December 5, 2020

TIMELINE: FCCWG member votes in favor of BSA

George Conlee was the first member of First Congregational Church of Webster Groves (FCCWG) to voice a problem with the church sponsoring Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troop 301. He has a 58-year-old daughter and 55-year-old son, both in homosexual partnerships.

Conlee didn’t feel the BSA’s stance against homosexuals matched the church’s open and affirming view. He sent an email to FCCWG’s Executive Ministry in August 2012 after the BSA National Council reaffirmed its exclusive status in July 2012.

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.”
Conlee was the chair of the committee to create the open and affirming resolution. He said his children made him much more sensitive to the issue of excluding people because of their sexuality.

In the open and affirming resolution process Conlee stressed the importance of being patient with the congregation rather than taking a final vote right away. The same process was used for the resolution of Troop 301.

“We had to present drafts (to the congregation) and receive feedback,” Conlee said. “It drug on and on but it gave everyone a chance to explain and hear every issue people might have.”

The open and affirming resolution passed with only three votes against and more than 70 votes in favor. Conlee said he was proud to have a near consensus.

The Troop 301 resolution passed with zero votes against, 72 votes for and three votes to abstain on Sept. 29. Conlee voted to continue the 105-year relationship between the church and Troop 301.

Conlee’s son was in a Webster Groves Cub Scout pack, but quit before he was old enough to be in the Boy Scouts. Conlee said he isn’t positive if his son stopped scouting because of his sexuality.

“I’m not much of a psychologist but I don’t think he was aware of (his sexuality) till high school,” Conlee said. “It may have been subconsciously affecting him.”

Conlee said he voted to pass the resolution and keep Troop 301 in the church’s programming because of the BSA’s National Council vote in May. Church members voted and passed a new policy to allow openly gay scouts to participate in the BSA, 1,400 members voted.

He believes that was a large step for the BSA.

“This country is changing rapidly,” Conlee said. “I thought ‘Let’s see what might develop in the next few years.’”

Conlee’s grandson is in a Cub Scout pack in Minneapolis, Minn. Conlee said the scout master there knows about the homosexual relationship Conlee’s daughter is in, but chooses to ignore the National Council and includes Conlee’s daughter and grandson in the pack.

Conlee said the church took a large step forward with the BSA and thought the right thing to do was work together toward a solution rather than try to destroy the BSA.

History continues
The resolution will extend the relationship between FCCWG and Troop 301 to 2017. That will be their 110th year of continuous charter, the longest in BSA history.
In 2018 FCCWG will go through the review process and vote to continue the resolution or not.
Jeff McCoy is a congregation member and the charter organization representative for Troop 301. The resolution states that his position will be annually voted on and he will serve as “the primary liaison between the Charter Organization.” He said his job does not change from previous years.

A position was also created in the resolution for a representative who will “advise the troop as it plans its activities so that they are compatible with and supportive of the goals of First Church.”

Resolution committee member Robert Moody said the new position was created to represent the church in meetings. He said the plan is for the representative to be a congregation member that has background in the BSA.
Denise Lee, Troop 301 committee chairperson, has been with the troop for five years, and said she focused on troop activities throughout the year while the church made its decision.

In Troop 301’s first meeting since the passing of the resolution, they invited Webelos and their parents from local Cub Scout packs. They had a joint ceremony to recruit the Webelos to continue in the Boy Scouts as they enter high school.
“I was not worried,” Lee said. “We’ve had a long relationship here and I trusted that the best decision would come out of this.”

Troop 301 was one of a handful of units in the GreaterSt. Louis Area Council of BSA in and jeopardy of its sponsor cutting off its charter, said Christine Dieckmann, director of marketing and communications for the St. Louis Council. There are over 1,200 units in the Greater St. Louis area.

The organizations expressed their disinterest after the July 2012 BSA National Council restatement of their stance against homosexual scouts.

Dieckmann said all of the units either found other sponsors, or the scouts were placed in nearby units. She said the St. Louis Council was happy to learn about FCCWG’s recharting of Troop 301
“While people have different opinions about one of the BSA’s policies, they all agree they are better off with boy scouts,” Dieckmann said.

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