In Twin Cities, issue of gay Scout leaders unclear

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, July 28, 2015

By John Reinan

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Boy Scouts of America welcomed gay adults into leadership positions on Monday, but the issue is far from settled on the local level.

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The new policy, approved by the BSA’s 80-member National Executive Board in a teleconference, takes effect immediately.

In a partial compromise, the national organization approved an exemption that allows church-sponsored Scout units to pick their own leaders. About 70 percent of Scout troops nationwide are chartered by churches, and it’s anyone’s guess how many will allow gay scoutmasters and leaders.

The Mormon church, the country’s largest sponsor of Scout units, said it might leave the organization.

In the Twin Cities area, the picture is unclear. Several churches contacted Monday weren’t aware that they might have to make a decision about allowing gay leaders in the Scout troops they sponsor.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it had not issued any guidance to Catholic churches sponsoring Scout troops.

Troop 346 in Minnetonka serves several other western suburbs, including Wayzata, Hopkins, Chanhassen and Eden Prairie. It’s sponsored by All Saints Lutheran Church, whose pastor of community life said he hoped the troop would act to be inclusive.

“We don’t have a policy other than ‘All are welcome,’ “ said the Rev. Antonio Machado of All Saints. “As a congregation, this is where we stand. Including everybody is what the Christian church should be about.”

Nonetheless, Machado said, the troop and its leaders have the power to make that decision themselves.

“We have certain expectations of them, but in this case we have to respect what that particular group and its leaders and parents decide,” he said.

“My hope would be that we have respectful conversations. My sense would be, should that scenario ever unfold [rejecting gay leaders] where our church is not aligned with whoever is here, we have to find a place that aligns itself with us, unfortunately,” he said.

“I often say, Jesus didn’t ask me to be his gatekeeper.”

Other chartering organizations that are not church-affiliated appeared to be on board with the BSA ruling.

A spokeswoman for Rotary International said its policy explicitly prohibits taking a stand on political issues.

However, membership in Rotary itself is open to all. The group’s manual of procedure states: “No club … may limit membership in the club on the basis of gender, race, color, creed, national origin or sexual orientation.”