BOY SCOUTS

On Boy Scouts, Tampa church pulls welcome mat

 
 
MCT
MCT
MCT

carlton@tampabay.com

It is an old church, one of those Tampa 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 last 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 last 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. 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.

Sue Carlton is a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
RUPPAL

    MEDICINE

    Smartphones can help fight AIDS

    Coming in third may mean a bronze medal at the Olympics, but in Florida, data shows that three is not a cause for celebration. The Sunshine State ranks third in the nation for the cumulative number of AIDS cases, and it’s the third worst state for physician shortages.

  •  
SANCHEZ

    NAFTA

    Border crisis overshadows trade progress

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your presidential campaign ads.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">ON THE EDGE:</span> An Israeli reserve tank stands near the Israeli-Gaza border as frantic efforts were underway on the diplomatic front to end the fighting at the start of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

    MIDDLE EAST

    This is a fight Israel did not seek

    The current conflict in Gaza was not of Israel’s choosing. Israelis, like all civilized humans, are shocked and saddened by the loss of innocent life and the destruction of war. While Israel had done everything possible to avoid large-scale armed confrontation, the immediate and lethal threat to the lives of its civilian population left the government with no choice but to defend its citizens.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category