Great Stuff — Boy Scouts of America: Why the Proposed Policy Change Matters

Found on the WMLTblog. President Harrison speaks of a possible change that will affect hundreds of LCMS churches across the country, including my own. Our leadership is very concerned with what we will do if this change takes place.


A statement by the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
May 16, 2013

BoyScoutsWestern culture is at a crucial moment in history. After 103 years of existence, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may vote to change drastically its membership policy. For those who may be unaware, the BSA, in recent months, has discussed allowing both gay Scouts and Scout leaders into its organization. Recently, however, the BSA has changed its course. Now the vote will determine only whether to include openly homosexual Scouts as members.

LCMS leaders have been carefully monitoring the proposed BSA policy changes. When news of the proposed change was made public, I sent a letter to BSA, imploring its leadership not to make the proposed policy change. And even though the initial proposal to focus on Scout leaders has been shelved, I believe the current proposal still has unknown implications for the future of BSA as well as LCMS support and involvement. The proposed change will highlight sexuality, which has not been and should not be a matter of focus for Scouts. I suspect it will make it more challenging to care for young people struggling with same-sex attraction and perhaps open our churches to legal action.

This vote matters to the LCMS. The proposed change in BSA policy on values and membership to include openly homosexual Scouts adversely affects, even supersedes, the authority of the local pastor and congregation by allowing and promoting a moral position that we as LCMS Lutherans believe is against the will of God and in opposition to Holy Scripture.

This vote matters because, if enacted, the proposed change to BSA policy on values and membership will cause a crisis of conscience for our church leaders, pastors, parents and congregations. Even if the decision of values and membership remains at the local level, Scouts from troops sponsored by congregations of the LCMS will be affected because, as part of the scouting program, they also participate at regional and national scouting activities.

This vote matters because, for more than a century, scouting has sought to uphold moral values at a level greater than that of general society. The capitulation now to societal pressures would mar the long and honorable history of the Boy Scouts to honor the natural law of God, which at least for now, is still reflected in the current scouting membership policy.

For these reasons, I and some 25 other Protestant church leaders have signed onto a statement, copied below, that implores BSA not to change its policy, noting that, “In our current culture, it’s more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.”  The statement will be released in conjunction with its delivery to the BSA office and before the organization’s vote, which will take place May 24.

I share this with you today because it is difficult to know which of our LCMS BSA members will be part of the 1,400 members who will vote on the policy change later this month. I am hopeful that all of you will share this information with those in your congregation who are involved with BSA and even those in your community who will cast votes later this month.

As the church awaits the BSA vote, we still have much to do. We repent, and we pray. We confess Christ and elevate marriage among us. We do what the church does best: We bear witness to Christ, show mercy to those in our midst — including those challenged by same-sex attraction — and care for all in our life together.

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod




We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision.  Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions.  Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future.  A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation or preference” for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions.  In our current culture, it’s more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.  We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well.


To read the signatories of this statement, Click here


A related story can be found on Reporter here: LCMS joins call for Boy Scouts to reject policy change

More information on this change in policy can also be found at

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — Boy Scouts of America: Why the Proposed Policy Change Matters — 31 Comments

  1. Someone sagely pointed out that homosexuals lobbying to be allowed to join the Boy Scouts is like a heretic who rejects the Nicene Creed demanding that the Lutheran Church stop discriminating against him.

  2. @Pastor Ted Crandall #1

    They’ll be after the conservative churches next.
    A good many of them [***A] grew up with the Small Catechism, are doing their best to forget what Scripture says, by making sure nobody else remembers/is allowed to remind them. 🙁

  3. Maybe it is time for LCMS congregations to go back to what they had when I was a kid. Our church had its own scouting group, Lutheran Pioneers. It appears the world continues on its path away from Biblical traditions, morals, laws and ethics.

  4. helen :
    @Pastor Ted Crandall #1
    They’ll be after the conservative churches next.
    A good many of them [***A] grew up with the Small Catechism, are doing their best to forget what Scripture says, by making sure nobody else remembers/is allowed to remind them.

    They especially want to be sure that their children don’t know and can’t come back and complain.

  5. I’m born and raised LCMS. A bigger tragedy happened to the Girl Scouts 20 years ago when they made God optional and now every Girl Scout member (yes, even the ones in our churches) are members of an international, pro-abortion coalition called World Association for Girl Guides (WAGGS). My husband is an Eagle Scout with two daughters. We prayed for an alternative because we could not morally fund this kind of activity. Then, we discovered American Heritage Girls, a wonderful Christ-centered program for girls! We have a troop at our LCMS church too. I’m so glad to see the support and prayers for the boys of our nation, but I hope as the dust settles, the LCMS will rally around our daughters too. Many Right to Life groups, including Missouri Right to Life issued a statement warning prolife families of the dangers of Girl Scouts. American Heritage Girls, on the other hand is a pro-life, pro-God program for girls to grow in their faith and serve in their community through the same methods of scouting. We are blessed to have found it.

  6. @Rev. Loren Zell #3

    Lutheran Pioneers is a WELS/ELS organization. There is an equivalent organization in LCMS called Lutheran Rangers, which started from a Lutheran Pioneer train in a LCMS congregation prior to the Synodical Conference break-up.

    For girls, WELS/ELS has Lutheran Girl Pioneers. I don’t know of an equivalent LCMS organization for girls.

  7. My daughter too is in an AHG troop, the biggest one in Cincinnati, and I thought everything was pretty much safe until the other night’s awards ceremony when the keynote speaker, citing a story she saw on Oprah, told the girls how they need to find the goodness inside them, along with some other New-Age, postmodern advice. It was a purposeful lesson in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – the same kind of stuff her older brother often gets exposed to in his Boy Scout troop. (He’s catechized and discerning, which sometimes creates interesting moments.)

    AHG may be a little better than Girl Scouts, but I’m afraid I can no longer rest assured that what my daughter is being exposed to is going to always be Christ-centered & Gospel-friendly.

    If your daughter is in AHG or considering joining, things may look good, but keep a watchful eye!

  8. I pray the troop coordinator, troop shepherd and pastor can encourage the troop to follow the AHG program and get back on Biblical principles for the girls. My AHG experience has been wonderful and grounded in Biblical principles. prayers to you 🙂

  9. @mother of daughters #9
    Here I am monitoring the BSA decision for my son, and now I have this unexpected development with my daughter!

    FYI: The troop shepherd is LCMS (from my own church) and the pastor is United Methodist. Thanks for the prayers.

  10. Doesn’t this touch on our obligations as church members?

    I made my son put a this copy in his confirmation folder:


    By signing our constitution, you have assumed a twofold obligation, the general obligation of a Christian and the special obligation of a voting member of our congregation.

    The general obligations of a Christian you assumed already when you were baptized and confirmed, and by signing our constitution, you have merely repeated the promises previously made. Those promises consist in this, that as Lutheran Christians you will believe and confess the truth and lead a godly life.

    The new obligations which you have assumed are these: –

    That you will not absent yourselves from public worship, neither on Sunday nor on any festival day nor on a weekday, unless you are compelled to do so;
    That you will attend every voters’ meeting unless prevented by circumstances beyond your control;
    That you will at all times be concerned about the welfare of the congregation and foster it in every way possible. That you will –
    Give us the benefit of your advice;
    Always vote for what you consider right;
    Contribute according to your means toward the support of church and school and of the poor in our midst.
    When voting for new pastors, teachers, elders, or other officers of the congregation, let your vote be prompted alone by your concern for the congregation’s welfare;
    Gladly submit to admonition from the Word of God; when you see others sin, practice brotherly admonition instead of talking about them behind their backs; and when a case of church discipline comes up for discussion, proceed strictly according to the Word of God;
    Submit to the rules and regulations made by our congregation, see to it that others observe them, and do all that is in your power to foster harmony;
    In case doctrinal controversies should occur (which we ask God graciously to prevent), judge strictly according to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.

    4. That you will often pray for the congregation;
    5. That you will patiently bear with the weak in our midst;
    6. That you will join no other religious organization; especially not a secret order; that you will not send your children to the non-religious public schools;
    7. Finally, that you will faithfully remain one of us unto death or until the Lord may lead you elsewhere.

    If you succeed with the grace of God in carrying out these promises, your membership will prove a blessing to others; but above all you yourselves will enjoy the fruits of our vineyard. May God graciously grant it! Amen.

  11. So when it came out that the BSA had secret files of known abusers that they did not report to police, the LCMS says nothing. But when a politically charged argument comes up regarding gay members, the LCMS is willing to make a statement to the nation.
    Yeah, this is why nobody takes you people seriously. Stop pretending you have the moral high ground.

  12. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if the LCMS has become rather moralistic lately, and in a skewed sort of way.

    We sanction, approve, support, and defend twice- or thrice-divorced pastors and laypeople; we tell them that it’s OK to use contraception (because the Bible doesn’t specifically mention the word, although it condemns the practice) and engage in unnatural, intentionally-non-procreative heterosexual sex; we encourage young men and young women to avoid marriage for as long as (unnaturally) possible, so as to pursue a college education and a financially-prosperous career; we devise “therapies” for persons with same-sex sexual attraction and “baptize” them under the name of “pastoral care” (as if Baptism and the Lord’s Supper weren’t good enough); and so on.

    So, in response to our own sin, we march on Washington against abortion, decry in vitro fertilization and human cloning, and write letters about Boy Scouts, the latter of which we used to be against, but we changed when we lost our first love, Orthodox Lutheranism, and started listening to folks like Theodore Graebner and the American Lutheran Church.

    (Just so you know, military chaplaincy for the LCMS is almost over as well.)

    What a sad, sad state we’re in, that in order to assuage our collective guilt we have come to behave like Baptists.

    Oh, and I suspect that the “gay” community will translate this document as, “We don’t want your gay kids in our churches.”

    Just great.

  13. Hi Marc from Cincy, would you be willing to share your AHG troop number/charter location? @MoD

    Dear Mother if Daughters:

    In love, “no”. 🙂

    I’d be happy to chat offline, but I wouldn’t know how to arrange it.

    I really meant it when I said thanks for your prayers. Please do so.

    I plan to have a quiet word with our troop Shepard soon on this incident.

    Hopefully, it’s isolated, but considering that MTD reigns as a popular doctrine in many UMC churches (the chartered partner in this case), I’m not surprised. It was the Chartered Rep, after all, who proudly introduced the speaker, “who has a special spirit!” -yikes!

    My whole point was to remind us all that just because a mission statement and handbook sounds great, and others like yourself give a ringing endorsement of something, it doesn’t mean the volunteer leaders are equipped against the enemy’s subtle infiltration. “Be wise as serpents…”

  14. @Scheer 15- Are you saying the LCMS has knowledge of sexual abuse incidents that they have not reported to the police or a Human Services agency?

  15. Starting back when no one dared mention the unspeakable, the Boy Scouts of America placed the greatest importance on creating the most secure environment possible for its youth members and therefore adopted several policies for the safety and well-being of its members, policies which have become the standard in government schools and other organizations that serve our children.

  16. Robert’s points, especially the one about remarriage of divorced persons, are very good. I still welcome, however, Pres Harrison’s letter, for irrational personal reasons of suffering.

    I wonder if you who always were in LCMS, WELS, ELS, or other confessional Lutheran synods know the tribulation of people like us who had to decide, over a dragged out, miserable period of time, to leave places like the ALC when it abandoned Luther’s view of Scripture. Some thought it better to stay to effect correction and restoration from within. They stayed, struggled, and failed. Others saw no hope in that and left earlier, becoming bereaved of their friends and family whom they left behind.

    The same is now about to happen with Scouting. All my brothers and I are Eagles. All of my sons are Eagles. All of my nephews are Eagles. We are engaged in another tribulation of bereavement, misery, saddness, and gloom.

    The message from President Harrison and the others whom he has joined is encouraging. At least someone noticed us, saw our plight, and tried to help.

    My grandfather left Norway, I left the ALC, and now all my family might have to leave Scouting. Truly, life is a sojourn in a foreign land where we have no home. But it clarifies things. Our homes are in our marriages, our families, the Word, the Sacraments, the assembly of sinner-saints, our vocations, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

    Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

  17. @ #17 “@Scheer 15- Are you saying the LCMS has knowledge of sexual abuse incidents that they have not reported to the police or a Human Services agency?”

    See back issues of Christian News for coverage of this topic.

  18. @ Scheer 18- Internal Investigation is done in place of reporting the accusation to authorities? Aren’t clergy mandated reporters? I know that anyone affiliated with a school or day care is, and that in itself includes many pastors.
    How pastors justify not reporting allegations of abuse?

  19. Excerpts from the CTCR’s THE PASTOR-PENITENT RELATIONSHIP: Privileged Communications (September 1999):

    [p. 5:] Some states have enacted statutes compelling certain professionals, including clergymen, to report suspected cases of child abuse, even where the suspicion or knowledge arises in the context of a confession. [5]

    [pp. 11-12:] The vow to keep confidences must be viewed in conjunction with other obligations that also bind the pastor. When a pastor’s vow to keep confidences conflicts with other solemn promises he has made, pastoral judgments have to be made by weighing the conflicting and competing interests involved. [24] In a sense, then, the vow of confidentiality does not stand alone as absolute.

    [p. 14, CTCR Guidelines:] 1. A communication made by a penitent seeking absolution for a particular act must not be divulged, even if the act was criminal and even if the law may compel its disclosure.[31] We recognize that in such an instance, the pastor’s refusal may lead to criminal prosecution while his disclosure may lead to church discipline….

    4. Where a communication is made (whether in or outside the context of a confession) suggestive of an intended and/or imminent harmful act such that the person’s or someone else’s safety would be jeopardized if steps were not taken to hinder the penitent, a pastor must exercise his judgment in protecting the interests of those in danger.” [34]


    5. See, e.g., Ohio Revised Code, Section 2151.421.

    24. In appropriate circumstances a pastor should consider encouraging the penitent to reveal his or her sinful conduct to those harmed by it or even to the authorities. Also, referral to other professionals for help in dealing with the behavior and its underlying cause(s) may be appropriate. This responsibility would become even more acute in instances where, for example, a penitent may truly be “sorry” for his or her sinful conduct but the pastor determines that the penitent is likely to repeat that conduct. Persons who have abused children or who have embezzled funds must not be left in positions where temptation may overcome them. See also footnotes 25 and 26 below.

    25. Consider, for example, a church member who “confesses” to swindling numerous elderly members in a variety of investment scams and is now intending to move to another city where, the pastor suspects, he will undertake the same nasty business.

    26. An example of this is the member who embezzled funds from the church and, after suspecting that the pastor may be on to him, hurriedly “confessed” his sin before restoring the loss through monies stolen elsewhere. The pastor has every right to institute church discipline in accordance with Matt. 18:15-18.

    31. Cf. footnote 24.

    34. Of course, in such circumstances a pastor should first spend the available time with the penitent urging and admonishing that person against any such threatened harmful acts. Also, the person in the greatest danger of harm may be the penitent himself or herself (e.g., where the penitent may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs). Generally, a pastor should seek that course of action which least impacts on the confidentiality of communications made to him as pastor.

  20. @DonnaNobleSmith #22
    The only exemption for reporting is the confessional seal. Nothing there can be divulged, even if the pastor has to suffer jail for it. This is due to a) the vows made at ordination and also b) some state laws often forbid this kind of revelation (revealing matters from confession in some states is a criminal offense)

    I have heard some folks advocate mandatory reporting in all circumstances, but that is not in keeping with our theology and practice surrounding the rite of individual confession.

  21. Queer scouts have been approved by more than 60 percent of local Scout leaders!

    Boy Scouts Approve Plan To Accept Openly Gay Boys:

    The Boy Scouts of America’s National Council has voted to ease a long-standing ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted as Scouts. Of the local Scout leaders voting at their annual meeting in Texas, more than 60 percent supported the proposal. Under the proposal drafted by the Scouts’ governing board, gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders. The outcome is unlikely to end a bitter debate over the Scouts’ membership policy. Some conservative churches that sponsor Scout units wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted. More liberal Scout leaders – while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth – have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.

    Now to see how many church bodies tell BSA where they can shove their decision (in a manner of speaking) and remove their sponsored troops from Scouting.

    Who will be the first? What are the odds that the LCMS will remove their troops from BSA (Boy Sodomy Association) within the next six months?

  22. @Carl Vehse 26- You should be very ashamed by what you just wrote. It is possible to discuss this issue without the hateful language and crude innuendo, but you’ve chosen not to do it. Disappointing.

  23. @DonnaNobleSmith #27,

    I reject your politically correct opinion. While the shameful and disloyal action by 60 percent of local Scout leaders is certainly hurtful and abusive to those Boy Scouts whose troops will now have to leave the BSA, my statements accurately reflect the moral abyss they have taken Scouting. My description of a perversion employs a term that has been used since 1922, was in common used in the 1960s, and for decades has been used by homosexual perverts themselves. I prefer that accurate descriptive being used rather than the abuse of “gay” as a descriptive of immorality.

    What you should focus your pique on, instead, is the satanic treachery of the BSA Executive Council – BSA President Wayne M. Perry, immediate past-President Rex Tillerson, Terrence P. Dunn, Randall L. Stephenson, Lyle R. Knight, Nathan O. Rosenberg, Jack D. Furst, O. Temple Sloan Jr., Earl G. Graves, Drayton McLane Jr., Bruce D. Parker, Matthew K. Rose, Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., Stephen B. King, Arthur F. Oppenheimer, Robert J. Smith, David M. Weekley, Jim Turley, Hector Perez, Aubrey B. Harwell Jr, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, R. Michael Daniel, and Wayne Brock – whose proposal led the BSA toward the pleasures of hell. They now have any remaining BSA membership and sponsors to accompany them. The wicked and evil actions by these men deserve our contempt and ridicule.

  24. Pastor Joshua Scheer :
    @DonnaNobleSmith #22
    The only exemption for reporting is the confessional seal. Nothing there can be divulged, even if the pastor has to suffer jail for it. This is due to a) the vows made at ordination and also b) some state laws often forbid this kind of revelation (revealing matters from confession in some states is a criminal offense)
    I have heard some folks advocate mandatory reporting in all circumstances, but that is not in keeping with our theology and practice surrounding the rite of individual confession.

    A few years back the Illinois Supreme Court threw out a conviction of a man because his pastor had broken confessional seal and told the authorities what the man confessed. The court was very harsh in its words for the pastor who broke the confessional seal. So when it comes to something that is told to me in confession I do not discuss it with anyone. I treat it as something that only the Lord Himself heard. If or when the time comes when the state prosecutes me for failing to report I will suffer the punishment of the state rather than disobey my vows before God.

  25. Let me add that I hold to my vow never to reveal anything told to me in confession in spite of the Illinois Supreme Court ruling, not because of it. My point is that so far the courts have by and large (in the US) upheld the confessional seal. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this will last.

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