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Page meets with Scout leaders, stands firm


NASHVILLE (BP) — The Boy Scouts will lose members and the support of faith-based organizations if it changes its policy on homosexuality, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee told two top Boy Scouts leaders in a meeting March 7.

EC President Frank S. Page met in Nashville with Boy Scouts Chief Executive Wayne Brock and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who serves on the Boy Scouts executive board and is a past president. Brock and Tillerson urged Page to continue supporting the Boy Scouts if the organization overturns its policy preventing homosexual leaders and members.

The Boy Scouts board is expected to put the issue before its 1,400 voting members at Scouting’s national convention in May. The proposal would remove the national rule and replace it with a local option, whereby each sponsoring organization would decide the policy.

Joe Westbury/Index

Brad Davis of Homestead, FL, left, and Cameron Barefield of Waynesboro, center, search for a Bible verse during an afternoon mission study in this file photo from Camp Kaleo. While Boy Scouts are undergoing an identify crisis, those enrolled in Southern Baptists’ church-based Royal Ambassador program continue to receive biblical instruction while enjoying camping events.

Page told Brock and Tillerson that no matter how well-intentioned they are, a national policy allowing homosexual leaders and members would trump the local councils who decide otherwise, embroiling local groups in legal issues. Roger S. “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, sat in on the meeting and gave Baptist Press a summary of the conversation. The meeting was cordial, Oldham said.

Many local groups, Page said, will withdraw if the policy changes.

Tillerson, a professing Christian, shared with Page his faith testimony. He also explained why he believes the policy should be overturned. There are changing cultural winds on the issue of homosexuality, Tillerson said. Local Scouting organizations would retain control over their local leadership, he said, and national gatherings of Scouts would accommodate troops who don’t have gay leaders.

Tillerson asked Page to support the Boy Scouts no matter what decision is reached in May.

Page said he could not do that, according to Oldham. God’s truth is abiding, Page said, and principles should not be subject to the changing tide of human opinion. Scripture, not opinion polls, should provide the basis for leadership, Page said.

Later in the day, Page Tweeted: “Met today with one of the most powerful personalities I’ve ever met. He did not budge 1 inch. Nor did I.”

The Boy Scouts are facing pressure from sponsoring corporations to change their policy but also pressure from their base to keep it. About 70 percent of all Scouting units are operated by faith-based organizations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leads all faith-based organizations with 38,000 units (and 420,000 participating youth), followed by the United Methodists (11,000 units; 371,000 youth) and the Catholic Church (8,570; 283,000). Baptists are sixth (4,100; 109,000).

Two prominent Boy Scouts board members – AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley – have been outspoken in their desire to see homosexual leaders and members allowed.

The liberal American Independent website posted a lengthy story March 4 reporting that one in seven Fortune 500 companies donated at least $10,000 to the Scouts in 2010.

“Together, 69 companies donated nearly $5.3 million to the Boy Scouts that year,” the story said.