UPDATE: The SBC will vote next week, June 11 or 12, on a resolution encouraging all of its 16 million members to withdraw support of the Boy Scouts. 4,000 troupes sponsored by the SBC and 100,000 scouts would be directly affected. Read that full story here.
By now you’ve heard that the Boy Scouts will be lifting the ban on gay members. The change will take effect on January 1. The ban on openly gay leaders will remain in place, but both sides agree it’s only a matter of time.
I expect many local troupes will suddenly find they are unwelcome at local churches. Not on Sunday morning, but during their regular scout meetings in what would otherwise be an empty gym or fellowship hall. Churches that currently share their meeting space or even storage areas with Boy Scouts are suddenly going to see the Scouts as a “gay friendly” organization. Before it comes up at your local church, let me tell why this is a bad idea.
If a church tells the Scouts they are no longer welcome to use their facilities a whole bunch of kids, most of whom are not gay, are going to get one clear message: You’re not welcome at church. Fighting the culture war has already hurt the Christian image, as we are much more recognizable for the things we are against. Christians are known for being against abortion and against gay marriage, not for being people of the Book or for sharing the Gospel. Kicking out a group of kids that meet Thursday night in your basement, because one of them might be gay, is going to come back and bite us in the long run.
The church in America has an image problem; the problem is that we worry a lot about our image. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, talked to women and Samaritans, made friends with poor people, touched lepers and spent a lot of time with guys that smelled like fish. Most of his followers wouldn’t be welcome in our churches already. Another consideration is this: if we only shop at Christian stores, only eat at Christian restaurants, only send our kids to Christian school and so forth, who do we witness to? How can we be the salt and light of this world is we completely withdraw from everyone who is not like us?
Church leaders – the Boy Scouts are not the enemy. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you have a trailer full of camping equipment parked behind your church, or a troupe meeting in your youth sanctuary every Monday night, leave those things as they are. “You’re not welcome at church” is the last message you want to send a group of kids. If your kids are in scouting, or it you are a scout leader, stay in that organization and lead by example. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)