Published June 13, 2013
MARIETTA (BP) — Parents of Boy Scouts should remove their children from the organization, Atlanta-area pastor Ernest Easley advised in his May 26 sermon.
Troop 204’s affiliation with Roswell Street Baptist Church also will end, Easley said.
“I never dreamed I’d have to stand up publicly and say to parents: ‘Pull your kids out of the Boy Scouts,’” Easley told Baptist Press May 28.
“If you would have asked me that five years ago, 10 years ago, I would have laughed,” Easley said. “And even as I was saying it Sunday morning, I thought, I cannot believe I’m having to address this and encourage parents to pull their children out of the Boy Scouts of America.
The tie between Roswell Street Baptist Church and Troop 204 dates back to 1945.
Now, however, children are at risk, said Easley, now in his 12th year as senior pastor of the Marietta church. He also is chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
Easley, the church, and Troop 204 were the focus of a Baptist Press article May 7 exploring the potential impact of a vote to permit openly homosexual boys in Scouting. On May 23, the BSA’s 1,400-member National Council voted to adopt the membership policy, 61-39 percent, as proposed by BSA national leaders.
“My greatest concern is the protection of boys,” Easley said. “This decision opens the floodgate for a potential increase in sexual abuse of children.”
And openly homosexual men will become Scout leaders, Easley predicted.
“Having made this decision, the Boy Scouts will face all kinds of pressure and litigation to accept openly gay leadership in troops across America. I can’t see now how the Boy Scouts legally can prevent homosexual leadership from invading the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America,” Easley said.
The Scouts, he noted, have now abandoned the tradition that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2000 in permitting the Scouts to decline membership to openly gay leaders and members.
“As far as our church family, they’re sad about it, but it’s an easy decision to make when a congregation affirms God’s Word,” Easley said of the end of Roswell Street Baptist Church’s relationship with Troop 204 – a possibility he had been discussing with church leaders in view of the scheduled BSA vote on gay membership. The break likely will come when the Scouts implement their new policy on Jan. 1, 2014.
“If we’re a church that affirms God’s Word as the inerrant Word of God that we’re going to live by, that we’re going to raise our families by, that we’re going to do church by, then it may be sad, but it’s a simple decision.
“We are not going to put our arms around organizations that openly oppose the moral guidelines taught in God’s Word,” Easley said.
“I think most boys at age 8, 9, 10, 11 – they’re all vulnerable. And all the more reason to stand firm and to affirm God’s Word to protect them. That’s our responsibility as adults to protect them. If we let the guard down and not protect them – they’re going to have a hard enough time living for God in this world. And for us not to do everything we can to protect them, shame on us.”
Easley, in his sermon, encouraged parents to enroll their boys in the Royal Ambassador program at Roswell Street or another church that has an RA program.
Royal Ambassadors is the Southern Baptist missions organization for boys in grades 1-6; Challengers, a tandem program, engages young men in grades 7-12 in missions education. The RA program was established by WMU, an auxiliary of the SBC, in 1908.
“I grew up an RA,” Easley reflected. “We had a very strong RA program in my home church in Dallas, Texas. I was a Cub Scout and an RA at the same time, and when it got to the point of moving up to Boy Scouts, I had to decide RAs or Boy Scouts.
“And I went RAs.”
Easley said Southern Baptists “really have an opportunity here to strengthen our RA programs and to get the boys in a program where they’re going to be protected, where there’s a high moral standard and where they will have an opportunity to learn about camping, missions, evangelism in the local church.”
The RA pledge states: “As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christlike concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.”
Steve Heartsill, managing editor for Royal Ambassadors, said, “Most of the inquiries we are receiving are in regard to whether or not there are RA programs in their area, how to begin an RA program, and if RA materials can be used by churches that are not Southern Baptist.
“We encourage those interested in learning more about RA to go to our website, www.wmu.com/ra, and go to wmu.com/getstarted to download a free starter kit that includes a sample unit. To find existing RA organizations in your area, people may contact their local Baptist association or state WMU office.” In Georgia, individuals can contact Men’s Ministries at the GBC, which will continue to oversee the RA program in the state.
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