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2 Baptist churches cut ties with Scouts

2 Baptist churches cut ties with Scouts

June 13th, 2013 in News

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday approved a resolution expressing its "continued opposition to and disappointment in" the Boy Scouts of America's decision last month to open its membership to gay youths, but the move is likely to have little impact on Mid-Missouri troops.

Doug Callahan, Scout executive for the Great Rivers Council, said of the 290 scouting units organized in Mid-Missouri, seven are sponsored by Baptist churches. Of those seven, only two Baptist churches - First Baptist congregations in Tipton and Moberly - have announced their intentions to sever their relationships with the Scouts.

Based in Columbia, the Great Rivers Council serves 33 Missouri counties from the Iowa border to the Lake of the Ozarks. 

In Jefferson City, First Baptist Church sponsors Troop 11. But Callahan doesn't expect the congregation to interrupt that relationship. He noted some Jefferson City-area volunteers affiliated with Boy Scouts have told him they don't expect any changes, but he noted he hasn't yet spoken to the church's pastors to confirm it.

"Troop 11 is an excellent, very active group," he said. "Our understanding is that it is up to each individual church whether they want to discontinue sponsoring the Boy Scouts."

Doyle Sager, pastor at the First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, was unavailable Wednesday to address questions on the future of Troop 11.

Although the two units in Tipton and Moberly are now homeless, Callahan said Great Rivers has approached other organizations - a Lion's Club chapter and another church - as potential sponsors.

"We don't intend to lose the units," he said. "Although there may be some individual families who withdraw.

"We're still very sad that the Southern Baptist Convention is taking this stance. But we expect a minimal impact on our ability to deliver a quality scouting program to the young people of Central Missouri. And we're grateful to those Baptist churches who have chosen to continue their partnership."

The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution Wednesday expressing its opposition to the Boy Scouts of America's new policy allowing gay Scouts, though it doesn't explicitly call for churches to drop all ties with the organization.

While some action against the Scouts was widely anticipated, given the denomination's very public opposition to the change, the resolution takes a softer tone than many had expected.

It also calls on the Boy Scouts to remove executive and board leaders who tried to allow gays as both members and leaders without consulting the many religious groups that sponsor troops. It passed overwhelmingly, but not unanimously, by the nation's largest Protestant denomination at its annual meeting in Houston.

The Southern Baptist Convention represents 50,000 U.S. churches with 16 million members. It includes 42 state conventions, including the Missouri Baptist Convention. 

Rob Phillips, director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention, noted every Baptist church is autonomous.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 "messengers" - people charged with voting the dictates of their consciences - participated in this week's convention, which met in Houston.

"The decisions will be made by the local churches, regardless of what the resolutions may say," Phillips said.

Many members of the Baptist faith take a strong biblical stance on the teachings of the scripture, he said. He said that means showing an unconditional love for all people, sharing with all people the gospel of Jesus Christ and accepting the teachings of the Bible as a guide to human behavior.

While issues regarding homosexuality have garnered much media attention, he said other forms of misconduct - adultery, out-of-wedlock sex, pornography - are equally "extremely grievous to the heart of God."

Most Baptists view the tradition of marriage - one man and one woman wedded together for a lifetime - as a universal teaching of their faith, he said.

"The Bible speaks against all forms of sexual immorality... homosexuality being one of those," he said.

Phillips agreed that the church - which pursues many other non-controversial goals, such as feeding the hungry and aiding disaster victims - has drawn a great deal of criticism for its anti-gay stances.

"It's always worthwhile taking a biblical stance," he said.