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Gil Hanke (left), top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men and Bishop James Swanson, president. (photo credit: General Commission on United Methodist Men)

Gil Hanke (left), top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men and Bishop James Swanson, president. (photo credit: General Commission on United Methodist Men)

The Executive Committee of the board of directors of the General Commission on United Methodist Men (GCUMM) has written the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) asking BSA not to proceed with setting aside its current longtime prohibition on open homosexuality.   The February 19 letter, addressed to BSA chief executive officer Wayne Brock, is signed by Mississippi Bishop James Swanson as president of United Methodist Men and Gil Hanke as general secretary.   Initially Hanke had expressed support for the BSA’s proposed idea of allowing local units to decide their own policy.  United Methodist Men preside over United Methodism’s scouting ministries.

BSA’s policy will be debated at its 1400 member national council in May. Earlier this month the BSA executive board declined to approve the proposed policy change after widespread protests, including from many religious groups that sponsor Scouts. About 70 percent of local Scout units are hosted by churches or other religious groups.  The largest denominational sponsors are Mormon, United Methodist and Roman Catholic.  Some corporate sponsors of BSA have pressured BSA to abandon its disapproval of open homosexuality.

The GCUMM letter noted having received “many phone calls and emails” since the BSA’s proposed policy change became public.  Many threatened to quit BSA as leaders or donors if BSA adopted the proposed new policy, and many were “angry” that churches were not better consulted about the policy shift.  The letter reports that a “few” expressed support for the policy change, but overall the response has been “overwhelmingly” negative.

“This potential shift from BSA places GCUMM’s primary goal, our core value – expansion and retention – at risk,” the GCUMM letter said.  “If approved, scouting programs would decrease, and new programs would be harder to begin due to the uncertainty this proposal has generated.”   The letter complained there had not been adequate time for United Methodist Men and churches to consider the “legal and spiritual consequences” of a BSA shift.

The GCUMM executive committee reported voting unanimously to ask BSA not to implement the proposed policy change at this time so as to allow United Methodist churches to research the implications.  It also asked for a “new relationship” between BSA and faith groups to develop a “new, faith-filled response” to Scout law.  And the Swanson/Hanke letter asked Brock to share their communication with the upcoming BSA national meeting.

Here is the letter:

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