UMM leaders, citing negative reaction, ask BSA to hold off on gay policy change

Gilbert Hanke

Top leaders of the General Commission on United Methodist Men have written the Boy Scouts of America, citing strong negative response within the denomination to a proposed lifting of the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

Gilbert Hanke, top executive of United Methodist Men, and Bishop James E. Swanson Jr., UMM president, wrote Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock on Feb. 19, asking that the current restrictive policy be continued indefinitely.

“More time is needed for the 50 United Methodist Annual Conferences and the thousands of United Methodist churches to research in a thoughtful and prayerful manner exactly what this change might mean,” Mr. Hanke and Bishop Swanson wrote.

Their letter warned of backlash within the denomination if the Scouts change the policy regarding homosexuality.

“There are many questions of legal implications, and questions about how this new rule would be managed in our local churches,” they wrote. “Many see this change to be in conflict with their understanding of Scripture. Many have stated they will terminate their relationship with BSA, as a leader and as donors. Many have expressed anger that our church was not brought into this discussion as this change was being considered. A few have told us they support this proposed change by BSA; however, overall, the responses have been overwhelmingly against the proposed change.”

The UM Men leaders noted that faith communities provide roughly 70 percent of BSA units and 62 percent of BSA membership, and argued that there should be a “new relationship” between BSA and faith groups.

The BSA had been expected to decide on a policy change at a meeting earlier this month, but faced heated lobbying from advocates on both sides, and postponed any decision until a May meeting at the earliest.

UMM is the agency within the United Methodist Church that oversees scouting programs. The UMC’s official position is that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

On Jan. 29, Mr. Hanke said in a statement released by UMM that he and Larry Coppick, UMM’s national director of scouting ministries, “were consulted by the leadership at the highest levels of BSA prior to the proposal to change membership requirements.”

Mr. Hanke also noted in that statement that the proposed change would remove an organization-wide ban and allow BSA units at the local level to decide their membership policies regarding sexual orientation.

“These proposed changes will allow local churches to reflect those tenets in their membership requirements,” he said then. “It does not force changes, but allows local churches control over these requirements based on their beliefs.”

But on Jan. 31, he released another statement, noting that UMM did not ask BSA for any change, and saying that the UMM leaders’ meeting with BSA leaders “was to inform us of what they were considering.”

Mr. Hanke said in the Jan. 31 statement that UMM concluded the local option was better than removing the ban completely.

“The reason we endorsed this model of implementation is because it allows your local church to continue to operate exactly like it is operating today,” he told churches and scout leaders in the UMC. “You choose the leaders, you recruit the scouts, the leadership of our troop and pack reflects the traditions and values of your faith community.”

Asked about the new letter, Mr. Hanke said in a phone interview today: “I wouldn’t say it’s a change in position. . . . I think it’s the right thing to do, is to have further discussions.”

He added: “I think the letter is self-explanatory.”

Jim Winkler, top executive of the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, has written in support of the BSA lifting its ban on gay scouts and leaders.

In 2012, the UMC had 6,700 congregations with Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews, involving 363,876 young people, according to UMM.


Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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  1. revkevyoung says:

    Gil Hanke, UMM, and the Boy Scouts need to know that many United Methodists rejoiced at the news that UMM were supporting the BSA in their consideration to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders. It is predictable that the General Commission on UMM will hear from United Methodists who do not agree with the UMM's original statement of support. It will certainly be unfortunate if these objections are in fact given such weight that UMM are frightened away from their original supportive position. I trust that UMM are also hearing from other United Methodists who are encouraging them to persist in their first instinct to support BSA's important and historic effort to open the doors of scouting to everyone. I also hope that these voices will be taken as seriously as the voices of objectors. It takes courage for the BSA to attempt to make a positive change, moving away from decades-long practices in order to be a more welcoming organization. BSA deserves the support of United Methodists and UMM in this effort.

  2. Isn't it a bit hypocritical to encourage gays and lesbians access to our worship, fellowship, and Sunday School and yet refuse them access to Outreach and community activities such as Scouting? We as United Methodists are both/and people, not either/or. Does Bishop Swanson represent the desires of the Council of Bishops or is he interpreting the Discipline? It seems that we have not asked our churches who are in dialogue regarding this difficult issue to step away from the table indefinitely. How can we impose on the Scout that which we are unable to do as a denomination?

  3. benburkhart says:

    Amen, UMM!!!!!!!!! Way to stand for what is absolutely right!!!! From the Book of Discipline: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for interpretation. By that alone, The UMC should not support a change in the Scouting policy. Either there is a standard or there is not. As Christians, we must be able to demonstrate Christ's love for all men, resisting the Devil and disavowing sin, without watering down standards for Holy living. Homosexuals: come and worship and study with us. Just don't expect us to validate your sin as being Holy and acceptable to God. Don't expect us to make you leaders in our congregations. Or our ministries. Let church be the hospital for sinners (stolen from a good UMC pastor), and a place where God heals our shared human frailty. Let's not conform to society, for the sake of peace and more giving members, allowing each his own measure of sin, according to his own will; rather, let's point people to Grace and Love, healing and forgiveness, and God's Holy Will. Good for the UMM!! @UMM Peep, let's not make the both/and become "We BOTH want you to know Jesus AND we want you to continue in your open rebellion toward God." That's the teaching of the world, not of Christ. Let's serve one Master together.

  4. I am proud that these men are standing up for biblical standards!!!!! How can this be hypocritical! Of course homosexuals are welcomed to worship and come to Sunday School. However, hopefully, homosexuals will also be encouraged to repent of sexual immorality as anyone else who is struggling in ANY area of sin in their life. We all sin!!!! It is not hypocritical to say we can welcome someone and at the same time expect them to live according to what our Lord and Savior clearly expects from all Christians..present our bodies as a living sacrifice that is pleasing to HIM. It is not about us or about making everyone happy in their sin!!!

    I have been a Methodist for 50 years and if and when the Methodist change their statement on homosexuality (which is in the book of discipline "homosexuality is inconsistent with scripture"); then I will leave the Methodist Church and worship in a church setting that is true to scripture and Christ.

  5. We should just stop claiming to be Methodists and join the Southern Baptist Convention.

  6. Reading this letter and these comments, I am ashamed to call myself a Methodist. Those posting negative comments, even if we are to accept your position that homosexuality is a sin, is your position that sinners cannot be scouts or scout leaders? Because if that's so, let's close the doors, nobody will qualify for membership. This is so very wrong, shame on you.

    • The position is not that sinners can not be scout leaders or scouts. The position is that sinners who mock God by calling wrong right should not be allowed in our fellowship.

      • Well Don, that would include a good many of us who are not gay, yet do not believe homosexuality is a sin. Yet as a woodbadge trained Methodist scout leader, mother of an Eagle Scout, there are no rules, either in the church or BSA precluding me from leading, proving your point false. Btw, God allows all of his children in HIS (not yours, not my) fellowship.

        • Doula, Chapter 5 of 1st Corinthians begins with the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul criticizing the Corinthian Church for permitting immoral behavior among them thinking they were expressing their love through tolerance. The example case was a man involved in an intimate relationship with his father’s wife. They were ordered to put this man out of the fellowship until the behavior changes. Then in verse 11 several other types of behavior unsuited to believers are included. General sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, and swindling are all mentioned, chapter 6 adds several others including homosexuality.

          Believers should lovingly hold one another accountable for maintaining behavioral standards consistent with Biblical teachings. (Matt. 18:15-35) & (Ephesians 4:25-32) contain other examples of inappropriate behavior. But that does not extend to judgment or condemnation, God will judge us all and condemnation was left at the cross. The dual objectives of any such action must always be forgiveness and restoration. For those objectives to be completed there must first be an acknowledgement of wrong (confession), and a change in behavior (repentance).
          I agree this high bar of accountability leaves many out, Matt 7:13 "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way”NLT. There is a very vocal minority in our denomination who want to surround themselves with teaches that will teach what satisfies their itching ears and the liberal professors infecting most seminaries today are eagerly spawning teachers to meet this demand. Please do not be deceived.

          • One needs only to visit the ruins and museums of Corinth, Athens, and Ephesus to bring to light the reality of the sexual immorality and depravity Paul saw when writing to these churches. Jesus told John in Revelation 1-3 to write of the duty of the seven churches of Asia Minor (of which there were many) to be greatful for the good things they were doing yet to deal with the idolatry and sexual immorlaity within their congregations. Since this advice was communicated in a New Testament prophecy of the ending of the present earth and the heavens and the coming of Jesus to bring us a new Heaven and new Earth, John Wesley took this as warning to all of Christ's churches since then and on into the furture to repent. Many Christian churches and nations in Paul's time have since been left in ruins by invaders and earthquakes. If we as a church and as a nation choose to repeat the sins of these early churches, we will find our churches and our nation left in similar ruins. When will we learn from such history?

    • You do understand..we all all sinners. Christ calls us to leave our sin. The homosexual agenda is to change what the bible says..We have to admit we SIN and that SIN needs to be repented for and we should strive to live holy lives that are pleasing to GOD………what you and many more Methodists are asking is that Christian approve this sin and change the Christian message that CHRIST died a horrible death to REDEEM us from the bondages of sin in our lives.,,,,,,the Bible makes all of this clear.

      The Bible says those who do not know HIM (meaning who have not received CHRIST or have not been born again ) will not understand this. You must be one of those who think Church is just an organization that needs to be politically correct. Before I accepted Christ at age 25, ( I had been raised in the Methodist Church) ; I did not understand any biblical principals and was blinded from TRUTH. The bible says there was a veil over my eyes. thought just like many who do not understand the cross of Christ. God Bless you and I pray that the Methodist Church will stand up for Christ and the message of repentance from sin.

  7. Amen Rev Young, amen!

  8. I hear what you have to say Don, but disagree with your interpretation. But whether or not I agree does not solve the original problem. Is your argument that unless you shun homosexuals, you are not fit to be a Methodist or a scout leader? If the rational for the Methodist position is not allowing leaders who do not believe homosexuality is a sin, the shouldn't I be bared as well? And yet, I am not, and I am quite involved in scouting and vocal in my support of all of God's children. Now if I was really to play devil's advocate, I'd be concerned about your qualifications as a scout leader based on your great concern for the "speck in someone else's eye, rather than the log in your own". That to me is a mockery of God's love.

    • Please expand the disagreement with my interpretation; all of it, some of it, one or two words?
      As for the belief requirements of a Christian leader, I feel they should mirror those defined in scripture. I also recognized that we all fall far short of that mark, even in our strongest spiritual moments. So the question does not come from what we believe but the sin that is in our being. This does not change based on our beliefs. If a thief believes stealing is not a sin then based on your logic shoplifting must be acceptable and we can pass no laws against shoplifting. Because some believe it is OK to steal. Also I am well aware of the many logs in my eyes and I am appreciative when Christian siblings offer to help bear my load in dealing with them. The liberal agenda denies the need the deal with my logs or others specks. While that position may provide temporary comfort it results in eternal condemnation and separation form the grace of God almighty. I reject the concept that sin should be affirmed as opposed to removed. I also reject the concept that scripture as interpreted over 2000 years can suddenly, in just the last 90 to 100 years, change so drastically. Many “experts” seem to think their or their colleagues work to be more inspired than the Holy Word. I do not feel we have a new inspiration and if there is one it does not come from Christ.

      • Don, you have not answered my question. If this is about shunning those who do not call what you believe is a sin a sin…they why are heterosexual leaders who disagree allowed by the church and scouting? If this issue really was about sin, according to your view, we'd be out as well.

  9. methodistpie says:

    The operative word in Boy Scouts is "Boys." I don't believe we need to inflict the culture wars on our children.
    I saw an article in The Huffington Post bemoaning the GTBQ (their initials) kids who are being denied participation in scouting. This is a serious question: I'm not sure what a Q Boy Scout would look like, but it's not something I want to deal with in the local church.

    • Indeed for the boys….for all the boys. I believe President Obama said it best: ”The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred" If you were a scout leader, you'd understand that there is no place in scouting for sexuality. Quite frankly, this ban brings sexuality into scouting, hence the problem.

      Re: your use of GTBQ, could you please provide the source for that, first time I've seen those initials used.

  10. methodistpie says:

    As I said, The Huffington Post. Though I saw Jon Stewart using GLBTQ on his show recently–and he wasn't making jokes at the time. For that matter, just Google in GLBTQ and you'll find a plethora of information. Of course, the L doesn't apply in the Boy Scout controversy.

  11. Methodistpie, I did google it, very intresting, thank you for the education. Q for questioning, that actually is incredibly inclusive, well done.

    Re: Lesbians in scouting does not apply to the Boy Scout controversy…Methodistpie, please, please educate yourself! The are at the core of this problem! Currently, Boy Scouts of America does not let lesbian mothers volunteer in their sons's units. For the safety of the boys…I think not! I would be hard pressed to think of anyone less likely to abuse a boy than a lesbian! If you are truly interested in learning more about how lesbians are at the epicenter of this controversy, I recommend you google a young man named Zach Walls, Eagle Scout, who did the Christian thing and honored his parents by standing up for his mothers' rights during a speech to the Iowa house, it's on youtube. This young man is nothing sort of amazing, the type of son any family would be proud to have…and yes, raised in a loving home, with values, by 2 gay women. Mr. Walls has gone forward to spearhead a national effort to have BSA open their ranks up to all youth interested in scouting values and adults interested in teaching them.

    And before you say that scouting values include declaring homosexuality a sin…you are dead wrong. All that scouting requires of it's members, both adult and youth, is that they recognize that there is something outside of themselves, greater than themselves…leaving those invidividual to pursue their spirituality through their families and houses of worship. I have been a very active adult leader, including being Woodbadge trained, and have sat on Eagle Boards of Reviews for 10 years, I know what I'm talking about.

  12. methodistpie says:

    I know, some are using Q as questioning, but go to GLBTQ.COM and see what pops up first and foremost. The Huffington Post article was about GBTQ, without the L., so I was just reporting. For what it's worth, I don't think Zach is a lesser person than any other person. I am just weary of the culture wars being imposed on the church and don't see any good to come of this. You may be right, I may be wrong, but that's my opinion. I don't particularly appreciate your sarcasm, but I realize that's part and parcel of the culture war: One side is mean, the other is smug. Most of the rest of us are just trying to muddle through.

  13. Methodistpie, I was being sincere when I thanked you for sending me googling the term. This may be one of those cases where emails and blogs are not effecient methods of communications, easily open to misinterpretation, truely no offense was meant.

    That said, your statment "of course, the "L" doesn't apply in the controversy, I stand my challange. I find it so frustrating to have folks, albiet good and faithful fellow Methodists, taking a vocal stand on an issue they haven't taken the time to learn about. If you ask me, there is no place for sexuality in scouting; hetero, homo, any of it. It's just not what we're doing. This ban brings the topic in. Take away the ban, let local units put members they trust in charge of this wonderful character development program. Problem solved.

  14. methodistpie says:

    Txdoula, Thanks for the clarification. I do appreciate your evident sincerity. You and I are entirely agreed on this: There is no place for sexuality in scouting. We just have different ideas about the implications of the proposed BSA policy change. I actually feel very badly for the Scouting leadership, including the UMM: They are between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one. I am a pastor who, according to the scout rules, signs the charter for our group every year. For better or worse, that's about the extent of my involvement–but I guess it sort of does make me responsible for what goes on. We would not tolerate disrespect of any persons at any level of our congregational life, but, from past experience, I don't have a lot of trust in the activists on either side of this culture war and, to the extent that it's still possible, I am trying to steer what I see as a middle course.

    • txdoula says:

      It is a very delicate time, that's for sure. Our local minister reminded our congregation that there good folks on both sides of this issue, no truer words were ever spoken. Here's my thought, if we make sexuality a non-issue in scouting, including removing the ban on scouters based on their sexuality, move not with any sexuality agenda at all, but rather with working a proven 102 year old program that does a great job of developing strong citizenship, outdoor skills, leadership skils and exposes boys to many interesting careers (plumbing, aviation, engineering, healthcare, etc)…its a win/win for all involved.

      One thing, re: your being a charter organization rep, I hear what you say about signing the form. That's the impression most charter org reps have of their position. That said, if you look at the organization chart in any Cub Scout handbook, you'll see that ya'll are at the top of the chart. I think you and all charter org reps have a very important role in the life of the troop, not so much in the day to day management of the unit, but more being sure they are running a good quality program according to BSA standards. If ya'll have a fully functioning council, the unit commissioners are a valuable resource both for the troops/packs & charter org reps.

      I have enjoyed talking to you. Perhaps if more of us were talking, there would be less yelling…:)

  15. mud2203 says:

    I am saddened by yet another attempt to keep the world the same, it is changing and will continue to do so. We will either keep up or be lost in the dust of the past.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)


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