Scout leaders see few changes after policy accepting gay members - WRBL

Scout leaders see few changes after policy accepting gay members

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

Boy Scout leaders in North Carolina say they expect few noticeable changes in scouting, even after a national policy change that has prompted some troops to dissolve. That policy change mean the Boy Scouts of America now accepts openly gay members.

Kirk Johnson is one of those leaders. He raised three boys who became Eagle Scouts, and after years as a Scout Master he is now a District Commissioner in the overseeing 40 units of Boy Scouts in the Fayetteville area. One of his Cub Scouts packs has doubled in membership after a nearby church severed ties with the Boys Scouts because of the change in policy.

"The families and the youth really want to continue with the program," Johnson said. "So they'll drive the extra distance to another troop or another pack."

That nearby church was Rockfish Church west of Fayetteville. Pastor Dan Stanley said open expressions of homosexuality do not line up with his Christian beliefs. So the church is no longer sponsoring Boy Scouts.

"I think in children and youth we have to follow scripture and teach you in a way that we believe is the right value," Stanley said.

The church chose not to renew its charter with Boy Scouts, and instead it is starting up a unit of Trail Life USA - a boys group similar to Boys Scouts that still bans gay members.

"It's not my job to judge the boys scouts and say they're wrong," Stanley said. "It's my job to say this is what's right biblically as far as we're concerned, and obviously Trail Life presents something pretty good."

Before dissolving, the Boy Scout units sponsored by Rockfish were in the Boy Scouts' Cape Fear Council. Johnson oversees units in the adjacent Occoneechee Council.

John Akerman is the Chief Executive Officer for the Occoneechee Council, which covers 12 counties in central North Carolina. He the council has 325 partnering organizations, and he has heard from about 10 to 12 that are not renewing their Boy Scout charters because of the decision to allow gay members. Akerman said final numbers will not be available until the most recent chartering process is finished in April.

"For everyone we lose, we're going to have another partner that's willing to step up and take on those young people and move on with the program," Akerman said.

So Akerman and Johnson are not worried about a decline in scouting. They say the organization is working hard to be sure anyone interested in scouting can participate. Johnson feels confidant more partnering organizations will step up if a void in Scouting develops in any particular area.

"If we go out and ask we can usually find someone who will give us the space and everything else and support us in the meetings," Johnson said.

Nationally, the Catholic and Mormon churches has expressed support for the Boy Scouts. So those churches will not sever ties with the Scouts because of the new policy.

Stanley said he believes Trail Life USA will be an interesting alternative for many families. He said organization has a mission statement that is very similar to his church's goal to follow scriptural guidance.

"I think they're going to shine a good light out there for the community," Stanley said. "I think it's a good opportunity for people to have a place for their children to go, kind of in line with values – Christian values."

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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