Written by Emily Mullins
United Church of Christ congregations are observing this year's National Boy Scout Sunday with more enthusiasm and conviction than in recent years. The Boy Scouts of America may reconsider a 35-year ban on gay scouts and leaders as early as next week. To show support for this long overdue policy change, UCC congregations around the country are hanging banners of welcome and speaking out in support of the change during church services this weekend.
"In this spirit, on this National Boy Scout Sunday, let us proclaim, 'We welcome ALL Boy Scouts,'" said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive on LGBT concerns. "Let us demonstrate this value with actions, communicating our support for a Boy Scouts of America that opens the door to everyone, including gay and bisexual scouts and scout leaders."
UCC President and General Minister, the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, also wrote a letter to the BSA President Wayne Perry and the organization's executive board, expressing "prayerful support and strong encouragement" for the BSA to change the policy.
"If [the BSA] choose to move forward in this important direction, the United Church of Christ will be a supportive partner," Black said in the letter.
The BSA initiated a ban on gay scouts and leaders in 1978, and has reaffirmed it multiple times, most recently last summer. The UCC has been a long-time opponent of the discriminatory policy, officially calling for an end to it at 2003's General Synod. While the proposed change would not reverse the policy, it would allow local religious and civic groups that sponsor scout units to choose whether or not to allow gay members and leaders. If the policy is revised, it could add to the 1,191 UCC-sponsored units and 38,225 scouts participating at UCC churches.
The BSA is scheduled to discuss the topic at a national executive board meeting next week.
"Let's leave no doubt in the minds of the BSA Executive Board that there is strong support for policy change from people of the United Church of Christ," said Schuenemeyer. "Join UCC-ers across the nation and take action."
The UCC is urging congregations to show their support for non-discriminatory scouting:
1. Download and print the banner from UCC.org to hang in your churches this weekend and add the flyer to your church bulletins.
2. Contact the Boy Scouts of America and let them know you are "for" the policy change. Call 972-580-2330 to voice your support.
4. Twitter users, please tweet the following: "As a member of the United Church of Christ, I support the @boyscouts policy change."
The Boy Scouts of America designates the Sunday that falls before Feb. 8, which is Scouting Anniversary Day, as Boy Scout Sunday to recognize the contributions of young people and adults to the organization.
The United Church of Christ, headquartered in Cleveland, has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. The UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination of 1.1 million members and more than 5,000 local congregations.