Our church is in the process of being chartered by the Boy Scouts of America to host a Cub Scout Pack affiliated with one of our local elementary schools! We are so excited about this ministry! In fact, our first meeting is tonight. I pray blessings on the boys, their leaders, and the ministry that we are able to do with and through them.
The reason we are a new host to a Cub Scout Pack that has been around for awhile is a story I want to share. Let me start by saying I am not trying to shame anyone by telling this story. I am trying to get at the center of how to be church and how the church screws up being the body of Christ to the broken world, all the time.
In July I was approached by a person in our congregation asking if we would be willing to host a Cub Scout Pack. [Now this is the first teachable moment for all clergy and lay people out there who are reading this post: we can be gate keepers (watching the gates for anyone or anything we should keep out), or we can be Spirit Dwellers (allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the ministry and following where it will go), but we cannot be both at the same time.] In response to his question, I asked, what would that require of us? He didn’t know, but was willing to find out. I followed that by explaining that his timing couldn’t be better, as our board was meeting that week (we meet quarterly) and I am sure they would want to bless this endeavor. That’s when he told me why he was asking.
It seems that his son has done very well in this Cub Scout Pack and loves the work that they do together. As I said before, it is the Cub Scout Pack that is affiliated with his elementary school. And this Pack was being disbanded because the Minister of the church and the Pack leader did not want to be affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America any more. (Gate keeping, anyone?) The reason they did not want to be affiliated with the BSA is because on Thursday May 23, 2013 the BSA passed the following resolution changing their membership standards for youth participating in scouting. BSA Membership Standards Resolution The decision now removes the requirement for Scouting groups to deny membership to gay young people who would like to participate.
That’s right, a boy in my congregation was losing his Cub Scout Pack because the Minister and Pack Leader at the church where his Cub Scout Pack was chartered did not want to serve an organization that would allow gay children to be a part of it. Specifically they were pulling their Pack out of Scouts and joining a different scout like ministry for boys (that defines boys as liking girls? Even though most Cub Scouts think girls are yucky no matter their sexual orientation which they are still discovering.).
After hearing that…I really wanted to make this church that Pack’s home.
So we brought the idea to the board and they approved the exploration of the idea, and blessed any decisions the Ministry Team would make in any further ministry to this Pack. Meanwhile the father of the boy in our congregation has worked his tail off all summer to prepare for becoming the new leader this Cub Scout Pack, which would need to be rebuilt because the other church was keeping the pack, just joining another organization. And our Moderator of the Board has taken on the role of being the liaison from the church to the Pack, and ministry is taking off! They had their first meeting tonight!
There are some issues with the other church still, but we are moving forward in our ministry to those boys and their families and we are so excited.
There is another issue though…last night as I was going out for a late dinner run after Choir practice, I passed that same church that is rejecting the BSA. It has a lit changeable marquee in front of it. And on the sign this week it had a short message to tell people about this week’s sermon and followed that message with this tagline “ALL ARE WELCOME”
What are we, the church, teaching the world when we misuse the definitions of words? It was my understanding that the word “ALL” was all encompassing. In this case, it seems, all is all encompassing unless you are gay, or your children are gay. Then you are not welcome. Apparently Jesus has no word of hope or joy or faith for you if you are gay.
I have many colleagues including friends to whom I am very close who are deeply challenged by the idea that the church must define who is included in all. “Shouldn’t a word mean what it’s definition says?” “Why do we have to name all the people who are included when we say all are welcome?” I guess it is because for so many years and even today there are churches who say “all” but actually mean, all who fit into our norm and no one else.
One reason people my age and younger do not trust the church is because the church lies about who is welcome. It might be unintentional, but it is perceived as a lie when we, the church say “ALL ARE WELCOME” but what we mean is, all are welcome unless you don’t look like us, or worship like us, or love like us, or think like us, or have the same politics as us, or get around like us…and so on, and so forth.
I understand the resistance to hash and rehash who is welcome. And I understand why it feels ridiculous. However, if we as church mean to be welcoming to ALL…sometimes we have to say, even if you’ve been rejected somewhere else by the body of Christ, you are welcome AND WILL BE ACCEPTED here.
I have not spoken directly to the pastor of the church who is rejecting the Cub Scout Pack we are welcoming, so I haven’t asked if he realizes the mixed message he is sending, but what I realized is that it doesn’t matter if he intended the message to be mixed or not. The message was already sent. And if I were looking for a church, I would not likely have the grace to give that church another chance, since there are so many others to choose from.
If we are going to be church, sometimes we have to name our sin, and the sin that is ours by association, and then we have to live into repentance by intentionally being the body of Christ differently than we were or even than we were perceived to be. We cannot control what people will perceive, but we can be clear in our message and in our actions.