CONYERS- After a ten year partnership, the First Baptist Church of Conyers will be ending its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
The decision to part ways comes in the wake of the Boys Scouts of America national executive board voting to end its national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.
On July 27, the national board voted to ratify a resolution that effectively ends the gay ban, but the resolution still gives religious chartered organizations the ability use “religious beliefs as a criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality,” according to the BSA official blog.
However, the discussion to leave to the BSA started among the church’s council two years ago when the BSA national board elected to admit openly homosexual boy scouts in the group, says Craig Beall, executive pastor for First Baptist Church of Conyers, 2100 Georgia Hwy 138, Conyers.
“They made the decision more so for us,” he said
The church felt like the “next step” for the BSA would be to allow openly gay adults to serve as scout leader and volunteers, says Beall. The church feels like this is “unbiblical” and doesn’t match its values.
Plus, not many members of its congregation, which stands at about 1,000 every Sunday, are involved in either the church’s Cub Scout Pack 973 or Boy Scout Troop 973. Of the 30 scouts, only six to eight are from families that are members the church.
“It’s not a high demand,” said Beall.
As a result, the congregation has been “very supportive” of the church’s decision to disassociate itself from the BSA, says Beall, even though he’s aware some are dissatisfied with the decision.
One parent, whose child is involved with the troop sponsored by the church, told The News in an e-mail he was “sad a church this large would react this way” to the homosexual vote.
“None of the BSA paperwork has ever asked about sexual orientation. Scouting simply teaches real world skills and prepares young men to be better citizens,” the concerned parent wrote. “Now we have a bunch of boys and adults who have to either merge with another troop or find another group to charter them. Either way, it’s kids that have to deal with the consequences of the decision.”
Beall says that the troops will be moving to another church within Rockdale, but couldn’t say for which one at the moment.
Other religious organizations may leave the BSA as well. Mormon Church officials released a statement saying The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is “deeply troubled” by the vote and will decide whether to continue its association with the BSA.
“When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined,” according to the official statement. “The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
For now, Jason Baldridge, safe scouting director for the Atlanta Area Council Boy Scouts of America (AAC), considers First Baptist Church of Conyers to be an anomaly among its sponsors in the metro-Atlanta area. He says that since the national announcement was made two weeks ago, no sponsors have pulled away from the AAC.
“I’ve taken some calls from people that needed understanding of the ruling, but I haven’t heard of anyone leaving,” said Baldridge. “We are fortunate.”
He adds that BSA sponsorship fluctuates from year-to-year and that it can be a “normal thing” for sponsors to leave for a variety of reasons.
“Ultimately, the decision (to leave) is not ours, it’s there’s,” he said.
The AAC has 32,000 scout members, 10,000 adult leaders and 750 local units across the 13 counties, including Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Haralson, Newton, Paulding, Pickens and Rockdale Counties. Of that, the Yellow River District, which covers Rockdale and Newton Counties, has 900 members, 350 adult volunteers and 24 units.