Author Topic: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America  (Read 2839 times)

peter_speckhard

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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

First, we apologize for the slow nature of this letter, realizing that congregations and individuals have been waiting for word from the Synod on this issue. However, the recent Boy Scouts of America (BSA) adult leadership standards change — effected by the BSA National Executive Board July 10, 2015, that lifted the BSA’s ban on openly gay Scout leaders — caused great concern and has led us formally to dissolve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the BSA. As of Dec. 1, 2015, the LCMS no longer has an official relationship with the BSA.

Second, while we understand the legal concerns that led to this new BSA direction, it is simply a place the church is not willing to go. At our summer 2013 meeting with the BSA, we were assured that changes concerning adult leadership would not be on the table, but that was not the case. We are now being told that the LGBT agenda, even with the most recent change, won’t affect the content of Scouting or the BSA experience, but we do not believe that will be the case.

Third, it is important to know that the LCMS has never “endorsed” Scouting formally. Past Synod conventions determined that participating in Scouting was not a matter of fellowship and did not undermine our theological convictions or violate our position on unionism and syncretism. Therefore, the matter of Scouting was “left to the individual congregation to decide,” with each congregation having the responsibility to “establish its own policy as pastoral wisdom on the part of both the congregation and the ministry in its own particular situation dictates.” “Synod thus neither encourages nor discourages Scoutism in any congregation” (1953 Convention Proceedings, pp. 555–556). Unless the Synod in convention issues a change, this is still the case.

We have had an MOU with the BSA for some time that was based on mutual trust between the LCMS and the BSA. The memorandum was renewed periodically through the years by different LCMS presidents. The BSA’s recent inconsistent direction on human sexuality and its policy changes, however, have led our office to conclude that such an MOU is, regretfully, no longer tenable, and thus our decision formally to dissolve the MOU between the LCMS and the BSA.

As congregations now consider their continued involvement with the BSA, we thought it important to share something of this past and recent history of the LCMS–BSA relationship. We also need to share potential legal concerns that chartering LCMS congregations should consider. Recent federal rulings, including the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, are shaping decisions by organizations such as the BSA. Previous rulings, including the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale decision, seem likely to no longer hold in court.

For instance, a recent BSA memorandum cites cases demonstrating that the BSA has been held to be a place of public accommodation in some states and not in others, noting there is no national determination of the issue. Interestingly, the memorandum readily acknowledges that cases that previously held that the BSA was not a place of accommodation were decided long ago when “the courts viewed homosexuals and the BSA in different lights,” and it ends the discussion by candidly saying, “A court could conclude that the BSA is a place of public accommodation based on the size and inclusiveness of the Scouting program.” Based on these comments, it appears that the law is growing stronger for those who might be in a position to file suit for discrimination against the BSA and, by extension, against chartered organizations, including LCMS congregations.

While legal speculation is just that, we are concerned that the legal boundaries are still being drawn with each court case, and we are concerned that LCMS congregations could be pulled into such a legal battle. Congregations who continue their BSA charters after the Dec. 1, 2015, dissolution of the LCMS MOU should seek local legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally.

To that end, we are calling for the establishment of a task force to consider Scouting and the involvement of the LCMS going forward. The landscape and intersection of church and world — including Scouting — has drastically changed since our Synod’s decisions on Scouting matters in the 1950s. We recognize that the BSA and other Scouting programs have a positive impact on the lives of many Lutherans and LCMS congregations and schools. However, the times demand we ask important questions. How should the church engage and be involved going forward? How does the church participate in a faithful way so that our children are able to be involved and the church’s confession remains unhampered?

Again, we appreciate the patience of the church as we have been considering these issues over the past several months. We lament the fact that an MOU between the LCMS and the BSA is no longer possible. We pray that the Lord of the church will bless congregations and individuals as they consider the information shared here and chart a faithful course forward.

Peace,

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Rev. Bart Day, executive director
LCMS Office of National Mission

LutherMan

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2015, 12:01:05 PM »
About  time...

Mark_Hofman

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2015, 12:09:27 PM »
There is an extended version of this announcement online:  http://blogs.lcms.org/2015/boy-scouts-of-america-update

Charles Austin

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2015, 01:18:21 PM »
Seems simple to me. If LCMS youth want to take part in scouting, they simply join a troop in their town sponsored by another church. What would be wrong with that?
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, Nw York and New Jersey. LCA and LWF staff. Former journalist. Now retired, living in Minneapolis.

Matt Staneck

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2015, 02:32:48 PM »
Seems simple to me. If LCMS youth want to take part in scouting, they simply join a troop in their town sponsored by another church. What would be wrong with that?

Yes. Agreed.

What if, however, you have a local congregation that has long chartered a troop (say its entire history) and in days gone past the troop were also members of the congregation, yet today a very, very small percentage (1-2%) of the troop are members of the congregation, yet the two histories are so intertwined that it is difficult to tell them apart?

Asking for a friend.....

M. Staneck
Matt Staneck, Pastor
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Queens, NY

LutherMan

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2015, 02:44:50 PM »
I cannot understand  how any properly catechized LCMS parents could want their kids in the scouts...

Dan Fienen

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2015, 04:33:44 PM »
I would not want a Scout Troop, even one sponsored by my congregation and led by congregation members to be instructing my young men in religion.  Nor would I look to BSA's policies to instruct my young men in proper sexual conduct.  If there comes a time when official BSA teaching calls what my church teaches false, that would be a different story.

There are many possible benefits to Scouting and Scouting like organizations for both young men and women.  So far it seems that opening up to active homosexuals is a matter of local option.  While that has made it too difficult to continue official recognition of BSA by the LCMS with a Memorandum of Understanding, the possibility seems open to maintain within the local troop an acceptable arrangement.  So I can understand why churches and parents might want to maintain Scouting for their youth because of the positive aspects of it.

As for encountering other troops with other policies at large Scouting events, our kids need to learn that people have many opinions and ideas that we do not always agree with and learn to function in a pluralistic world without compromising their own beliefs.  That is the world that we are raising them to inhabit.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Richard Johnson

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2015, 07:41:28 PM »
Somewhere there are WELS people tsktsking, "Told you so."  8)
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Weedon

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2015, 07:44:21 PM »
Richard, the thought occurred to me immediately upon reading the memo.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2015, 08:25:02 PM »
I just talked with a member who is an Eagle Scout and continues to work with the Boy Scouts of America. At least in our area, the largest participants in scouting and troop leadership are Mormons. If the BSA had not given local leaders authority over their troops, they would have lost the Mormon population. The Mormon troops are not allowed to camp out Saturday night, because they need to be home and attending worship on Sunday.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2015, 09:19:48 PM »
Seems simple to me. If LCMS youth want to take part in scouting, they simply join a troop in their town sponsored by another church. What would be wrong with that?

Yes. Agreed.

What if, however, you have a local congregation that has long chartered a troop (say its entire history) and in days gone past the troop were also members of the congregation, yet today a very, very small percentage (1-2%) of the troop are members of the congregation, yet the two histories are so intertwined that it is difficult to tell them apart?

Asking for a friend.....

M. Staneck

Keep doing what you're doing.  Consult your Bishop/President.  As stated in the memo, the Synod is advisory to the local congregation in this matter.

Dave Benke

peterm

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2015, 11:58:44 AM »
Good words from Pastor Fienen upstream.  One of my sons is involved in scouting and I am as well.  It has been very beneficial for him in a number of ways.  The troop is sponsored by our local Kiwanis club, though it meets at my church.  Most of the boys are members of my congregation and those that aren't claim no membership anywhere in town.  In my years involved in scouting...going back to my service as a chaplain at one of the camps while in seminary; I have never experience national telling a troop, our council that they HAD to accept someone in leadership that they felt would be a bad fit.  There is plenty of flexibility and responsibility at the local level for the Troop committee to choose the person that they feel best qualified to lead.  NO ONE would be chosen on basis of their sexual orientation alone; and whoever was chosen would still have to conform to the youth protection and leadership standards set by the national organization.
Rev. Peter Morlock- ELCA pastor serving two congregations in WIS

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2015, 12:16:31 PM »
Good words from Pastor Fienen upstream.  One of my sons is involved in scouting and I am as well.  It has been very beneficial for him in a number of ways.  The troop is sponsored by our local Kiwanis club, though it meets at my church.  Most of the boys are members of my congregation and those that aren't claim no membership anywhere in town.  In my years involved in scouting...going back to my service as a chaplain at one of the camps while in seminary; I have never experience national telling a troop, our council that they HAD to accept someone in leadership that they felt would be a bad fit.  There is plenty of flexibility and responsibility at the local level for the Troop committee to choose the person that they feel best qualified to lead.  NO ONE would be chosen on basis of their sexual orientation alone; and whoever was chosen would still have to conform to the youth protection and leadership standards set by the national organization.

My opinion is that you are treading on thin ice. Seldom does a legal entity blatantly wrongfully discriminate. They usually come up with what would be a "legal" reason for not hiring/appointing someone in a protected class. Perhaps "NO ONE would be chosen on basis of their sexual orientation alone," but if a trier of fact determines that an entity rejected someone on the basis of their sexual orientation that entity legally/financially could suffer for it. It appears that national will be of little or no help.

Why do you think Synod is backing away from the BSA? (Hint: Money usually is a major factor.)

"While legal speculation is just that, we are concerned that the legal boundaries are still being drawn with each court case, and we are concerned that LCMS congregations could be pulled into such a legal battle. Congregations who continue their BSA charters after the Dec. 1, 2015, dissolution of the LCMS MOU should seek local legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally."
« Last Edit: December 02, 2015, 12:25:47 PM by Pr. Don Kirchner »
Don Kirchner

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2015, 12:51:30 PM »
Good words from Pastor Fienen upstream.  One of my sons is involved in scouting and I am as well.  It has been very beneficial for him in a number of ways.  The troop is sponsored by our local Kiwanis club, though it meets at my church.  Most of the boys are members of my congregation and those that aren't claim no membership anywhere in town.  In my years involved in scouting...going back to my service as a chaplain at one of the camps while in seminary; I have never experience national telling a troop, our council that they HAD to accept someone in leadership that they felt would be a bad fit.  There is plenty of flexibility and responsibility at the local level for the Troop committee to choose the person that they feel best qualified to lead.  NO ONE would be chosen on basis of their sexual orientation alone; and whoever was chosen would still have to conform to the youth protection and leadership standards set by the national organization.

My opinion is that you are treading on thin ice. Seldom does a legal entity blatantly wrongfully discriminate. They usually come up with what would be a "legal" reason for not hiring/appointing someone in a protected class. Perhaps "NO ONE would be chosen on basis of their sexual orientation alone," but if a trier of fact determines that an entity rejected someone on the basis of their sexual orientation that entity legally/financially could suffer for it. It appears that national will be of little or no help.

Why do you think Synod is backing away from the BSA? (Hint: Money usually is a major factor.)

"While legal speculation is just that, we are concerned that the legal boundaries are still being drawn with each court case, and we are concerned that LCMS congregations could be pulled into such a legal battle. Congregations who continue their BSA charters after the Dec. 1, 2015, dissolution of the LCMS MOU should seek local legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally."


So, why isn't the LDS with its similar view of homosexual behaviors backing away like the LCMS?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

John_Hannah

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Re: LCMS dissolves Memorandum of Understanding with Boy Scouts of America
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2015, 12:54:07 PM »
Seems simple to me. If LCMS youth want to take part in scouting, they simply join a troop in their town sponsored by another church. What would be wrong with that?

Yes. Agreed.

What if, however, you have a local congregation that has long chartered a troop (say its entire history) and in days gone past the troop were also members of the congregation, yet today a very, very small percentage (1-2%) of the troop are members of the congregation, yet the two histories are so intertwined that it is difficult to tell them apart?

Asking for a friend.....

M. Staneck

I would ask the congregation, telling them what St. Louis has done. This may be a good time to close out. Yet, if there is nothing untoward happening, they may wish to remain. If, in the future, things change they can also change. It is their choice.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS