On Boy Scouts and Southern Baptists – A Pastor’s Perspective

BoyScouts_130207The Southern Baptist Convention will gather next week in Houston, Texas. A non-binding resolution urging convention churches to disaffiliate with Boy Scouts of America is very likely. Richard Land, a long-time Southern Baptist voice with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said, “There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation at the convention and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.” As a Southern Baptist pastor, I’m not ready to give up so quickly on the Boy Scouts.

Why is there so much chatter about Scouting? The reason is the newly adopted membership standard. Effective January 2014, no youth can be excluded from Scouting based solely on one’s perceived orientation or preference. Here’s the official statement:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

Let me share why I’m not abandoning ship just yet:

The Boy Scouts of America do not teach sexuality in its curriculum.

As a youth program, the Boy Scouts of America maintain any sexual conduct is contrary to its standards.

No member can use Scouting to promote or advance an agenda concerning orientation.

While Boy Scouts make no exclusion to participation based upon one’s perceived orientation or preference, it does not in any way promote or affirm behavior under the new membership guideline. This is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy without the ability to promote even if you decide to tell. Remember these are youth who are still developing and learning and frankly don’t have an educated clue about sexuality – though they might think they do.

The Boy Scouts of America chose to maintain their current exclusionary leadership position:

The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.

While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.

Had the Boy Scouts altered their position to make space for open, avowed, and practicing homosexual leaders, my verse on this story would be very different. Not only would I have distanced myself from the BSA, but would have urged others to do likewise. There’s a huge difference in the role and expectation of a participant versus a leader. The act of admitting a practicing homosexual leader must be interpreted as an affirming action. Believe it or not, an organization can be welcoming and not affirming. It’s the difference between welcoming the individual versus affirming the behavior. I believe in welcoming anyone; I don’t agree with affirming behavior that is contrary to a Biblical sexual ethic. At least in this go around, I believe Baptist Churches should continue chartering Scouts. A continued relationship with the BSA doesn’t jeopardize or even marginalize your truth position. In fact, it opens the door for incredible influence.

To my fellow Southern Baptists, make no mistake in interpreting my Biblical worldview and sexual ethic. Read my previous posts and check my record. I believe my position is consistent with a Biblical framework and in no way compromises a Biblical sexual ethic. Sexuality is not taught and neither is sexual behavior acceptable in Scouting. The promotion of homosexual behavior is not permitted in Scouting. The BSA chose not to solely exclude a youth from scouting because he might be struggling with same-sex attraction and identity. While this is a “welcoming” action, it does not affirm behavior. This is an extremely important distinction.

Unfortunately for Baptists this is probably an “easy” ditch or scapegoat. Scouting in many Baptist churches is perceived more as a time block in the schedule on the back of the bulletin. There’s actually little relational connect between Scouting and the average church member in the typical church. I’m thankful that’s not the case where I serve. This fast tracked resolution process sounds too much like June 18, 1997, when the SBC decided to boycott Disney. For eight years Baptists went incognito to visited Disney before Baptists decided to end the boycott. Think, pray, and discern before you jump on the bandwagon – please.

13 thoughts on “On Boy Scouts and Southern Baptists – A Pastor’s Perspective

  1. Rett

    Hi Brad,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the situation. I’m not a member of the SBC, but considering it’s influence and the respect I have for the many of it’s leaders (especially Mohler) and what they’ve accomplished in my lifetime through the conservative resurgence, I tend to pay attention to and pray for the SBC leadership. I appreciate the thoughtful approach you’ve taken to this issue but would like to raise a few points of consideration.

    “The scout oath reads as follows…
    On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

    You quoted the BSA as stating…
    “Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law” and “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

    I would like to see the BSA develop that final point further, the reason for this is what they mean by “alone.” When you wrote “The BSA chose not to solely exclude a youth from scouting because he might be struggling with same-sex attraction and identity” I said AMEN! Afterall if the church doesn’t exclude struggling repentant sinners neither should an institutions claiming to be Christian and built on a Biblical ethic. However, is this what the BSA means? Because that thought isn’t developed in their statement. In fact, the mindset and attitude of the youth toward his “sexual orientation or preference” isn’t even discussed.

    That’s where my point of concern would be, and I think it would be wise for the SBC and other church leaders considering whether or not to continue to support the BSA to press them for further explanation. The reason for this is if an unrepentant homosexual with a materialistic evolution worldview (can’t help how I behave it’s just chemistry), is seen and affirmed by a pseudo religious authority as “doing his duty to God and country” and “keeping himself morally strait” then isn’t any church approving of such contradiction guilty of anti-nomianism and saying “peace, peace, where there is no peace?”

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Grace and peace.

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author


      Appreciate the conversation. I view the promoted ethic as one of abstinence – no boy should be sexually active. It’s not about perceived attraction or orientation; it’s about physical purity. How one defines morally straight is important. I believe the oath isn’t about sexuality so much as it about conducting one’s life responsibly and honorably – adherence to a basic moral framework. I think for scouting the basic sexual ethic is abstinence regardless.

      The BSA isn’t a Christian organization. You understand that though some do not. While the BSA is teachings boys and young men to be responsible citizens, I don’t think the BSA is a place for instruction on sexuality. I believe that’s a conversation best reserved for parents in families.

      I really don’t see a church’s relationship with the BSA (under the new guideline) as affirming homosexual behavior. It is a very fine line. If on this occasion had the BSA adopted a policy to admit gay leaders (openly, avowed and practicing), I would see a church’s continued partnership as affirming behavior.

      Maybe this door opens the opportunity for us to help others develop a Biblical Worldview which includes a Biblical sexual ethic.

      Not sure if I replied adequately, let me know.

  2. Paul

    I appreciate your viewpoint. I have to say that my initial view did differ from yours, but after much thought and prayer, I have come to change my understanding. Churches host many community groups at their locations that have a purpose of helping others (AA, NA, Stop Hunger Now, etc.), that are not specifically Christian (or they don’t require that all members must be). Churches don’t ask that all of their members be Christians or have their groups have a Christian mission. One thing is that they all have one thing in common, we all have done wrong and fall short of God’s perfection. We host these groups for many reasons, care for others, love your neighbor, and as a way to reach others for Christ. I ask this question of those who oppose the BSA-when a young Christian boy questions his orientation or even his beliefs as a result, would you rather turn that young boy to society for answers (shut the door on him) and potentially losing that soul, or have him turn to an organization that has confirmed leaders that could reach him and influence him toward Christ? Won’t there be a great celebration for that one son that was found? We only need to read the story of the prodigal son to know that answer.

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author


      I do think leadership is a very important issue. As in our case, we have several commitment Christian men who provide leadership in our BSA troop. Leadership makes a difference.


  3. Larry Agee

    When I first heard about the Boy Scouts decision, I was conflicted and my knee jerk reaction was the church needed to take a stand against the Scouts decision and distance themselves from all afillation and sponsorship. Over the past few weeks I have prayed, talked to Christians Who I respect and seriously thought about the churches response to the Boy Scout decision. My conflict came from what the bible teaches us about homosexuality and on the other hand what Jesus taught us about ministering to all people. This internal conflict and the discussions along with your blog has lead me to conclude that your thoughts and direction is how we as Christians should approach this issue. The thought Love the sinner and hate the sin comes to mind. Thank you for this blog and thoughts, we need to be challenged to what would Jesus do?

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author


      Thank you for your transparency. It’s a tough cultural issue and their are definite lines to be drawn. Sometimes that’s hard. Appreciate your comments.


  4. Darlene Peyton

    I have listened to this debate, written letters to the BSA headquarters and prayed about this over the last 6 months. I read your blog with a prayerful heart and examined my own thoughts. I sense there’s a little “yeast in the batch” or “a foot in the door” now at the BSA.

    We’ve seen the effects of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in our military. It remained that way for a season. That was a “first step.” Now the military has gone to the “next step,” as led by our Commander-in-Chief who has “evolved” in his thinking about homosexual issues. Our men of faith in the military are now under tremendous pressure to “embrace” many moral and religious issues that go against Biblical values. I sense a similar path for the BSA.

    BSA’s core values are under attack…one step at a time. My concern is not so much for the actions of the very young boys contained within their own group, but rather those older boys, say 12 and older. Every older boy is a “leader/role model” to younger boys. They may not be in a position of “scout leader” but they are leaders to younger boys nonetheless. To allow a young man who tends to lean mentally and physically toward other males (even though he is not sexually active) into the BSA organization is like playing with fire. That young man’s perverted thoughts can be fed by his proximity to other young men in various physical situations. Couple that with the raging hormones of teen years and you have potential problems.

    Should we totally disassociate ourselves as a church from the BSA groups that use the facilities? Of course not. We should treat them the same way we treat groups like AA, NA, Al-Anon, etc. We should invite all to church, share the gospel, allow all to use our facilities under the same guidelines apply to every other organization, etc. However, I do think taking a stand against the BSA policy change is appropriate.

    I would like us to explore other options, like http://www.OnMyHonor.net, Royal Ambassadors, or come up with a new young men’s mentoring/training program. My fear is that it’s much easier to let the BSA train our young men…”one step at a time.”

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author

      You bring up some good points – some of which have been in other discussions. The BSA has a credibility issue – at least nationally. They’ve wavered on this issue and now in an effort to be politically correct and while chasing corporate dollars – this is the destination. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is happy with the policy. Some feel it doesn’t go far enough while others feel it goes to far. Then there are those who feel it is truly a distraction from the mission.

      There is no debate homosexual behavior is denounced Biblically.

      I think we’re going to have to trust our adult leaders as they both enforce and interpret policy. We’re fortunate to have some great ones.

  5. Rett

    Thanks Brad,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond. My assumption that the BSA is a Christian organization is that they reference doing their duty to “God” in their oath. Which, with a Christian presupposition means to do so they must have faith in Christ, producing fruit. For we know that without faith, it is impossible to please God. So given the reference to God, they are either aligning with a Christian worldview or against the Christian worldview, whether that be of a particular monotheistic religion or philosophical pluralism is irrelevant, in such a case they would be an organization in opposition to Christianity.

    I admit that I am not an expert on BSA policy and I never have been a part of the organization, so I have no idea what relation they have to the gospel. Obviously if they are teaching that one “doing their duty to God” is simply being a moral person then that’s moralism and again we have a teaching that is opposed to the gospel, and the cross of Jesus Christ. Whenever “God” is referenced we have entered the theological domain, and so to teach someone about God is to either teach them the precepts of the Christian religion or to teach against those precepts. Like Jesus said, “he who is not with me is against me.” Neutrality to Christ is an impossibility and nowhere is that more plain then in the theological domain.

    So I guess in saying that I would either have to view the BSA as a Christian organization or as an organization that is going to teach the antithesis of the Christian religion. If being a part of the BSA would help a youth “develop a Christian Worldview” then it follows that the program teaches Christian principles and is therefore a Christian program. If it teaches “doing your duty to God” is being a moral person, then it teaches justification by works/law and is an anti-Christian program.

    Quite frankly I think we have enough therapeutic moralistic deists clogging up our pews, good people, who want to feel good about themselves, that just happen to believe in God. You and I know plenty of “Christians” who consider themselves too “good” to ever deserve the wrath of God or an eternity in hell. That’s an anthropology not found in scripture, and if that’s part of a worldview developed by the BSA, then it’s not a Biblical one and the church doesn’t need it.

    On a side note, I totally agree with you about where children should get their sexual education. Unfortunately, even most churched children aren’t getting it there though. Instead they’re getting it from movies, TV, friends, and worst of all a pagan anti-christian public education. It’s my hope more churches and more fathers begin to have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations with the children among them, of the Proverbs variety…

    Thanks again for replying, I understand you’re a busy man. I can hardly find time for the internet myself and God only gave me one too minister to (my wife). Anyways, God bless and I enjoy reading you blogs.

    In Christ,

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author

      Good point and good thought process – definitely appreciate the contribution to the conversation. I’d describe the BSA at best as moralistic. God is a very broad noun and more of a higher being of sorts in Scouting.

      I may have to use the phrase “therapeutic moralistic deists clogging up our pews” in a future post. Very true.



      1. Rett

        I got the term from somewhere else. I know I came across it in Matt Chandler’s new book “The Explicit Gospel” though I do believe I’ve heard it elsewhere. Maybe Platt’s “Radical,” not sure. I like it, as I think it is an accurate diagnosis of the mindset of gospel-less Christianity, something the American church is suffering from in a unique way in all of church history.

        I’m encouraged to read many of your blogs Brad, it’s comforting to know God has brought someone with a biblical worldview to the leadership of Cool Springs Baptist.

        God Bless,

  6. Richard Murphy

    This fundamental transformation of the BSA with it’s recent policy reversal is disheartening and disappointing. I have a young son who just became a boy scout, so this is very real, and very scary to me. You stated, ” While Boy Scouts make no exclusion to participation based upon one’s perceived orientation or preference, it does not in any way promote or affirm behavior under the new membership guideline”. I would like to expand on that thought for a moment. If the BSA has changed their policy on the inclusion of homosexual scouts, have they not also accepted or affirmed that lifestyle and behavior? Is inclusion not acceptance? Is acceptance not affirmation? The dictionary defines ‘affirm’ as: to express agreement with or commitment to; uphold; support. Is the BSA not then promoting or affirming homsexuality?

    There can be no grey area here. It is very much black or white, right or wrong. Homosexuality is wrong, it is an abomination. I have heard the “love the sinner hate the sin” and “we are to be be salt and light’ mantra, ad nausem. I get all of that, but what do I say to my son, having taught that homosexuality is wrong in God’s eyes, when he asks me why the scouts say it’s OK? Kids know a double standard when they see one. How can he take his oath to “do his duty to God’ and be “morally straight” while the BSA has said that something he has been taught is wrong, is now suddenly OK…..but let’s just not talk about it.

    This is outrageous. The homosexual lobby doesn’t care about joining the scouts, they want to further their agenda. It is an assault on Chritianity and Christians because we offend them by calling their lifestyle and their behavior abominable. I would submit that Christ offended a few people in his time.

    I agree with an earlier post…this is just the beginning. The cat is out of the bag. It will not stop with homosexual scouts. Leadership is the next target. Is that when we finally take our stand? Christians need to take a stand now, and start calling wrong wrong, without apology.

    1. Brad Hoffmann Post author

      Thanks for adding to the conversation. Personally, I don’t think of this move as an affirmation. The BSA has determined in this new policy not to allow a boy to be excluded from Scouting solely due to perceived orientation. That means it’s not used as a criteria for exclusion – which has little to no bearing on affirmation. You could establish a policy which states you’re not going to exclude boys solely because they have brown hair. You’re not affirming brown hair or choosing kids with brown hair, you’re simply choosing not to exclude from participation based solely on brown hair. I know it’s a simplistic illustration. I don’t see it as affirmation. If they were affirming the lifestyle, they’d include sexuality and its promotion in the curriculum. If they dropped the leadership exclusion to permit open, practicing, and avowed homosexuals in leadership – that’s affirmation.

      We have to be careful here to understand the difference between someone who struggles with same-sex attraction and someone who openly acts out in homosexual behavior – these are two very different scenarios. There are people who struggle with same-sex attraction and yet don’t act on the attraction. I applaud these. There are those who choose to act out on the attraction and demonstrate homosexual behavior – this is the behavior the Bible speaks to. We can not refer to boys who are struggling with same-sex attraction and yet have not acted on the attraction as being in the “gay lifestyle.”

      And yes, we do need Christians that can be salt and light – most importantly we need to equip our children to be so as well. My children as well as yours are headed for a very different world than we knew in our adolescents and early 20s. They’ll not be able to retreat to a Christian only compound. They’ll need to engage culture with a confident faith and truth. Parents can pull their kids out of Scouting and Churches can refuse to charter, but in the end what did we accomplish? There are a number of ways to take a stand. Sometimes picking up your marbles and going home isn’t the best option.

      Again, thanks for adding to the conversation.


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