HOUSTON (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution Wednesday expressing its opposition to the Boy Scouts of America's new policy allowing gay Scouts, though it doesn't explicitly call for churches to drop all ties with the organization.
While some action against the Scouts was widely anticipated, given the denomination's very public opposition to the change, the resolution takes a softer tone than many had expected.
It also calls on the Boy Scouts to remove executive and board leaders who tried to allow gays as both members and leaders without consulting the many religious groups that sponsor troops. It passed overwhelmingly, but not unanimously, by the nation's largest Protestant denomination at its annual meeting in Houston.
Before the vote, Charlie Dale, pastor of Indian Springs First Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala. said the resolution "is not going to help the cause of Christ."
Of boys who say they are gay, he said, "Let's bring them in, show them what real biblical manhood is about and love them."
Some delegates to the convention tried to toughen the language of the resolution. Paul Taylor, of First Baptist Church in Mauriceville, Texas, successfully proposed an amendment to strike language about churches and families that chose not to drop ties with the Boy Scouts.
"That seems like we are going on record encouraging a relationship with Scout troops that have homosexual members," he said.
But a few minutes later, similar language was put back in the resolution when the convention passed an amendment by David Uth, of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla. His amendment encouraged those churches that continue to sponsor Boy Scout troops to "seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ."
"We're not trying to bring condemnation or Hell fire on scouting or their leadership, though we sort of hope they get new leaders or leaders that change their minds," said Steve Lemke, chair of the committee on resolutions.
"I think this resolution was a resolution of kindness, to say the churches that choose to continue with the scouting ministry should do so with an emphasis on sharing the gospel," said David Dykes, a pastor from Tyler, Texas. "As a pastor I appreciate that the convention does not tell churches what we should do."
In all, about 70 percent of the 116,000 Scout units in the United States are sponsored by religious organizations. Many of those groups have decided to continue sponsoring troops. Among them is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more Scout units than any other organization, serving about 430,000 boys.