By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution Wednesday at its annual meeting in Houston, Texas, expressing disapproval of the Boy Scouts’ policy change allowing openly gay Scouts.
But at Camp Yocona in Pontotoc County, Northeast Mississippi’s Scout Executive Rick Chapman said it was business as usual with summer camp under way.
“I’m actually encouraged by the resolution because it lets churches decide for themselves whether to keep their troops or not,” he said.
Because Baptist churches are autonomous, the SBC lacked the authority to demand churches drop their Scouts. However, the resolution implored the organization to expel board and executive leaders who advocated the policy change. The SBC said it feared the change was a stepping stone to allowing gay Scout leaders.
The resolution urges churches that keep their troops to work towards reversing the policy change. It expresses support for churches and families who cut ties with Scouting, and pointed them towards the Southern Baptist’s Royal Ambassadors program as a substitute.
Chapman said the majority of troops in the Yocona area are Southern Baptist-sponsored.
“We’re still in the wait-and-see period,” he said. “In talking to pastors I’ve received some positive responses, but some say they are still up in the air,” he said.
One of those is Troop 85 at Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, one of the larger troops in the Yocona Area Council.
Greg O’Quinn, scoutmaster of Harrisburg Baptist Church’s Troop 85, predicted immediately after the policy change that some leaders would defect from the Scouts. As for Harrisburg’s troop, O’Quinn said a church committee would meet sometime in the next few weeks to discuss the issue.
Chapman resolved to remain flexible in accommodating displaced Scouts, as when an assistant Scout leader at a Saltillo troop left the organization after the Scouts’ national council voted for the policy change May 23. Because the Scouts require at least two leaders present on any outing, the troop was ineligible to attend camp, leaving Scouts scrambling to find troops to adopt them.
One Saltillo Scout fell in with Iuka’s Troop 26, a group Chapman said has grown significantly in the past few years. Currently, the troop boasts 40 members and shows no sign of slowing.
“I told the boys and parents I was in it for the boys and was going to be here as long as they wanted to participate,” said Troop 26’s Scout Master Tabo McAnally. “Some troops may lose their charter, but two or three others will step up to support them.”
McAnally said his troop’s newest addition was at first nervous, but he had quickly found friends in the group.
“If a leader quits, we’ll do what we can to recruit another, and if a troop loses its charter, we’ll work to find new homes for the Scouts,” Chapman said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep them on their path to Eagle.”