Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: On Boy Scouts and gays, Tampa church should ask: WWJD?

It is an old church, one of those stunners you happen upon along Hyde Park's cobbled streets — red-bricked and stain-glassed, a church of gleaming wood floors and a sanctuary that makes you whisper. This church has weathered nearly 90 years of a city growing up around it.

And for decades, the tall church between downtown Tampa and its wealthiest neighborhoods has sponsored the proud Boy Scout Troop 4, a bit of history in itself.

Over nearly a century, thousands of Scouts learned about rowing and camping and friendship in Troop 4 before they went off to become a city's fathers and grandfathers, its lawyers and leaders.

Then, four years ago, the old First Christian Church sold and became Holy Trinity Presbyterian.

Last May, the Boy Scouts of America voted in a policy still reverberating across the country, saying no Scout could be kept out simply for being gay.

It seemed a no-brainer to those of us who believed Scouting was about mentoring all kinds of kids, but fallout from more conservative churches was not unexpected.

So this week word came to Troop 4 from the church that had long been its home:

By year's end, no more stacking canoes, displaying trophies or holding meetings in the old "Scout hut" they built at the church back in 1963.

If gays are officially welcome in your midst, you are no longer welcome in ours.

The letter tried to be nice. Church leaders called the Scouts "kind, responsible occupants." But there was that "unpleasantness occasioned by the Boy Scout policy change," putting the Boy Scouts of America at "cross-purposes with our commitment to the Scriptures." You understand.

Apparently that part in the Boy Scout oath pledging "duty to God" wasn't enough. The Scouts were out.

Which begs the obvious question:

Is it Christian to kick them out due to this newly inclusive policy because it includes those of whom you disapprove?

Or more succinctly: What would Jesus do?

Calls poured in to Pastor Steve Casselli this week, equal parts supportive and definitely not. He says the decision was difficult, but it was the Boy Scouts of America that changed, not the church. And that's true.

"So what would Jesus do?" he says to my question. "Jesus would speak the truth, and love, and he would not withhold the hard edges of his truth."

Despite that historic, controversial vote, 97 percent of the organizations that charter Scouting troops in eight counties including Hillsborough and Pasco are staying put right now. That's according to George McGovern, CEO of the Gulf Ridge Council that encompasses Scouting in those counties.

"That's very positive," he says. "They understand what these groups can do to mentor young people." All young people, I want to add.

And not to worry for the brave Scouts of Troop 4 and whether they will have a place to meet besides next to a campfire. Former scoutmaster Brian FitzGerald says they have gotten calls and emails about "a number of possibilities." Still it seems a sad end to some history.

So maybe this is like a Biblical parable, one about hope for changing minds and hearts over time, even ones locked inside a very old church.

Carlton: On Boy Scouts and gays, Tampa church should ask: WWJD? 08/29/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)

    Golf

    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.