leader of children someone who is clinging to an open sin lifestyle (regardless of what particular sin it is), I cannot see how that parent organization is compatible with the LCMS any longer. It’s a bridge too far for me.
One real practical difficulty with continuing an association with BSA is joint activities within councils, between troops sponsored by our LCMS churches (which would exclude openly gay leaders) and troops that have gay leaders, such as Boy Scout Jamborees. I don’t know how to overcome such an obstacle. I hate to see us break ties with what has been a very good organization.
Any legal protection was thrown out the window with the BSA’s change of policy May 23, 2013 which nullified Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, decision of June 28, 2000.
Any church congregation that adopts a no homosexual leader policy will be sued.
It does not even matter if you win or lose the case, it will be costly. To the point that church assets will have to be liquidated to cover court costs. And if a parish loses its case there will be the issue of damages, and that will be even more costly.
It would be more prudent not to sponsor any youth organization other than a church youth group.
My 9 year old son has been in Cub Scouts for 4 years now and he loves it. I have been a leader since he started. It is a sad day for us both. I cannot, as the spiritual leader of my family, continue to be a leader. Nor can I have my son be part of an organization that allows a sinful lifestyle. My only hope is that I can find an organization that has the same type of activities but is still faith based. Is anyone willing to start one with me?
I have two boys (8 and 9) who started out in Cub Scouts. Over a year ago, and for several reasons, we pulled them out and started our own group along with ten or so other families. We’ve been using the old materials available on the web, like the 1938 Wolf Cub Handbook. You can get all sorts of this info at http://www.inquiry.net. I’m trying to get the synod to be sort of a clearinghouse to help all of us in the same boat connect and support each other.
Hi, I am an Eagle Scout who has been born and raised in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. As an adult, I have continued to support the Scouting program at the Council, District and Local Unit level. Currently I serve as the Chartered Org Rep for the troop which meets at my LCMS church.
While I am dismayed at the BSA decision, I recognize that it is a changing landscape that we are living in. Our job as adults is to be servants and role models to the youth in our packs, troops and crews. While I do not agree with a homosexual lifestyle, I realize that their sin is no greater than my own. From a practical standpoint, I also realize that the BSA decision will not affect the function of the Scouting program at the Unit level. As Charter Org rep, I am still tasked with approving the adult volunteer applications and ensuring that they meet with the charter that the church holds for the troop. While this might affect some of the programming that happens at the district and council levels, a troop with a strong unit program can work around this.
I would urge patience, most of the people screaming the most for these changes have no vested interest in the scouting program other than enforcing their notion of equality. I for one will be praying for guidance so that I can continue to be the best shepherd for the young men and women in my charge.
Yours in Scouting and Faith,
I agree with you completely, Mr. Junge. The BSA has done tremendous good for so many. This is a difficult decision….we will need God’s guidance more than ever.
I, too, am an Eagle Scout and owe much of my development to the scouting program that once was. Unfortunately, now that open, practicing homosexuals are to be welcomed as leaders (and examples for our youth), you can be assured that they will begin to work to make sure the official BSA policy and training materials will teach that homosexual relationships are just as valid as heterosexual relationships. If you’ve read any comments of the leading proponents of ‘equal’ scouting, few of them see the recent action as the end of their activity. On the contrary, some of them call this a hollow victory, since the chartering organizations can still ‘discriminate’ against homosexuals. For me, the writing is on the wall….
Simply put, James 4:4 states that we are not to be friends with the world, and if we are then we are enemies of God.
BSA has sided with worldly viewpoints. LCMS should not affirm nor condone such agreements.
I am grateful that the LCMS has never rushed to make a decision with our relationship with the BSA over the last several years. My family will stay with the BSA because I can choose the unit that right for us. I can’t choose their teachers or coaches. No other youth program outside of the church has a sexuality requirement. Not the Boys & Girls club. Not Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Not any youth sport organization.
Here are 2 points I would ask you to consider when looking at Trails Life: 1) is TL’s membership standard any different than the BSA’s? and 2) does TL approach to theology meet our LCMS youths’ needs? My children already have their Lutheran faith challenged by their evangelical friends.
Perhaps I’m viewing this in an overly simplistic way, but……I would not be so quick to judge the BSA. Originally, the ban on openly gay leaders grew out of the belief that this lifestyle was in contradiction to the “morally straight” requirement in the Scout oath. This was instituted at time when this lifestyle was considered by the vast majority of the US as “immoral”. Unfortunately, the US has now redefined what is moral. This will impact us on multiple levels from the structures of our leisure organizations, such as the BSA, to what our clergy are “permitted” to preach and to teach. The BSA has been sued over this issue and in light of the other barriers to same sex inclusion that have been broken down will continue to be so, perhaps at an increased level. As I see it….and again, perhaps I’m being naive or overly simplistic …..they can spend millions trying to defend themselves in lawsuits – and probably losing – as well as losing funding from sources who don’t want to be “tainted” by BSA so-called discriminatory policies, thereby leaving less money for effective programs and maybe even bankrupting the organization itself. Or they can try and find a way to make “inclusion” work. I have 2 sons in the BSA who have grown tremendously as young man because of Scouting. I would not wish to pull them over this.
Also…..our concern may come from the fact that we are referring to “openly gay” leaders. There are Scout leaders who are alcoholics…..or addicted to pornography….or cheat on their taxes….etc, etc. This is not necessarily “known” to anyone, but it still exists. The reality is “all have sinned and fallen short”…..I’m not saying this makes anything right or wrong…..but if we are going to remove BSA troops from LCMS congregations because of someone’s sin, we may be on a slippery slope.
I agree with you that we have all sinned. I would expect any BSA leader caught in a sin (any sin) to be repentant and turn away from their sin. I would also expect them to counsel the scouts in their charge to do the same. The difference here is that the open, avowed, and practicing homosexual is celebrating their sin and would therefore not teach their scouts that the activity is immoral. Leaders must, first and foremost, lead by example.
Our pack and troop are currently chartered through a LCMS church. We have a few adult leaders who it is public knowledge within the troop/pack that they have cheated on their spouses. The pastor is also aware of this yet no one is asking them to step down. I don’t agree with their infidelity, however, they are tremendous leaders who teach the boys plenty of values. Our pack/troop struggles already with finding good leaders. If we turned away every leader who comitted sins, we would have no leaders.
Trail Life USA is an OK alternative to BSA, with the LCMS Chartered Org managing the theology instruction. A better alternative would be to re-energize the Lutheran Rangers, establish a program transfer policy for former BSA Scouts, and establish a co-op agreement with Trail Life USA and BSA.
According to the terms of the current MOU, the BSA stipulates that “there is no Boy Scout authority which supersedes the authority of the local pastor and the congregation in any phase of the program affecting the spiritual welfare of those who participate.” The only stipulation that the LCMS makes is that “membership in Scouting may not be denied to a child on the basis of sexual attraction alone.”
If a LCMS congregation were to deny scouting participation to any child (or adult) on the basis of homosexual attraction (i.e., homosexual concupiscence) alone, the LCMS congregation would be violating its own doctrine of original sin (AP,II,35-38). As St. Augustine teaches “Sin is remitted in Baptism, not in such a manner that it no longer exists, but so that it is not imputed.”
Although a baptized child or adult can never be excluded on the basis of homosexual attraction alone, a baptized child or adult may be excluded because public knowledge of concupiscence adversely affects “the spiritual welfare of those who participate.” To broaden the application of the MOU, LCMS should revise its stipulation from “membership in Scouting may not be denied to a child on the basis of sexual attraction alone” to “participation in Scouting may not be denied to a child or adult on the basis of sexual attraction alone.”
Christians with a poor understanding of Civil Affairs (AC,XVI) have falsely claimed that the LCMS is in syncretistic fellowship with an organization that teaches false doctrine and sexual immorality. To eliminate this misinformed criticism, LCMS and BSA should add the following Whereas clause to their MOU: “Whereas the LCMS believes the BSA teaches idolatry, false religious doctrines, and sexual immorality. . .”.
LCMS, PLEASE PLEASE consider resurrecting the Lutheran Rangers as a national organization!
We have our own boys character-building organization that had diminished over the years. I started camp #10 in St. Louis 1/1/14 and we are growing slowly. I am prepared for more growth as people wake up to the forces at work in the BSA.
I am a FORMER EAGLE SCOUT and was a life-long scouter until 1/1/14.