Suffolk churches: Our Scouts stay put

Published 8:55 pm Friday, June 7, 2013

Suffolk churches say they won’t cut ties with affiliated Boy Scout troops based on the national organization’s shifting attitudes toward homosexual members.

Last month, Boy Scouts of America leadership — about 1,400 voting members of the National Council — voted to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The new policy will be effective Jan. 1.

The current policy restricting homosexual adults from holding leadership positions in Scout troops remains in place.

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Many national news outlets have reported the Southern Baptist Convention could vote at its annual meeting next month to urge its member churches to sever themselves from Boy Scout troops.

Suffolk’s East End Baptist Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, but pastor Mark Croston said the church doesn’t plan to do any such thing to its Boy Scout Troop 51 and Cub Scout Pack 51.

“The way the Baptist Church works is that decisions made by national or state bodies are not binding on local churches,” Croston said. “We do not have plans to discontinue our relationship with the Boy Scouts of America Colonial Virginia Council.”

Croston said the church “firmly believe(s) that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong” but also believes the Bible teaches the church is a place for love and redemption.

“The church is not like a country club where the well healed go to socialize,” he wrote in an email. “The church is more like a hospital where we are all sick to one degree or another and we seek the healing and hope-giving power and presence of God for our lives.”

Boy Scout troops are chartered by organizations that sponsor them — often churches and service clubs like Ruritans.

Dick Collins, Scout Executive for the Colonial Virginia Council, said no Suffolk churches had expressed concerns about the new policy.

“We’ve had none of the chartering organizations contact us with any of those concerns,” he said.

At West End Baptist Church, new pastor Robert Pipkin said he does not believe the church has any plans to get rid of its Troop 1929 and said he would not encourage such a move. West End is not a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastor Keith Moore of Beech Grove United Methodist Church said the church is “not cutting any of them loose.” The church hosts meetings for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sea Scouts, though some of those clubs are actually chartered by the Driver Ruritan Club.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church Pastor Carl LeMon said the church has no plans to break off its relationship with the Cub Scout Pack 544 and Boy Scout Troop 544.

At Main Street United Methodist Church, a representative said the church would not be getting rid of its “very active” Troop 1.

A few churches did not answer the phone or respond to messages requesting comment.