Leaders of two United Methodist agencies — United Methodist Men and United Methodist Board of Church and Society — have joined the chorus of people and organizations calling for the Boy Scouts to drop its ban on gay scouts and leaders. United Methodist Men promotes the use of scouting ministries and civic youth-serving agencies across the denomination. The Board of Church and Society advocates for the denomination’s social witness.
“These proposed changes will allow local churches to reflect those tenets in their membership requirements,” said a statement by Gilbert Hanke, the top executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men. “It does not force changes, but allows local churches control over these requirements based on their beliefs.
These statements have come as the Boy Scouts are set to consider replacing a nation-wide ban on gay scouts and leaders with a policy allowing individual troops to make the decision. Similar policies have been put in place by major religious denominations, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The Presbyterian Church (USA). This support for removing the blanket ban in the BSA comes despite the fact that the United Methodist Church still has a blanket ban on gay and lesbian people in its leadership.
The United Methodist Men are considered one of the more conservative organizations within the United Methodist Church, making this statement a marked improvement in LGBT acceptance. However, in a clarifying statement, Gilbert Hanke stated that he was not advocating for policy change within the denomination regarding gay and lesbian people.
The United Methodist influence on the Scouts is significant. The United Methodist Church is second only to the Mormon Church in the number of congregations that host Boy Scouts of America groups. It also has the highest members per unit of any sponsor. Some United Methodist congregations have resisted sponsoring troops because of the ban on gay scouts and leaders.
You can also join United Methodist leaders, as well as the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, President Obama, Jen Tyrrell, and millions more who are calling on the Boy Scouts to drop the ban on gay scouts and leaders. Visit www.glaad.org/tellbsa to make your voice heard.