By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN In light of the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy affirming openly homosexual youth, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winsted has decided to separate itself from the national organization.
“Sexuality has never been, nor should it ever be, a part of Scouting,” said Pastor Mark Loder, who served two years as a Scouts commissioner and four years as leader of Winsted Cub Scouts Pack 399.
Since the organization was founded, the Boy Scouts basically had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” view when it came to sexual orientation, Loder said.
In April, however, the membership policy was changed (effective Jan. 1, 2014) to specifically state, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
Although the policy also states “any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” many conservative Christians are concerned.
“Now that it has become a public issue, we feel compelled to take a public stance,” Loder said.
The church council of St. John’s met June 2 to discuss the new policy, unanimously agreeing to remove the church’s charter status with Boy Scouts of America, effective immediately. The church hopes to transition pack leadership within the next few months.
Currently, 40 to 45 youth participate in Cub Scouts in Winsted.
“It’s my desire to see this pack find some new leaders; my goal is to not see this pack go away,” Loder said, explaining that both he and his wife value the developmental skills Scouting provides to youth.
As an option for families that choose to leave Cub Scouts, St. John’s is currently researching alternative groups such as On My Honor and Faith Based Boys.
Loder is also exploring the possibility of starting a community, faith-based development group, instead of aligning with a national organization.
“It’s so new, we’re not sure which direction we’re going to go,” Loder said, adding that he hopes a group will be in place by the end of the year.
So far, Loder said he’s received several comments in support of the church’s decision. Only one person has voiced opposition, and Loder said the caller was not willing to discuss the issue with him.
“It’s often spun that we’re shunning homosexuals, and that’s not it, at all,” Loder said. “I, myself, have friends who are homosexual. But, they also know that I believe it is sinful behavior, no different than the sins I deal with on a daily basis.”
Repenting of sin and being reconciled with God is key, according to Loder. He explained that disagreeing with homosexual behavior is not discrimination; it is simply disagreeing with sinful conduct.
Loder said it’s important for the church to stand on its convictions, even when it’s not easy.
“The Scripture tells us to love our neighbor, but people also have to understand that the first words of Jesus’ public ministry were ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’” Loder said, adding that Jesus came to reconcile people to God.
To learn more about the Boy Scouts of America membership policy, go to www.scouting.org.