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Church to sever ties with Scouts

Pastor cites organization's decision to admit gay members

By Joe Beck

The pastor of New Hope Bible Church in Front Royal is preparing to sever ties with the Boy Scouts over the recent decision to open Scouting to gay members.

Pastor Terry Keaton said he continues to hold Crew 247 in high regard after 12 years with his church as a chartering sponsor.

But the national organization's acceptance of gay members is too much for him and his 400-member congregation, Keaton said. The church's charter with Crew 247, due to expire sometime in the fall, won't be renewed.

"The main thing is we feel we lead by example, by what we do and for us to maintain a relationship that goes against what we consider our charter, the will of God, would be inconsistent for us," Keaton said, adding, "the teachings of the Bible are very straightforward, very little ambiguity on the subject, and we just made a decision to stand with that."

Keaton said his church initially provided some financial support and light equipment needs for Crew 247, but the Scouts have been "pretty much self-sufficient" in recent years. Keaton said Crew 247 members have been meeting regularly at the church since their group's inception and will be allowed to continue doing so until they've settled on an alternative location.

Stuart Williams, chief executive officer of the Shenandoah Area Council of the Boy Scouts in Winchester, said Keaton is the only religious leader that he knows of who has announced his congregation is dropping support for a Scouting organization.

The council includes three counties in West Virginia and six in Virginia. Williams said two other organizations have told him they may discontinue their support since the Scouts approved gays for membership.

"We're just working through it," Williams said of the opposition.

"In all cases, the parents and unit leaders are interested in continuing in Scouting, it is just the chartering organization" that is objecting, Williams added.

Williams said the Boy Scouts continue to ban overt sexual activity among members, regardless of their sexual orientation.

"We're following what a lot of chartering organizations have told us," Williams said. "We're not going to turn anybody away because of sexual orientation, but they would be concerned about behavior, either way."

A prohibition against adult gays serving as unit leaders also remains intact.

Williams returned last week from the Scouts 2013 Jamboree in Beckley, W.Va., a national gathering that drew 40,000 members and unit leaders. Williams said the participants immersed themselves in high adventure activities, community service and enjoying the outdoors.

"I can honestly say this was something that was never brought up or discussed," Williams said, referring to the gay membership controversy.

Keaton said the gay membership issue is not going away. He said Scout-affiliated parents, unit leaders and donors opposed to gay membership are forming an alternative organization. The organization's website, OnMyHonor.Net, explains its purpose and plans for a national convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 6-7.

Williams said the Scouts are about to begin a new round of recruiting coinciding with the beginning of the school year. Anyone interested in joining the Scouts should visit the Shenandoah Area Council's website at www.sac-bsa.org or call 540-662-2551.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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