Cobb seems split on Boy Scouts decision
by Megan Thornton
June 09, 2013 12:07 AM | 3502 views | 10 10 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Rev. Stephanie Seigh of One World Spiritual Center adjusts the message on her church's marquee Thursday on Shallowford Road. The church is welcoming Boy Scout troops that may have been asked to leave other churches after the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay Scouts.
The Rev. Stephanie Seigh of One World Spiritual Center adjusts the message on her church's marquee Thursday on Shallowford Road. The church is welcoming Boy Scout troops that may have been asked to leave other churches after the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay Scouts.
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Religious organizations throughout Cobb County appear to be split along denominational lines when it comes to deciding whether to continue a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.

Two weeks ago, the 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction that denied membership to boys if they openly identified as gay.

National leaders said the resolution also reinforces a long-standing policy that any sexual conduct by Scouts is prohibited and remains contrary to the virtues of scouting. The council did not consider a change to policy regarding the sexual orientation of adult leaders.

Tracy Techau, Scout executive for the Atlanta Area Council, which covers 13 metro Atlanta counties including Cobb, said the local council’s priority remains the same.

“The Scouting program today has the same merit badges, campfires and great programs as it had yesterday,” Techau said. “We will continue to serve as many Atlanta Scouts as possible with the best leadership development program and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.”

Since the decision, churches and other places of worship have had to take a stance on Scouting and whether to continue a 103-year-old American tradition or to look elsewhere for youth programs.

Religious organizations sponsor about 70 percent of the 116,000 scout units in the United States, according to an Associated Press report.

Two Southern Baptist church leaders with massive congregations in the Marietta and east Cobb areas have already come forward opposing the change and vowing to disband their troops moving forward.

Jeff Fulcher, spokesman for the Atlanta Area Council, said there are 800 Scouting groups in the metro area that make up the local Scouting program and less than 5 percent have said they plan to eliminate troop activities.

“Over 95 percent of our units plan to continue delivering a quality scouting program and serving local youth,” Fulcher said. “Many other churches, places of worship and civic organizations have approached us offering to take any scouts that need a new place to meet.”

Continuing the Scouting tradition

While some churches have decided to discontinue their relationships with the Scouts once the decision goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, others aren’t skipping a beat with continuing their programs and welcoming all Scouts with open arms.

Tom Welsh, Scouting director for east Cobb’s Transfiguration Catholic Church Troop 75, said there won’t be a change to his church’s program, which sponsors a Cub Scout Pack for 6 to 10 year olds, a Boy Scout Troop for ages 11 to 17 and a co-ed Venture program that includes young men up to age 21.

“The Boy Scouts have always been accepting of all youth and our values and leadership are eternal,” said Welsh, a Boy Scout leader for the last 11 years.

Welsh, a Marietta resident, said the Boy Scout troop he presides over includes 67 boys.

In a recent news release, Due West United Methodist Church in west Cobb said it will continue delivering Scouting programs through Troop 540, which also includes a pack, troop and Venture (also called “crew”) program. The release was co-signed by Senior Pastor Tom Davis, Chartered Organization Representative Bill Coffeen, Scoutmaster Charles Hebert and Committee Chair Chris Dupree.

“All of our volunteer adult leaders have for years undergone state/national background checks, are well-trained, and are devoted to providing the very best programs they can by carrying on a fine tradition of citizenship, character-building and leadership activities for almost 50 years,” the news release states. “We have not in the past nor will we in the future focus on the sexual orientation of our members, be they children or youth.”

One World Spiritual Center in east Cobb has only been open about a year-and-a-half and doesn’t yet sponsor a Scout troop, but leaders are hoping to do so moving forward.

The Rev. Stephanie Seigh, senor minister at the interfaith church on Shallowford Road, said she and other members of her church have been following national and local news about churches asking troops to leave following the controversial ruling.

“Our spiritual community honors all paths, and is an accepting and welcoming community that would love to support these troops,” Seigh said.

“My own children spent many happy years in the Scouts back in Pennsylvania and I want to help these troops to continue to make a difference in their children’s lives.”

Seigh said she’s trying to get the word out about her church’s policy, including scrolling a message on her church’s marquee welcoming the scouts to join her approximately 90-member congregation.

“Of course churches have the right to make that decision (about having a Boy Scout troop),” Seigh said. “But we sing a song at our church called, ‘I Am As God Created Me.’ We believe in original blessings, not in original sin.

“When we hear about people being judged and persecuted, it just makes us sad. We honor all paths to God.”

Severing ties with BSA

Some local Baptist churches won’t be continuing their relationships with the scouts, saying the new policy conflicts with the teachings of the Bible.

Senior Pastor Ernest Easley with Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta announced to his congregation the Sunday following the vote that his church would discontinue Troop 204, which has been chartered through the church since 1945.

“I’ve encouraged people to get out of the program for the sake of protecting their children and to find an alternative,” Easley said.

Easley’s preferred substitute is the Royal Ambassadors program, a Southern Baptist organization that teaches camping skills and tying knots with a focus on understanding God’s word.

As a boy, Easley said he participated in both Cub Scouts and RAs but had to decide which one to pursue as he got older.

“I chose RAs,” he said. “It’s a great organization to teach about camping, God and country. … Not every Southern Baptist Church has a program, but I’m hoping over the next 12 to 15 months a lot of our churches will consider launching or strengthening one they’ve got to provide parents an alternative.”

Easley said his church will officially sever its sponsorship of Troop 204 the day the policy goes into effect and will allow scouts to continue to finish up patches and Eagle Scout projects through the end of the year.

Other than his sermon, Easley said he’s talked about the changes with scouting leadership in the church.

“They are sad about it,” he said. “But they understand why we have to do it. Nobody’s happy about it, I’m very sad about the whole scenario.”

“We are a congregation that affirms God’s word in practice and in belief. In that sense it would be a compromise for us to throw an arm around an organization that is openly pro-gay. It is a sad decision but a simple one when you affirm God’s word as the guide for your faith in practice.”

‘Dramatic change’ to Boy Scout oath

The Rev. Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in east Cobb and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said through a video message on his church’s website last week he would be making the same choice despite the “rich partnership” his church has enjoyed with Scouts over the years.

In the four-minute video, Wright said he believes the decision essentially condones homosexuality as being consistent with the Boy Scout Oath of Duty and “moral uprightness.”

“This is a dramatic change in the interpretation of the Scout Oath and it deeply concerns us,” Wright said. “You see, as Bible-believing Christians, we cannot compromise God’s word, which has a clear call for people — all people young and old — to a life of sexual purity.”

Wright said members of his church who have the “desire to change” their sins, comparing the situation of a young gay man with that of a young man struggling with alcohol abuse, are following the path of Jesus, who calls individuals to become the people God wants them to be.

“When a young boy who is struggling with sexual identity or feels that he is gay comes to his scout leader for counseling and advice, we’re committed to pray with that young man and urge him to live a life of sexual purity consistent with God’s word,” he said.

Moving forward, the church will allow Scouts to continue their Eagle Scout candidacy in the short-term.

“In the long term, we will look for alternative means to preserve the spirit of scouting without causing us to compromise God’s word,” Wright said.

Key meeting for Baptists this week

The annual Southern Baptist convention will be Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston, Texas, where it’s likely Baptist leaders will be told to move forward with disbanding their respective troops.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter told the Southern Baptist Press the decision marks “a sad day in the history of an organization that for years stood on Christian principles, particularly for the thousands of Southern Baptists who grew up as Boy Scouts like myself.”

“My prayers go out to the parents and churches who have been forced to make decisions about being a part of the Boy Scouts.

“As Southern Baptists, our commitment to the word of God and Christian values must take priority over what is ‘politically correct,’” Luter said.
Comments
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Thoams
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June 09, 2013
Southern Baptists have never been real big in Scouting, anyway, since BSA bans "denominationally-restricted" troops. Baptists don't like that.

The "Reverend" Wright's huge church has one small Troop that's less than 15 years old. Conversely, several large United Methodist churches in the ATL area have to keep adding Troops. One suburban church (considerably smaller than Johnson Ferry Baptist) supports THREE BSA Troops, FOUR Cub Scout Packs and one Venture Crew....serving nearly 500 youth.

The young men who lose their current Southern Baptist Troops have countless BSA opportunities elsewhere.
Baptist Membership
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June 09, 2013
Please do not lump all churches with the word "Baptist" in their name with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). There is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a more moderate Baptist group. Check it out. And there is at least one well known church in Cobb County, which is a member. Some churches are a member of the SBC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Also, there are Baptist churches which are a member of the SBC and their membership is divided concerning the "dictates" of the SBC. And that divide usually falls along age group lines.

Douglas Scouter
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June 09, 2013
I find it interesting that the Atlanta Area Council seems to believe that a 5% loss in Chartered Organization is acceptable. Basically they say they want to spread the message of Scouting but could not care less about losing existing Scouts who have put time an effort into a program in which they believed.

My own Troop has lost 20% of our members based on this decision. I dare say the BSA will see a less than 1% increase in membership measured against the 20% across the board loss.

This was purely about pressure from external influences that had no stake in Scouting and merely in advancing their activist agenda. Our own council voted to allow gays in Scouting. Yes, I do know this for fact. The BSA voting bylaws state that voting members should vote how THEY feel is in the best interest of Scouting and makes no mention of actual representative support of the council membership.

We were lied to by our council leaders and our national leaders. When they try to feed us the line about a Scout being trustworthy they, then and there, show there ignorance of an oath that has stood strong for 103 years.

And now the clock starts over.....
Johnrosy
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June 09, 2013
It’s a shame these Baptists aren’t able to discern the difference between homosexual orientation and homosexual conduct.
Brother Thomas
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June 09, 2013
Simple - doctrinally sound churches will sever ties with the BSA. Secularly minded churches will welcome the BSA.
acceptance??
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June 09, 2013
All of this stuff about "acceptance" is going to turn into a big mess. First, there will be problems between the boys and sooner or later, to add to it, there will be "gay" Scout leaders. Just hold on to your hat (and your son).
It is really Cobb?
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June 09, 2013
I don't think much of the real 2013 Cobb gives a rat's patootie about political statements of the corporate boy scout office

Where do the customers of the local Baptist megachurch businesses drive in from anyway? Cherokee? Bartow? Poke? Floyd? That bar next door?
lisa m
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June 09, 2013
I believe the only person who will judge me is God. Your right to disagree is your right, however to judge is not your right.
No more or less
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June 09, 2013
There are no more or fewer gays in the boy scouts than before the Scouts came out, so a reaction of any church(es) banning scouts is purely political.

Seeing as how they are making policitical headlines nationally, these churches must be stripped of their tax exempt status at once!

Oh and by the way here we go again trying to attract elderly people and repel young affluent people.

"Straight" retirees.. Based on our actions, that's all we apparently want here in Cobb County Georgia.
half arse baptists
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June 09, 2013
While I cannot support a ban of some groups of people because there might be gays, I fully support a 100% ban of all people from Southern Baptits churces.
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