MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — North Boulevard Church of Christ asked Boy Scouts to meet elsewhere after the national youth organization decided to accept gay adult leaders, a Boy Scout official confirmed.
"The North Boulevard Church of Christ after a great deal of thought and a great deal of discussion among their elders decided to drop their charter with the Boy Scouts of America and the Middle Tennessee Council," Larry Brown, a Boy Scout executive, said during a phone interview.
Church elder Walter Jenkins said during a phone conversation that it was best to let senior minister David Young be the one to respond. Messages were left twice in person at North Boulevard Church of Christ for Young once by phone, but he was unavailable for comment.
North Boulevard Church of Christ, which in early 2014 reported having more than 1,700 attend weekly services, has given the Boy Scout troop and related Cub Scout pack time to search for another location for about 75 youth and 25 adults to meet, Brown said.
"We are trying to find new sponsors that would be willing to sponsor their units," Brown said. "We have right at 600 churches and other groups like civic clubs that are charter partners with us. We have three out of 600 that have decided to leave."
Brown declined to name the other two charter organizations backing out but said both are outside Rutherford County, which has 4,000 youth and adult leaders. His council oversees 20,000 youth and adults involved in scouts in 37 Middle Tennessee Counties, as well as Fort Campbell, Ky.
"Rutherford County is one of our strongest counties," Brown said.
Earlier this year the national Boy Scouts organization adopted a new policy to allow adult gay leaders, and it's up to the church leaders "to determine the qualities that they are looking for in their leadership based on their religious principles," Brown said.
"They own the unit," Brown said. "They sign a charter agreement with us."
Brown said he talked to the elders at North Boulevard Church of Christ before they made the decision to end the charter.
North Boulevard Church of Christ asked the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to relocate in response to the national youth organization deciding to accept gay adult leaders. (Photo: Scott Broden/DNJ)
"I think they struggled with it some," Brown said. "They believe in scouting. They believe in the leadership. They believe in and trust the current leadership of the pack and the troop."
Brown said he hopes North Boulevard Church of Christ would be willing to reconsider its decision to end its charter with Boy Scouts.
"North Boulevard Church of Christ has been an outstanding partner with Boy Scouts Middle Tennessee Council for over 50 years, producing hundreds of great citizens and community leaders, and we welcome them to come back and partner with the Middle Tennessee Council at any time," Brown said.
Every leader in Boy Scouts has to sign a declaration of belief in God, Brown added.
"We don't tell them how to worship," Brown said.
Not all churches may agree on who should be disqualified to serve as a Scout leader, Brown said.
"Other denominations may not feel the same way," Brown said.
The Blackman United Methodist Church Council, for example, responded to the issue by informing Boy Scouts through a letter that the church trusted its troop to make decisions on choosing leaders.
"After an appropriate amount of discussion the church council voted to fully support the leadership choices for Troop 374 and Pack 374 made by the proper decision-making parties with the guidance of the Blackman UMC Safe Sanctuary Policy," the Rev. David Stockton said in the letter.
"As the charter organization we expressed full confidence in the abilities of those decision makers in determining the fitness of potential volunteers with the Boy Scout groups associated with Blackman UMC to continue acting in the best interest of the young people who are a part of these groups," Stockton wrote.
Gay-rights supporter Laura Bohling earlier this year advocated for Boy Scouts to end its discrimination on adult gays such as her son, James, who earned Eagle Scout status with Troop 842 that's chartered with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints Murfreesboro ward.
"Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has decided to continue their participation with the Boy Scouts of America," said Bohling, the former Rutherford County Circuit Court clerk who served for a four-year term after winning as the Republican nominee in August 2010. "I am excited that the Boy Scouts of America have ended their policy of discrimination.
"I think it leaves the chartering organizations in a difficult position because they have pushed that decision to the chartering organization," Bohling said.
"The chartering organizations have always had the final say who their leaders will and will not be," she said. "I would say that I'm disappointed for a storied program like the one at North Boulevard Church of Christ for those kids not being able to continue. But of course they are well within their rights to determine who their leadership is, and I think they still would have been able to participate with Boy Scouts of America."
Scout leaders with her LDS church are typically Mormons, but they don't have to be, she said.
"You just have to be a person in good standing," Bohling said.
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