Church-based scouting alternatives attract interest


(RNS) They have pledges. They have merit badges. And they may go camping.

The logo for Royal Ambassadors, a missions-focused program for elementary school boys. The program is hosted in about 3,000 churches, most of which are Southern Baptist. Photo courtesy Royal Ambassadors

But they’re not the Boy Scouts.

Across the country, there are decades-old religious alternatives with names like Pathfinders (Seventh-day Adventist), Royal Ambassadors (Southern Baptist) and Royal Rangers (Assemblies of God).

And as the Boy Scouts of America considers whether to change its membership policy to admit gay members (but continue its ban on gay leaders), some of these groups are fielding inquiries from people concerned about the action the BSA may take.

Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Pathfinders have been asked about their program in light of the pending Boy Scout vote, said James Black, the Adventists’ North American director of youth ministries.

“If individuals saw the Pathfinders as a viable option for their children, we would welcome them with open arms,” he said.

Some denominational leaders with strong ties to the Boy Scouts —including Roman Catholics and United Methodists —have said they are still mulling the Scouts’ proposed change, which will face a vote during the BSA’s May 22-24 annual meeting.