The Rev. Matt Perkins said his former Iowa church had a long history with the Boy Scouts of America, like many churches across the country.
Perkins, senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope UCC in Oklahoma City, said Decorah United Church of Christ began sponsoring a Boy Scouts troop in 1911 — just a year after the storied faith-based organization was founded.
“That's how close the relationship was so part of the pressure on the Boy Scouts is the chartering organizations because so many are churches,” Perkins said.
Perkins referred to the Boy Scouts of America's scheduled vote on lifting its ban against gays.
The organization's members are set to decide on a proposal to allow gay youths to become Scouts during a meeting of its National Council the week of May 20 in Texas. A few months ago, the Boy Scouts' executive committee tabled a vote on lifting the organization's ban against gay Scouts and gay leaders. The proposal to be decided upon by the 1,400 voting members of the National Council on Thursday is considered to be a compromise of sorts.
In recent weeks, a wide range of organizations have spoken out about the proposal to open Boy Scout troop membership to gay youths. Representatives of several national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups have expressed ambivalence about the proposal, saying it is not inclusive enough because openly gay adults still would be prohibited from becoming leaders.
Numerous churches are charter sponsors of the estimated 100,000 Boy Scout troops across the country.
Specifically, about 70 percent of the troops are backed by faith-based groups, according to the Boy Scouts of America's statistics.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that several faith denominations and conservative groups have voiced their concerns or support over the proposal.
Leaders with the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, have voiced opposition to the proposal.
The denomination's Executive Committee approved a resolution in February urging the Boy Scouts' National Council to reject the proposal up for consideration and maintain the gay prohibition.
“If adopted, the resolution will place the Boy Scouts organization at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality, making it an organization that would no longer complement, but rather contradict, belief in God and His moral precepts that serve as the basis for our Christian faith,” the resolution stated.
In Oklahoma, leaders with the state's Southern Baptist affiliate shared similar sentiments.
“Either promoting traditional morality is an essential element to Scouting or it is not. A transitional plan to entrench the celebration of homosexual activity in this storied boys organization is a bad idea any way you cut it,” said Brian Hobbs, communications director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“In the end, this comes down to freedom of association. In a society such as ours that so prizes diversity, it is incumbent upon us to allow an organization to live up to its beliefs.”
By contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out in favor of the proposed policy change, posting a message of support on its website in April.
“While the church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change, we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today,” the statement said. “We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, representing the country's Roman Catholics, has remained mum on the issue.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, also declined to comment on the vote.
“Obviously, we have positions on specific moral matters, but as far as the vote goes, that's up to the Boy Scouts,” said Tina Dzurisin, the archdiocese's communications director.
Meanwhile, Cathedral of Hope pastor Perkins said his congregation meets weekly at Mayflower Congregational Church, 3901 NW 63.
He said the church, affiliated with the United Church of Christ denomination, is an open and affirming congregation with an emphasis on ministry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The Rev. Kathy McCallie, senior pastor of Church of the Open Arms UCC, 3131 N Pennsylvania, said her congregation also is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and also is an open and affirming ministry.
Both clergy leaders said the best outcome would be the Boy Scouts National Council's approval of the proposal.
Perkins said he is aware that gay advocacy groups feel the proposal does not go far enough toward acceptance of gays.
“They kind of split hairs with this proposal. My attitude on it is, ‘take what you can get,'” he said.
McCallie said she thinks the Scouting organization will eventually lift its ban on openly gay adult leaders.
“I'm confident that it won't be too many years that the ban on gay leaders will happen,” she said.
“I understand it's a conservative institution, and it takes a long time to have social change at those levels.”
Perkins said the move to allow gay Scouts to join troops likely will mean some conservative organizations and church denominations and perhaps even more moderate denominations may pull their support from the organization.
He said that could mean trouble as far as funding for the youth-focused organization.
“I think the Boy Scouts might be in a hard spot with this,” he said.