IRVING, Texas (BP)—Facing pressure from its supporters and members, the Boy Scouts executive board announced Feb. 6 it is delaying a decision on lifting its prohibition of gay Scout leaders and members until May, when it will put the matter before its 1,400 voting members.
Meeting in Irving, Texas, the board was considering a proposal that would have replaced the national ban with a “local option” for local councils to determine the policy, potentially leaving a patchwork of different policies within the same city. Outside groups on both sides had criticized the proposal.
In a statement, the Scouts announced that “after careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization,” the board concluded that “due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.”
The statement further said that the board directed its committees to engage Scout members and “listen to their perspectives and concerns.” The board will “work on a resolution on membership standards” and present it to the 1,400 voting members at the national annual meeting in May.
Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, called it “encouraging news.”
“I’m very excited to hear that the Boy Scouts have delayed their decision and that they’re going to put it before the annual meeting,” Luter told Baptist Press. “I also want to thank all the believers across the country who have been praying about this situation. I just can’t help but think that the ‘prayers of the righteous availeth much’ in this situation. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the decision was delayed.”
Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, also applauded the move. He had appeared on CNN Wednesday morning—prior to the Scouts’ announcement—to defend the current Boy Scouts’ policy.
“I am delighted the Scouts have delayed their decision,” Page told BP. “While I wish they had put this to rest by voting to maintain their current policy, at least this gives all segments of the Scouting family an opportunity to express their views to the Scouting leadership. I urge all Bible-believing Christians to continue to pray that the Boy Scouts will hold fast to the biblical principles of morality and righteousness when they revisit this issue in May.”
Simultaneous to the vote at an Irving, Texas, hotel, a prayer vigil and rally sponsored by Texas Values, an Austin-based conservative group, was being held outside the Scouts’ national headquarters in Irving, drawing several hundred people, including Boy Scouts, who were protesting the proposed change.
Chip Turner, chairman of the Boy Scouts’ Religious Relations Committee, said Wednesday he was pleased with the decision as it reflects a resolution passed by committees representing all 109,000 Boy Scout troops in America. Turner said there was only one dissenting vote as the resolution passed through three committees Monday on its way to the executive board prior to Wednesday’s meeting. The resolution asked the executive board to table a vote on the matter pending further discussion.
WORLD Magazine reported that after the Boy Scouts of Canada lifted its ban on homosexual leaders in 1999, membership dropped by half over the next five years, from about 300,000 to about 150,000.
The Boy Scouts have lost at least three corporate sponsors in recent months because of their current policy: UPS, Intel and the Merck Foundation. All cited the Scouts’ policy on homosexual leaders in their decisions. Also, two prominent Boy Scouts board members—AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley—also had said the Scouts should change their policy.
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