aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,
aefenglommung
aefenglommung

Working it out in my head

The news is full of early reports that the Boy Scouts may revise their policy on gays in membership. The idea is that the decision to admit gays would be left to local Councils and Charter Partners. A friend who is on the Southern Region Board of BSA says that this motion is expected to pass at the National Board meeting next week. Whether it does or not, I think it will come. BSA won the war and declared victory only to give up on the fight, it seems.

So, what would a gays-optional BSA look like? Well, pretty much what it looks like now, I imagine. The Boy Scouts advocate for good character, but their adult membership looks pretty much like the rest of America. In my experience, Scouters are no more religious than the mass of Americans, despite our requiring that one affirm a "duty to God." Once the sound and fury (both pro and con) over gays in Scouting subsides, we will go on as before, I think. It just means that the question of certifying membership is shifted to another place.

BSA is a franchise operation, as I keep saying. The actual program as it exists on the ground belongs to the thousands of Charter Partners -- churches and other community groups -- each one of which has a say in who leads their Scouting units. Every new leader must be approved by both the Charter Partner AND the local Council, or that leader does not serve. That means that if a given Charter Partner -- First Something Church in Wherever, Ohio -- won't certify you, then you can't serve. Period. The Council cannot foist leaders upon your Scouting program. Similarly, you cannot foist leaders upon the Council that they object to.

So, if BSA changes its membership policy, that means some units will have gay leaders and some won't -- depending upon how each Charter Partner views those candidates. They may view them categorically -- i.e., "none of those guys" -- or they may view them individually -- i.e., "not that guy." Which is pretty much how we do leadership of UMYF and Sunday School now. I as the pastor and the congregation through its organs of leadership have the right to OK Person A to be a leader for whatever reasons we find cogent and to deny Person B a leadership position for whatever reasons we find cogent -- so long as we do so in a manner consist with our Child Protection policy and in accordance with the Book of Discipline. That means that Person B might be denied leadership because he or she is someone we trust with other things, but his or her life is a mess right now and shouldn't be given charge of youth; OR because of an accusation of child abuse (not necessarily sexual in nature); OR simply because we think this person would lead the program in directions we don't want to go in; or for some other reason. Person B might be acceptable in other forms of leadership, but not this one. We will make that decision and have to stand the gaff for it. So it has always been; BSA's ban on gay leaders has taken that decision out of our hands up till now, but we've always had to exercise it on questions of leadership fitness.

As far as gay youth members go, if BSA lifts the ban on gay youth membership, that probably won't rock The UMC much. We have gay youth who participate in UMYF and Sunday School now (and always have). The programs of the Church are open to everybody, with two caveats: readiness for church membership is a pastoral decision, and a pastor may choose not to receive someone whose beliefs or behavior bely (in the pastor's view) the vows to be taken; and nobody says we have to put up with bad behavior from anyone. That second caveat especially remains in full force. I have never actually had to prohibit a young person from participating in a youth group or scouting event, nor banned one from membership -- but I have always retained the right to do so.

That means that if someone were hazing a gay kid, our leaders have the right to discipline that person -- because hazing is and always has been unacceptable. But it also means that if a gay kid is being disruptive and tries to use his sexual identity as some sort of excuse, that won't fly. "Full inclusion" means everybody is held to the same standard, and if you make a big enough pain in the butt of yourself, we don't have to put up with you.

All of this, of course, bypasses the question of moral theology that has convulsed the Church as well as society -- and will continue to do so. The UMC continues to say that we find the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching. The fact that we might have some gay Scouts and Scouters -- as we have gay members and leaders in other programs of the Church -- does not mean we think the practice of homosexuality has become compatible with Christian teaching. But we will have to continue to speak the truth in love, and not rely upon fences and credentials, to maintain that.

For now, I am posting this on LJ only. My LJ readers are a smaller and less public group than my FB readers. I will await the actual decision of the National Board before commenting in a more public forum. For now, I'm just working this out in my own head.
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