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An Open Letter to Southern Baptists from the BSA Religious Relationships Task Force

TurnerResults of the much-publicized vote at the 2013 national meeting of the Boy Scouts of America were announced on Thursday evening, May 23. Understandably, this was not what many Baptist denominations and others wanted to see transpire. (Read related story from the Associated Press).

Now what? Before deciding, I urge you to prayerfully consider the following:

*Are the evangelism and family ministry opportunities now lessened in the church's Scout unit(s)?  Are the lost and un-enlisted any less our responsibility now? I respectfully remind us that the Great Commission remains unchanged and no vote can alter this reality. The local church still owns its Scout units and is responsible for selecting the leadership. As fishers of men, are we not to go where the fish are located?  In the case of church-based Scout units, there are unreached people already in your buildings! (In the average Scout unit, as much as 60% of the youth and their families are not currently involved in anyones church. What an opportunity!)

*Are our churches being compelled to accept homosexual leaders or the homosexual lifestyle? No. (In) fact, it remains the responsibility of our churches to hold high a standard. The resolution clearly states that youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life. Shouldnt Baptists be at the forefront in helping youth find answers which are biblically-based? 

Keep in mind.Too, that there are a number of membership requirements which must still be met, including affirming the declaration of religious principle, doing ones duty to God, and adhering to the principles of the Scout Oath and Law. In addition, a behavior standard is being set forth which disallows sexual behavior of any kind in Scouting. 

Do our churches routinely exclude persons from our other evangelism and outreach efforts or do we seek to reach them where they are with the Good News and help them discover The Way?

*Do we surrender the opportunity of involving children, youth, and families in the Religious Emblems Program which is an effective tool for reaching Scouts (and entire families) for Christ, discipling them, and helping many clarify their call to vocational Christian service? I pray not!  

*Does it really matter whether or not Baptists are involved in Scouting? First, the obvious answer is "yes" for every Scout, family, and leader in Baptist units. Second, there are tens of thousands of Baptist Scouts and thousands of Baptist Scout leaders involved in Scouting who are not in Baptist units and we should be serving them, too. (The third largest group of Scouts and leaders at the 2013 National Jamboree will be Baptist). 

*Why not invest our outreach ministry and energies elsewhere? Obviously, you can. But why does it have to be an either or situation? There are many fine children and youth programs in our churches which primarily address those already in the church family. However, what about the unchurched and unreached? Plus, consider the people in your church family who are better members, parents, leaders, and citizens because they had the Scouting experience delivered by godly men and women. Dare we deprive our children and grandchildren of this same life-changing experience? Do we surrender this precious opportunity to others who may not share our values. Shall we abandon an organization which needs our influence now more than ever?  Future generations hang in the balance.

The Lord of the Harvest stands ready to help us, guide us, encourage us, empower us, and equip us to reap an abundant ingathering.

R. Chip Turner
Chairman of the BSA Religious Relationships Task Force
Past President, Association of Baptists for Scouting

Reader Comments (5)

Thank you, Chip. I was trying to formulate my own similar thoughts, but you said it so much better. Let's go forward, Scouts and Scout leaders!

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe McKeever

Dear Mr. Turner,

I was very disappointed to see the BSA begin their journey down the road to Sodom. But I am even more disappointed to see men of God rationalizing how this may actually be a good thing in the long run. There is simply nothing good that can come from be associated with sin.

I believe it is quite naive to think that now that the camel's nose is under the tent the homosexual lobby will be satisfied. Clearly you don't know those folks. They will not be satisfied until homosexuals are accepted as leaders and homosexuality is TAUGHT within the BSA as an acceptable lifestyle. How is that compatible with God's word?

In addition, how long will it be before we start seeing homosexual "talking points" stating "look, the Baptists are still sponsoring the Boy Scouts so clearly they do not see a problem with being gay?" I believe THAT is one of the biggest reasons they have pushed the BSA so hard.

If the BSA wants to go down this road, then I can't see how any Bible believing church can go with them. God made it clear to the Israelites in the Old Testament (and Paul did so in the New Testament) that his people are not to allow unrepentant sinful people to remain within the Body. God knows that sin is "contagious" and will ultimately affect anyone around it. Homosexual acts are sinful. No amount of rationalization will change that fact. A church that hitches their wagon to the BSA is clearly spitting in the face of God.

It is commendable that you wish to reach the unchurched and unreached. We are certainly commanded to do so. But, becoming a part of the problem is not a good game plan. We can still reach these same people, but we need to create a new plan, not try to rationalize a faulty one.

Mr. Turner, I hope you will very prayerfully re-think your position. Many people will be looking to you for guidance due to your past position with the BSA. The Bible says that teachers will be judged more strictly than others. Don't you want to be sure that your teachings are truly what God would want you to teach?

(Here is link to an article that may help you clear your thinking a bit:)


God bless

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbutch weston

Thanx Chip for that thoughtful response.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFred Goodwin

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

King James Version (KJV)

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Do the previous verses ring a bell? Helping individuals whom need it is directed in God's word as well, but BSA has now changed direction that is indicative of an overall trend within the organization. Legal attacks will occur upon charter organizations, who do not align themselves with the new policies, when restricting membership. Don't delude yourselves. It has become about the money and politics at the national level, not the boys.

I am Christian, a father of a Scout, and an adult leader. The BSA has left us. My family will participate for a limited period of time. Other leaders are weighing how long they will stay with their sons.

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Alewine

Very thoughtful post, Chip. I agree with many of your sentiments and if the resolution had been worded differently, it might have been supportable on the basis you have outlined.

I agree with your sentiment that Scouting can help boys who struggle with gender confusion or same-sex attraction, and for that reason, as well as for the purpose of showing God's grace--and not man's judgment--a standard which is based on acceptance of a moral code, rather than "sexual orientation alone" would be preferable.

However, Scouting cannot help those boys if it simultaneously drops its moral objection to homosexual relationships and behaviors, which is precisely what it has done. ("Whereas the Boy Scouts of America does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation..." is a far cry from the previous BSA positions cited in BSA v. Dale, which clearly and unmistakably stated that homosexuality was incompatible with the Scout Oath and Law.)

The resolution justified this moral retreat with the following weasel words, which should be recognized as nothing less than an utter capitulation to the twin forces of appeasement and moral relativism: "The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue." If BSA is not willing to stand in defense of marriage and the family and in opposition to the hook-up culture and today's plague of fatherlessness, then which of its "timeless values" will it stand and defend? Our nation faces a crisis of manhood. In this moment what it desperately needs is a BSA that remembers that A Scout is Brave.

The statements that rule out "any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age" are also problematic. First, they appear to draw a moral equivalence between homosexual and heterosexual sexual conduct. Second, this statement is irrelevant to the core matter--the mission of Scouting, which is about "teaching young people to make moral and ethical choices over their lifetime." This statement deals only with the matter of the code of conduct to be observed during Scouting activities, not the profoundly more important matter of the values we are teaching boys for life.

As marriage and the family have come under assault over the past several decades, Scouting has stood as a civil institution that affirms the moral view of orthodox Christians. As other institutions, including schools, corporations, government agencies, and even some revisionist churches, have adopted a position of affirming homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle choice, BSA has been an institution Christian parents could trust to affirm the Biblical vision of sexually responsible manhood and reinforce--rather than undermine--the values taught at home and in church. No longer.

By retreating from its previous position of moral opposition to homosexuality, BSA has surrendered its "expressive association" Constitutional basis for excluding homosexual leaders. BSA further jeopardizes this position by inexplicably setting different standards for boys and adult leaders. And homosexual pressure groups will never be satisfied with this apparent double-standard. They have already pledged to keep the pressure on until adult leaders are permitted. So the new policy is a mere stepping stone to full inclusion of homosexual leaders, whether through litigation or through Zach Wahls' next change.org petition drive.

Lost in all of this is a consideration of how Scouting can best serve boys. Would Scouting serve boys by adopting a position of neutrality on smoking? Alcohol abuse? Drug abuse? Of course not. Yet setting aside for a moment the moral and spiritual dimensions, the health and social consequences of homosexuality are at least as destructive as the consequences of those other vices (see www.factsaboutyouth.com). This is why the American College of Pediatricians urged BSA to reject the resolution and retain the current standards.

So yes, BSA should adopt a grace-based approach to boys who struggle with same-sex attraction, but adopting a position of moral relativism neutralizes whatever good could be gained. So now BSA can reach out to these boys in grace...but now has nothing to say to them.

It may be interesting to see how the implementing policies are written. It is possible that BSA could limit the damage done by this ill-conceived and divisive resolution, though I do not expect it will. For example, if "sexual orientation alone" cannot be the basis for denying membership, then specifying which forms of homosexual expression or behaviors would be grounds for denying membership could undo some of the damage. However, it seems unlikely that current BSA leadership is interested in preserving any moral rejection of homosexuality.

When Jesus extended His grace to the adulterous woman, he said "go now and leave your life of sin." In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father did not adorn the prodigal with fine robes and a ring, and slay the fatted calf while the prodigal persisted in his life of sin in the faraway land. He waited until he "came to himself." If BSA is to serve prodigals, it must also be able to help them find their way back when they depart from the Scouting trail. What good is a guide who has lost his moral compass?

Each Scouting family must make its own choices in responding to this change. But as a matter both of principle and pragmatism, I find it difficult to see how any orthodox Christian (or any responsible Scouter who is informed regarding the consequences of the homosexual lifestyle) can accept this change. Conscience compels either to reverse this policy decision and reclaim BSA's integrity or to leave to find a better, more courageous path to manhood for our boys.

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Ebersole

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