Every so often the practice or actions of a church crystallizes the essence of a church’s missional engagement as that of a fortress: defensive, protective, suspicious, and waiting for counter-attack. I am afraid this is the case here. I have pasted a letter immediately below that was sent to our office that details how the church has asked the local Cub Scout Pack to no longer meet in its building because of a decision made by the national office of the Boy Scouts to allow openly gay scouts to participate. There is no evidence that the local pack has openly gay scouts participating – this is all in response to a national decision. Here is the letter:
We would like to notify you that our church is revoking the charter for Cub Scout Pack 59 effective immediately. This decision was made by the Administrative Council at the church based on the May 2013 decision by the Boy Scouts of America to change its membership standards regarding sexual orientation/preference.
Our church believes that the Boy Scouts of America has seriously erred in the resolution to admit openly gay scouts. In the United Methodist Church, we believe that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. As a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church, we cannot continue to charter a Cub Scout Pack. We also feel that the Boy Scouts of America has broken its agreement to respect the aims and beliefs of the charter organization.
We ask the question, “How does this decision support the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices?” If the Scout Oath begins with duty to God, then condoning/practicing homosexuality is in direct opposition to this oath because it is the practice of sin. Duty to God does not result in the practice of sin. Our church makes decisions based on the truths found in God’s Holy Word. We do not make decisions by listening to the world’s views or gay activists’ agendas. In addition, the Scouting Ministry Office of the United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Men, and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society do not speak for nor make decisions for our local church. We are copying this letter to individuals from these organization.
We have met with the Cubmaster and another Den Leader from the Pack to explain our decision. We have also made it clear to them that the families and children from Cub Scout Pack 59 are welcome in our church for any/all of our church activities compatible with Christian teaching.
I obviously disagree with the position of this church and would encourage the Boy Scouts that in addition to allowing gay scouts to participate, the national office of the Boy Scouts should have allowed gay Scout Masters to lead local packs. But, even if you were to follow the very rigid beliefs laid out by this church’s leadership, they, in the end, betray their own beliefs by kicking out the local Cub Scouts pack. Here is why.
My message to the church’s leadership is this: if you, in fact, believe that homosexuality is a sin, and if you believe that the mission of the Church is to bring transformation to the world so that we more perfectly reflect the Kingdom of God here on earth, and if you believe that Jesus is the fullest manifestation of the Kingdom and he himself said that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, then the last thing you would want to do – if you indeed cared about these values – is to kick out those who you believe need to be loved into the Kingdom. What this church proclaims and what they practice are indeed two very different things. Indeed, what they practice essentially cancels what they proclaim.
What might be the greatest challenge to a biblically-based missional engagement, which is our call to love people unconditionally, is most often our own righteousness. Lord knows I struggle with this so I harbor no anger towards this church, but I do feel compassion and perhaps even sympathy. Make no mistake, I vehemently disagree with their doctrine in this case, but more than this, it is their using their dogma as a shield, even as a sword, to accuse, condemn, and kick out, to marginalize and ostracize, that makes their message, in the end, entirely unchristian and entirely unbiblical.
Yes, it feels good to state boldly what we believe, but the dangerous part of this is that we get so caught up in what we believe that we hide behind it, we use it as a shield to defend ourselves and we lose sight of our greatest calling which is not to proclaim what we believe, but instead, to love. When we forget our calling then we also lose, in fact, our identity. We want so desperately for others to come to Christ and we want, equally, to be used as an instrument for people to know Jesus, but then, because we really have more faith in our proclamation rather than in the Spirit who woos and calls others to repentance, we ostracize and demonize those who we believe – even in this case falsely believe – need God’s love and grace the most. We condemn others and we lose ourselves in the process.
The question I hope this church will wrestle with is: how do you love people into relationship with Jesus by detaching ourselves from their presence and removing any hope of relationship with them? Did any of us “get saved” through detached proclamation or rather, was it through loving, incarnational relationships?
I am sure this letter felt good for the pastor to write. I am sure it feels good to tell others that they do not speak for you. But I seriously doubt this letter will move the Boy Scouts one bit closer back to the practice of removing openly gay scouts from participating and I know for a fact that this letter will never move one person closer to Christ. It is a letter sent to others, but meant for those already in the pews. It was a letter that brings love and holiness to no one, including themselves. It is a letter written, sent, and received in complete futility. And isn’t the futile efforts to protect ourselves and castigate the rest of the world the surest way to have absolutely no impact on the world? Lord have mercy on this church. Lord have mercy on us all.