Churches move to cut ties to Scouts after gay policy change

scouts1By Bob Smietana

(RNS) For the Rev. Ernest Easley, the decision to cut ties with the Boy Scouts was simple.

The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. The Boy Scouts do not.

“We are not willing to compromise God’s word,” said Easley, pastor of the 2,300-member Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., which has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 204 since 1945.

Easley, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, said his church will shut down its troop at end of the year because of a recently adopted policy to allow openly gay scouts. He’s urging other Baptists to do the same.

Roswell Street is one of the first churches to cut ties with the Scouts over the new policy. Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, a 23,000-member megachurch, has also announced plans to shut down its troop. Other critics of the new policy, which doesn’t take effect until January 2014, are taking a wait-and-see approach.

The Southern Baptist Convention, whose 3,981 Scout troops make it the BSA’s sixth-largest religious sponsor, plans to address the issue at its annual meeting in Houston, June 11-12. About 70 percent of Scout troops are chartered by a faith-based group.

Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said the organization will help troops that have lost their church sponsors to find new homes. He said the new policy fits the beliefs of most religious groups that sponsor troops.