March 21, 2019

AUDIO: Webster Groves congregation wants to change homosexual policy for Boy Scouts of America Troop 301

Barney Kitchen, a member of the First Congregational Church, speaks out about the church's relationship with Boy Scouts of America Troop 301. PHOTO BY DAN DUNCAN

Members of the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves stated they do not want to support Boy Scouts of America if the BSA cannot abide by the open and affirming policy of the church. The resolution committee begins their work on creating a document that may end a 105-year-old sponsorship with Troop 301.

The resolution committee, formed of volunteers, met in November of 2012 to begin discussion about the relationship between them and BSA Troop 301. The National Council of BSA reiterated their stance on homosexual scouters and leaders not allowed to be a members, in July 2012.

The church is accepting of all members. Its “open and affirming resolution,” signed in 2008 states, “We respond to God’s call by welcoming everyone regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation or socio-economic background.”

The April 28 forum held at the church was the first time members of the entire congregation were able to voice their opinions and to help in the creation of the Troop 301 resolution.

At the forum, the volunteer committee pitched four options to those present.
—Do nothing
—Sever the relationship between BSA and Troop 301
—Vote to continue to sponsor Troop 301 and become more active members of the troop to make sure the policies of the church are being practiced. They would be present at the meeting that are held in the church and become a part of interviewing any new adult leaders.
—Sign the charter for Troop 301 and fulfill the normal duties of at BSA sponsor

The committee said the first option was ruled out.

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To hear Charlie Barder explain the role of the resolution committee:

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Barney Kitchen, an eight-year church member, questioned BSA’s ability to compromise with the church’s views.

“Can we find ways to find a way to find home in the same place,” Kitchen said. “Knowing that we will probably never have total agreement on this issue? Can we find ways to love and respect one another, knowing that we draw significantly different conclusions? My understanding is that boy scouts cannot?”

Committee member Herbert Niemeyer responded to Kitchen’s questions. He said the reason he was able to sign a charter for Troop 301 in February was because the charter stated, “we will operate the troop to (the church’s) policies first.”

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To hear Kitchen and Niemeyer’s exchange:

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Vocal Troop 301 leaders told the 105-year historic relationship of between the church and troop.

“No more than a dozen (Boy Scout) units in the country can claim to be over 100 years old,” said Rodger Englebart, unit commissioner of Troop 301. “Fewer than that dozen can claim 103 years of continuous charter. The relationship and the history with the community are very important.”

One congregation member asked what the outcome would be for Troop 301 if the vote meant the troop-church relationship was severed. Englebart answered that there are other organizations that are looking to sponsor Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs.

“We would simply look in the area for another sponsor and move the troop,” Englebart said. “The troop and the program would honestly survive, just at another location.”

Denise Lee, a trained leader in Troop 301, Jeff McCoy, First Church Organizational Representative of Troop 301 and Engelbart came into the meeting stressing the historic relationship is a rare case.

“The relationship is important because of the longevity,” Engelbart said. “The key and the thing that is important it to deliver the program to the boys. And we will continue to do that.”

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To hear Bob Woodsmall speak about the history between Troop 301 and the church:

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The second and final congregation-wide forum is scheduled for Sunday, June 2, at 11 a.m. Look for further updates and reactions after the forum in the May 1, print edition of The Journal.

 

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