Southern Baptists officially oppose gay Scout rule

  • Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:27 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:28 a.m.
Rev. Fred Luter Jr. points upward after being re-elected as the Southern Baptist Convention's president during the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Houston. Luter was the SBC's first black president. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)
Rev. Fred Luter Jr. points upward after being re-elected as the Southern Baptist Convention's president during the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Houston. Luter was the SBC's first black president. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

HOUSTON — The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution on 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 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.

“I think this resolution was a resolution of kindness, to say the churches that choose to continue with the scouting ministry should do so with an emphasis on sharing the gospel,” said David Dykes, a pastor from Tyler, Texas. “As a pastor, I appreciate that the convention does not tell churches what we should do.”

In all, about 70 percent of the 116,000 Scout units in the United States are sponsored by religious organizations. Many of those groups have decided to continue sponsoring troops. Among them is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more Scout units than any other organization, serving about 430,000 boys.

The second-largest Scouting denomination, the United Methodist Church, was quick to respond to the SBC’s move: Methodist Director of Scouting Ministries Larry Coppock said its congregations would welcome any troops currently sponsored by Southern Baptist churches.

While resolutions like the one on Scouting and others that expressed concern over religious freedom were expected, there were several resolutions passed that someone outside the denomination might find more surprising, such as a call to pray for the President of the United States.

Other resolutions called on Southern Baptists to fight human trafficking and to work to support people with mental health problems. That later issue has been on the minds of many Southern Baptists this year after the son of hugely popular megachurch pastor Rick Warren committed suicide. And earlier this month, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page released a book about his daughter’s suicide.

The convention also passed a resolution expressing concern about the high rate of incarceration in the United States and recommending greater use of probation and parole for nonviolent offenders.

The membership also voted to express concern about child sexual abuse and called on all Southern Baptists to report allegations of child abuse to authorities. That resolution was amended to urge Southern Baptist leadership to use caution affiliating with groups or individuals with questionable practices for protecting children.

It is unclear whether the amendment was aimed at any specific person or practice, but it comes after some Southern Baptist leaders expressed support for Sovereign Grace Ministries. That group faces accusations that church officials covered up child sexual abuse.

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Travis Loller reported from Nashville, Tenn.

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Online:

SBC annual meeting: http://www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc13/

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