GOOSE CREEK - More than 30 Boys Scouts and Cub Scouts have been kicked out of their sponsoring church because church leaders say they are concerned about what could result from the recently enacted Boy Scouts of America policy that allows gay Scouts.
Peace Presbyterian Church ended its charter with the troop after 10 years. The troop was told at the end of January; the current charter ends Feb. 28, said Scoutmaster Brian Odgers. The troop has removed its gear and turned in the keys.
"It is what it is," he said. "As far as our relationship with the (Peace) church, we thought everything was working well."
Church leaders and staff made the decision not because of the policy change itself, but out of fear that the national Boy Scouts of America won't stop there, the church pastor said.
"If we felt the Scout organization would just leave things right where they are, that would be fine," said Pastor Will Dietrich. But there was concern that the Scouts would extend the policy to openly gay leadership, and that would conflict with the denomination, which does not allow openly gay leadership, he said. "We just didn't want to go down that road with them."
The policy change has congregations across country ending affiliations with Boy Scouts of America troops. But the loss of its charter, or sponsorship, for Troop 716 in Goose Creek is one of only a few Lowcountry ramifications so far of the ruling, a Coastal Carolina Council leader said.
Among 212 chartered packs, troops or venture groups, the only other organization to end its charter because of the change is a Baptist church in Okatie near Bluffton, according to Legare Clement, council executive director.
Peace Presbyterian, at 174 Londonderry Road in the Crowfield subdivision, is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA denomination, one of a number of denominations in the country wrestling with or divided over the issue of sexual orientation of leaders.
Peace Presbyterian is not sending funding to the national church group "in conscientious objection to the increasingly liberal actions of the PCUSA," according to the standards listed on the church's website.
Dietrich said the Troop 716 decision was personally hard for him because of his ministry to encourage a relationship with God, and "because there are people who are enormously qualified (to be Scout leaders). We realize a lot of people don't agree with us," he said. But the Bible teaches a greater call to morals and ethics for leaders, he said.
Clement, of the local Boy Scouts council, said there is no indication from Boy Scouts of America leadership that there are any more policy changes on the issue on the horizon.
Charter organizations pay a $40 annual charter fee. They also select and approve troop leaders, who then must have a background check and be approved by the council.
"They run the programs as an outreach of their ministries," he said.
The troop, which included a number of congregation members when it chartered in 2004, now has only one or two families who are in the congregation, Dietrich and Odgers said. Neither thought that factored into the decision.
Odgers, whose family is active in the troop, took over as scoutmaster in October 2013, and was aware that the national policy change was under discussion at the church.
Terry Bowden, a former church member who started the troop, said he has discussed the issue for a few years with the current church member who oversees it. Bowden said the church might turn, as others have, to Trail Life USA, a newly established Christian-values adventure program.
"As a Christian, I can't say it's OK to be gay because it's not. It's a sin," he said. "The Scout law and the Scout oath we took is to be morally straight and also to keep yourself clean in body and mind."
The council is working with a nearby church and expects to charter the troop there. Boy Scouts of America leaves a lot of discretion with the churches and other chartering organizations, Clement said.
As for the Peace Presbyterian decision, "we respect it. That's one of the great things about our country, you get to have your own beliefs."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.
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