East Cobb’s Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in metro Atlanta, says it will no longer sponsor a Boy Scout troop due to the organization’s acceptance of gay youth as members.
“We didn’t pick this controversy, and we’re deeply saddened by it,” said the Rev. Bryant Wright, senior pastor, in a video posted on the church’s website.
Earlier this week, Roswell Street Baptist Church — which sponsored its first troop in 1945 — announced it was severing ties with the scouts. The two Cobb churches, members of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, have about 7,000 members combined.
“We’re not going to openly embrace that which stands opposed to God’s word,” Roswell Street pastor Ernest Easley told Channel 2 Action News. “You’ve got boys in there in a tent that are sexually attracted to other boys, whose hormones are going off the wall. Something is going to happen.”
Georgia Equality executive director Jeff Graham said the churches sent a clear message to gay youth.
“They are telling kids who are gay that they are not welcome here,” Graham told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think it’s shameful that these churches would choose to penalize children.”
In the video explaining Johnson Ferry’s decision, Wright, until recently president of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, said the Boy Scouts of America were confusing “affirmation of sin” with acceptance.
“When a young boy, who is struggling with sexual identity or feels he is gay, comes to his scout leader for counseling and advice, we’re committed to pray with that young man and urge him to live a life of sexual purity consistent with God’s word,” Wright said. “And if a young man feels he is gay and is unwilling to lead a life of sexual purity, according to Scripture, then he would expelled. The key is a willingness to repent or to change.”
It’s unclear how the loss of church sponsors will affect the Scouts. Officials with the Boy Scouts of America told Channel 2 that less than 5 percent of Atlanta-area churches that sponsor troops have chosen to end their relationship with the organization.
“I don’t think this should be seen as reflection on all churches,” said Graham, “but rather just one particular element.”
Calls seeking comment from the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts and the BSA were not returned.
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