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Fragile fate: FCCWG congregation on board with changes by BSA
Jack Batten is a 75-year member of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and a congregation member of the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves (FCCWG). He stated at the congregation wide meeting on June 2 that they should continue its 103-year-old tradition of chartering Boy Scout Troop 301.
This was the second time FCCWG met to discuss the revision of the relationship between themselves and BSA.
FCCWG added an “open and affirming resolution,” in 2008 that states, “We respond to God’s call by welcoming everyone regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation or socio-economic background.”
A vote in July of 2012 by the BSA National Council that reiterated its stance to exclude openly gay members. The congregation expressed its concerns after that vote, stating they did not want to support a program that is not as inclusive as they are.
A resolution committee of nine volunteer congregation members formed a process to analyze the church’s relationship with BSA. Their goal is to have a final resolution created by September 2013 to be voted on by the congregation. The resolution will be written based on the opinions expressed throughout the open meetings.
The first congregation meeting at FCCWG to discuss the issues was on April 28. The congregation stated that they did not want to continue to sponsor the troop if BSA would continue their exclusive stance against homosexuals.
BSA National Council, with approximately 1,400 members, voted on May 24, to revise their stance and will allow openly gay scouters beginning in 2014. They will not allow openly gay eagle scouts, troop leaders and parents to be involved.
Batten was present at both meetings held at FCCWG and said that vote by the BSA National Council makes a huge difference in his views. He said the vote made it easier since they are dealing with just half of the issue, but it will not stay that way for very long.
“It’s going to go like Lincoln said ‘we’re gonna be all slaves or all free,’” Batten said. “Or we’re gonna back up and go the other way. I think they’ll change and also allow the adults in a few years.”
Rodger Englebart, unit commissioner of Troop 301, is working with the resolution committee to keep the historic 103 relationship together. When he spoke during the meeting he pointed to the similarity between what BSA has done to change their resolution, and what the FCCWG resolution committee is currently doing.
Englebart stated that he does not want this conflict to over look the most important part of BSA. That being an opportunity for scouters to learn and grow.
“It is a program that is unequaled anywhere on the earth by another youth group,” Englebart said. “It teaches not only the skills and knowledge and teamwork, but how to be self sufficient, and how to do for yourself. There is nothing else like this and the goal is to keep delivering.”
Rev. David Denoon spoke at the beginning of the June 2 meeting and stated that during the BSA National Council discussion a statement was made by a representative of the United Church of Christ that urged other UCC churches to support the BSA National Council’s vote in May.
“Even though it’s only a half way step as far as our open and affirming congregations are concerned, never the less, it’s a step,” Denoon said. “The hope is that over the years as the boy scouts generally get used to having homosexual youth in their ranks that they will also be prepared for homosexual adults to be leading the units.”
Englebart followed up those comments by citing the timeline of how long it took BSA to take this half step. It has been less than a year since July 2012, when BSA reiterated their stance against gay members. They now allow gay scouters and Englebart said that Denoon was correct in that more change will take place over time.
Fred Kaul, resolution committee member, is a supporter of the troop continuing to charter Troop 301. He said it took the church about nine years to sign their open and affirming stamen, a vote that passed 137-3.
“I don’t think anyone wants to drop the troop because is it so important to so many people,” Kaul said. “The best we can do it keep writing letters (to BSA) and letting our opinion be known until it does change and it will at some point.”
Ron Green, CEO of the Greater St. Louis Area Council of BSA, was expected to be present at the June 2 meeting. He was at Beaumont Scout Reservation helping to clean up debris that was caused by storms. Beaumont is a 2,400 acre camp site that includes cabins, caves, a climbing tower and hiking courses often used by scouters in the Greater St. Louis Area Council.
Englebart read a statement by Green at the meeting that expressed the importance of the BSA being for and about the scouters and wanting to keep a historic relationship between FWCCG and Troop 301 intact.
“There are between 12-15 troops in the country that can claim to be over 100 years old, fewer than half can claim that there charting partner in the relationship was continuous for that same period of time,” Englebart said. “That counts for a lot of influence. As you go forward you will carry far more weight as a charting organization for over 100 years.”
Denoon said that their resolution committee will continue to meet with the BSA representatives to create a resolution. He said there also may be another congregation wide meeting for further discussion on this topic and the resolution creating and voting process.