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Seminary not to renew Scout charter
by Carrie C. Causey
WAKE FOREST — An area Boy Scout troop will have to look for a new home by Jan. 1 after it was told its sponsoring organization will not be able to renew its charter.
Last week, members of the national Southern Baptist Convention ruled the denomination can no longer endorse the Boy Scouts of America due to its new stance to allow membership to openly homosexual boys. Because of the decision, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will not renew the charter for Boy Scout Troop 588 after this year unless the policy changes.
While this means the members must find someone else to sponsor them and offer them a place to meet, neither entity is bitter about the consequence, understanding both sides.
Ryan Hutchinson, executive vice president for operations at Southeastern, is disappointed at having to close its doors to the Scouts, especially since he is an Eagle Scout, the highest designation given in the program. He said he has personally been positively impacted by the Boy Scouts and was “glad to be a part of that” and what it stood for to help boys become leaders.
But he maintains the importance of standing by the seminary’s moral obligations.
“I hate that the troop and the pack are caught in the middle,” Hutchinson said, adding that as an institution, “We are not morally neutral” and that they must align themselves “with Biblical values.”
The Convention’s resolution regarding the topic doesn’t force all Baptist churches sponsoring Boy Scouting to cut ties, but lets them make their own decision. The resolution encourages those that continue their relationship to advocate for a change in leadership and membership policy.
Dino Radosta, one of the leaders of Troop 588, said they had been alerted this may happen after the Boys Scouts of America changed their policy in May and has no hard feelings.
“I harbor no ill-will,” he said. “They were asked to follow a rule that doesn’t fit with their teaching. I have to respect their beliefs.”
While the change hasn’t taken effect and families are still trying to let everything sink in, so far, there hasn’t been much of an issue. He added many seminary families are involved as leaders and as members, but he hasn’t heard from anyone who plans on leaving.
Because each unit is unique, ideally Troop 588 wants to stay together as it was “built a certain way,” Radosta said. There are currently no plans to dissolve, but simply find a new option.
“Leaders are talking that they would like to stay together and that makes me happy and proud,” he said.
Parents were notified of the change prior to the official Southern Baptist Convention vote. Overall, he said parents took it well, though some were caught off-guard by the news. The boys’ reaction meant a lot to him.
“They were visibly upset,” Radosta said. “Many stood and asked what they needed to do to keep the unit together.”
The sense of leadership they portrayed is an overarching principle.
“It doesn’t change the mission to make better citizens and adults,” he said of the new Scouting policy, though he declined to offer any further opinions.
John Akerman, chief executive officer for the Occoneechee Council, which oversees the area’s troops, also said he plans to work hard to ensure the unit can stay together. Their council is comprised of 550 troops in 12 counties. Chartering groups include clubs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and almost every denomination faith base.
“I respect it, but am disappointed,” Akerman said of the Convention’s decision.
While he agreed that the issue of homosexuality had not come up in the area to his knowledge, the overall national Boy Scout decision was made to ensure every person has the same opportunity to join Scouting regardless of their race or sexual orientation. He said discussion was brought on by the denial of an Eagle Scout Award to an openly gay teen, among other incidents.
Since the change, there haven’t been too many negative repercussions in the local area, though that may change in the future. Akerman said a handful of adults have expressed potential departure.
So far, other area church denominations have not taken a position, though many did not respond to The Wake Weekly’s request for comment.
Keith Cochran, Scoutmaster of Troop 5 at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, said he has been told action by the church is not anticipated.
“I do not agree with a church’s decision to drop Boy Scouts because of the change in policy,” he wrote in an e-mail. “That seems to go against the principles of the Christian church. The church is sacrificing its ties to an organization that does immeasurable good in guiding young men to adulthood because it will now knowingly allow sinners into its ranks. That does not agree with what I’ve read in the Bible regarding Jesus’ treatment of sinners.”
On the other hand, Cochran went on to say he believes the policy encourages the flaunting of one’s sexuality rather than keeping sexuality out of the program.
Akerman said Wake Forest has always had strong Boy Scouting programs and doesn’t think that will change.
“But I respect and appreciate everything the church has done for Scouting and youth outreach,” Akerman said. “We will work with the families and leaders to help find them a new home.”