A local Baptist church has decided to part ways with the Boy Scouts of America, and other Baptist pastors say they no longer support the organization now that openly gay youth can participate.
Grace Baptist Church Pastor Bill Hilley said Troop 686 cannot meet at the Evans church after the end of the year.
Church and Scout leaders are looking for an alternative program that provides similar opportunities without compromising the safety and well-being of boys, he said.
“It’s really related to our convictions about God’s plan for his people,” Hilley said.
Hilley decided not to renew the church’s Scout chapter even before the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution June 12 opposing the national group’s new
membership policy. The Baptist convention said allowing gay youth is at odds with Biblical views on sexuality.
The Rev. Brad Whitt, the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church, said he supported the resolution. Whitt, whose church does not play host to a Scout troop, recommended that parents make a careful decision about their sons’ participation based on their religious beliefs.
“We want to reach everybody for Jesus. But we can’t condone a lifestyle that goes against our convictions and teachings,” Whitt said.
The Georgia-Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America works with eight Baptist churches in the 16-county region that includes Augusta, said Scout executive Jeff Schwab. The churches represent 12 Scouting units with 194 youth members.
Schwab said 85 percent of members in the Georgia-Carolina Council opposed the membership policy change. Twenty adult volunteers have resigned from their positions.
Clay Holland, the Scout master of Troop 686, said some troop members could risk losing the work done toward their Eagle Scout awards – the highest in Scouting. Some will finish the award by December, but others might be forced to earn an equivalent award in another program.
“My goal as a scoutmaster is to provide information to boys, parents and troop leaders about what their options are,” Holland said.
Leaders of other Christian denominations said their relationship with the Boy Scouts will go unchanged.
Pastor Greg Porterfield said Scouts can continue to meet at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans. He said he had no right to intervene in an organization separate from the church.
“We have no power over it,” he said. “As an organization, Scouting has done a lot of great things.”
The Rev. Jerry Ragan, of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, said he followed the recommendation of Catholic bishops in allowing Scout troops to continue meeting at the church.
“The Catholic Church doesn’t find that they have to break completely with them, and I think that’s a good thing,” Ragan said. “The original purpose was to teach good virtues as young men, and I think they are still trying to do that.”