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Mid-Tenn. Scouts call for retaining traditional stance
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Delegates of the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boys Scouts of America, headquartered at the Jet Potter Boy Scout Center in Nashville, will not vote for openly gay youth as Scouts, council exec Hugh Travis reports.
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Posted on May 7, 2013 | by Diana Chandler & Art Toalston

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NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Middle Tennessee Council of the Boys Scouts of America has voted to affirm Scouting's current national membership policy as "a core value of the Scout Oath and Law."

Hugh Travis, the Scout executive for the 37-county council, said in a May 6 news release that its delegates "will not vote to approve the resolution" -- to allow openly homosexual youth as Scouts -- "but to retain the current membership policy."

Meanwhile, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, has issued a statement underscoring his opposition to what the national Scouting organization has touted as a "compromise" by dropping its plan to allow openly gay Scout leaders.

Page also continued his call for new leadership for the national Scouting organization.

Lee Beaman, president of the BSA Middle Tennessee Council Board, said in the council's news release, "We are continuing to uphold the standards, beliefs and traditions Scouting has held for over 100 years. As a representative of the 35,000 youth and adults in the Middle Tennessee Council, it is our duty to take their voice to Grapevine, TX on May 23rd with a vote to uphold the current membership policy."

The BSA Middle Tennessee Council is chartered by the Boy Scouts of America to organize Scouting units and manage all Scouting programs from the Tennessee River in the west to the Cumberland Plateau in the east, including Fort Campbell, Ky.

Travis, in the news release, recounted that the Middle Tennessee Council's board "has reviewed all of the comments and surveys completed locally on behalf of the national and local council. The results overwhelmingly signify that the parents, leaders and chartered partners in the Middle Tennessee Council believe that the current membership policy is a core value of the Scout Oath and Law. Our delegates who will be voting members on the proposed resolution at the national business meeting on May 22-24th will not vote to approve the resolution, but to retain the current membership policy."

With its delegates voting for the current policy, the council's news release set forth this description: "As the [BSA] policy currently reads, the Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, but does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the Boy Scouts of America."

Page, in a statement issued to Baptist Press May 7 expanded on a statement he made in April that some may have mistaken as a softening of his stance.

"On April 19, I was quoted as saying, 'Though this resolution [to permit openly gay Scouts but not leaders] is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy. A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support.' Having thought and prayed about it more since then, I think I should expand on that statement, for I do not wish to be misunderstood. While I do see how the resolution to be voted on has been crafted to make it seem more palatable to people of faith, I actually think it is worse than the first proposition that was tendered. It may not seem to be running away [from being an organization that guards its moral values] as fast, but it is still going the wrong direction. Its language would force sponsoring churches to subordinate their convictions to stay involved with the Boy Scouts," Page said in regard to how the new proposal, unlike the original from earlier this year, would not allow troops to exercise any local option on Scout membership for openly gay youth.

Page, in a further reference to "running away," stated, "I wonder how it is in keeping with the character trait of bravery to alter a 'core belief' to stay in harmony with politically correct thought....

"We Southern Baptists have never expected any secular organization, including the Boy Scouts, to inculcate Christian faith," Page said. "Happily, though, for nearly a hundred years we have found the Boy Scouts not to be in conflict with the tenets of Biblical belief. It would be our hope that our churches' partnership with the BSA would continue unabated and undiminished.

"The only way for that to occur," Page said, "would be a 'No' vote to prevail in the May 23rd polling of BSA delegates," some 1,400 of whom are expected to attend annual Scouting meeting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Page said BSA's national Executive Committee's efforts to push for homosexual leaders and members in Scouting "deserve close examination. This issue, regardless of how it turns out, has and will harm the reputation and work of the BSA to a significant degree. This effect will be organization-wide, rather than being confined to just the situations or areas insisting on change. The Boy Scout family did not demand a re-examination of the policies, only a select few did. Those few seem to have superimposed their own personal values on the entirety -- values not embraced in the tradition of the organization or by the grass roots presently involved.

"Therefore," Page said, "maybe a vote on the resolution is not the only vote that should be taken. A vote to change leadership seems appropriate also."
--30--
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer; Art Toalston is Baptist Press' editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

The full text of the May 7 statement by Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, follows:

Since the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America first reopened the issue of whether to alter their policies to accommodate homosexuality, Southern Baptists have been increasingly concerned. The shock of realizing that Boy Scout leadership could be persuaded so quickly to abandon the conclusions they had carefully reached just two years before grew even greater when it became clear that they also felt free to swim against the tide of sentiment in their rank and file, and in their sponsoring organizations.

I have heard from a host of BSA council leaders, parents, troop sponsors and churches involved. I have seen recently drafted open letters containing legal reasons for the BSA delegates to vote against the resolution. All of those reasons seem sound to me. But (as you might suppose) Southern Baptists do not primarily concern themselves with what is legal, for that standard, while important, is a minimum test for the Christian believer. We would rather describe ourselves as striving toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. We do not believe we have crossed the finish line, but we certainly believe it is better to run toward it than away from it.

On April 19, I was quoted as saying, "Though this resolution is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy. A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support." Having thought and prayed about it more since then, I think I should expand on that statement, for I do not wish to be misunderstood. While I do see how the resolution to be voted on has been crafted to make it seem more palatable to people of faith, I actually think it worse than the first proposition that was tendered. It may not seem to be running away from "the finish line" as fast, but it is still going the wrong direction. Its language would force sponsoring churches to subordinate their convictions to stay involved with the Boy Scouts.

And as long as we are talking about "running away," I wonder how it is in keeping with the character trait of bravery to alter a "core belief" to stay in harmony with politically correct thought. I doubt seriously that the delegates will vote to imply that bravery should only be demonstrated in the face of underwhelming odds.

We Southern Baptists have never expected any secular organization, including the Boy Scouts, to inculcate Christian faith. Happily, though, for nearly a hundred years we have found the Boy Scouts not to be in conflict with the tenets of Biblical belief. It would be our hope that our churches' partnership with the BSA would continue unabated and undiminished. The only way for that to occur would be a "No" vote to prevail in the May 23rd polling of BSA delegates.

One final observation. As I implied in my first paragraph, the elements of the issue are not all that deserve close examination. This issue, regardless of how it turns out, has and will harm the reputation and work of the BSA to a significant degree. This effect will be organization-wide, rather than being confined to just the situations or areas insisting on change. The Boy Scout family did not demand a re-examination of the policies, only a select few did. Those few seem to have superimposed their own personal values on the entirety -- values not embraced in the tradition of the organization or by the grass roots presently involved. Therefore, maybe a vote on the resolution is not the only vote that should be taken. A vote to change leadership seems appropriate also.
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