I wrote in late January about the Boy Scout of America's plan to allow openly homosexual scouts into the program and urged them to follow through on that. Several months and revisions to the plan later, the BSA did just that. 61% of the 1,400 voting members of the national council voted to allow openly homosexual boys into the BSA. Rachel Miller addressed a lot of the thoughts I raised in my earlier post and I figured it was time to more fully and publicly explain and defend my position.
As an Eagle Scout, Scoutmaster, and troop chaplain, I still believe that this is the best course of action for the BSA. I am aware of the logistical complications of this policy shift, but I do not do my theology based upon logistics, though they may inform how I implement them. I certainly do not speak for my troop, but the reasons for my position now are the same as they were back in January: Boy Scouts is about discipling sinners so they look more like Jesus and disqualifying boys from joining or ejecting them on the grounds that they are sinners is not helpful to that cause. That is not to say that lack of repentance is permanently tolerable, but that the mere discovery of someone's sinful state should never be grounds for disqualification from discipleship.
Without a functioning definition of what it means to be homosexual it gets difficult to understand what the discussion is about (the BSA did not define it, so each council/troop/sponsoring organization functionally had a limited amount of discretion). Homosexuality can mean anything from actively practicing homosexuality, to embracing an attraction to the same gender, to acknowledging an attraction to the same gender, to exploring hormonal impulses that lead to very temporary same-sex actions. I am operating from the perspective that all of those qualify as homosexuality to varying degrees of sinfulness. Practicing and embracing homosexuality looks like the willful sinfulness of Romans 1and 2, while merely acknowledging the attraction/orientation looks more like the scars sin left on the world in Romans 8. I do not believe simply being attracted to people of the same gender is always immoral, but rather can be a result of the brokenness of the world; I encourage anyone to read Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill for some great thoughts on that.
Most of the time sexuality will not come up in scouts at all. In all my years as a scout and Scoutmaster I can only remember maybe one time within the context of scouting that one of the scouts had some sort of struggle or incident like that. Usually this is a nonissue in scouts, because the scouts are boys aged 11 to 17. Even allowing homosexual boys to join (and most kids in that age range aren't dealing with that issue) won't change that. So this is very much a minority issue, despite its political charge.
So here a couple of thoughts on what the old policy looked like and how the change is better. Under the old policy, if a scout came to me and told me that he thought he was attracted to other guys but he knew that was wrong, he had to be ejected from scouts. If a scout was struggling with homosexuality or embracing it, he would be forced to keep it secret from others to protect his scouting membership. If a scout had grown up in a very effeminate context and only knew how to relate to other guys as if they were girls, he would have to be ejected from scouts. If a kid who was 12 and thought he was gay came to the troop, we could not allow him to join. In all four cases I would be prevented from counseling the boy, urging him to repent, be able to keep him accountable about his sin and struggles, and model for him what it means to be a man. In all four cases, those boys would desperately need solid and godly male friends their own age, but would be denied the opportunity to be around boys being boys and learning to relate to guys in a healthy way. Instead, they would be shamed because of their sin or excluded because of the effects sin has had upon them. It's mind boggling to think of a group built around discipling sinners that picks and chooses which sins disqualify sinners from joining...