A northwest suburban church is stepping up its opposition to a ban against gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts of America as the organization meets this week to reconsider the longtime policy.
At the Congregational United Church of Christ of Arlington Heights, leaders passed out fliers on Sunday that encouraged the 240-member congregation to write letters or call scouting officials to state their opposition to the anti-gay policy, said Rev. Rex Piercy, the church's pastor.
"Our position is that LGBT folks, whether they're minors or whether they're adults, have a role to play in our society and our culture," Piercy said. "This (scouting) organization which seeks the support of churches like ours... stands against the very kind of welcome that we extend to those folks."
The Boy Scouts of America's national board will meet this week in Texas to decide if it should end its long-standing policy prohibiting gays and allow locally chartered groups to decide who can be members.
Last week, Scouting leaders announced that the policy was under discussion, prompting a hailstorm of commentary from religious organizations, politicians and gay advocates. President Barack Obama reiterated his previous position Sunday when he said the century-old organization should lift its ban. Obama attended Trinity United Methodist Church for about 20 years when he lived in Chicago.
In response to the organization's statement, United Church of Christ leaders encouraged its congregations to hang banners and posters supporting the change. Some made announcements during Sunday services, though churches were not required to do so.
Coincidentally, the call to action fell on Scout Sunday, a day recognizing the contributions children and adults have made to scouting programs.
The United Church of Christ has a long-standing history supporting the Boy Scouts and the gay community, starting with ordaining its first gay clergyman in 1972.
Over the years, the anti-gay policy has forced some congregations to end their participation in the scouting programs while some troops have chosen to leave on their own, said Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, an executive for health and wholeness advocacy for the Ohio-based United Church of Christ.
Other congregations, despite the conflict, said they would keep working with their scouts and "advocate for inclusion on the inside," he said.
As discussion has intensified over the organization's gay policy, church leaders noticed one dominant Christian voice -- the Southern Baptist Convention -- opposing the proposal to allow gays in the Boy Scouts, leading them to encourage congregations to speak out against the rule, Schuenemeyer said.
"We have felt that it's not really fair to just portray that voice," Schuenemeyer said. "We need to make sure people know there are faith groups and Christian groups that think this is an important move."
Back at the Arlington Heights church, Piercy, who was once a Boy Scout, said he has received positive feedback from his congregants, who said they were thankful for the flier and planned on calling the Boy Scouts.
One same-sex couple with a history of scouting in their family refuses to let their son join the organization until the gay ban is changed, he added.
Although the suburban church doesn't sponsor a Boy Scout troop, Piercy said his congregation is preparing to take in groups that could be abandoned for allowing gays if the policy is repealed. But he's hopeful attitudes in the general public, including leaders of the Boy Scouts, are changing.
"I think they're recognizing our young people are coming out with a 'who cares?' kind of attitude, everybody belongs," Piercy said. "I think they're finally catching the drift."
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