Twiggs church among several in area to cut ties with Boy Scouts over allowing gay members

jwilliams@macon.comJuly 19, 2013 

BSA_Church

Dwayne Bedingfield, pastor of Mount Zion Church in Danville, explains the careful consideration his membership gave before severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America. The Boys Scouts’ recent decision to allow gays in the organization led to his church’s decision. He said his church and the Boy Scouts were moving in different directions.

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DANVILLE -- Mount Zion Baptist Church in Twiggs County is among a handful of Middle Georgia churches to cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America after the organization’s controversial decision earlier this year to allow gay members.

The Scouts decided in May decision to allow gay Scouts beginning Jan. 1.

Garrett Williams, an executive at the Boy Scouts of America Council of Central Georgia, said about six or seven churches in the area have decided to cut ties with the troops they chartered, but he would not speculate whether more churches would follow suit. Nationally, about 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with faith-based organizations.

The Rev. Dwayne Bedingfield of Mount Zion Baptist said this week that after a month of consideration, a group of the church’s leaders voted unanimously July 7 to end the church’s relationship with the troop it chartered last year, Pack 962.

“I’m not angry with the Boy Scouts, but I am disappointed with the Boy Scouts,” Bedingfield said. “They are within their rights to change, and we’re within our rights to say we choose not to be associated with it.”

Bedingfield said his church believes homosexuality is a sin alongside adultery, alcoholism, lying and cheating. Although he never viewed the troop as part of the church’s ministry, he said the church could not continue to partner with Boy Scouts when the organization publicly declared its core values were no longer aligned with the church’s.

Bedingfield said a meeting he had with troop leader Jamie McDaniel, who is a member of the church, was positive and that they mutually agreed that cutting the troop’s ties with the church was the right decision. Bedingfield said McDaniel requested that the troop be allowed to withdraw from the church instead of disbanding, and he agreed. McDaniel declined to comment on the situation.

Williams said the midstate Boy Scouts Council is working with the troop to find a new partnership and that several organizations in Twiggs County have offered to support the troop.

“I’m confident (the Boy Scouts) will still be a presence in the community,” Williams said.

Bobby Jones, director of the Laurens (County) Baptist Association, said he knows several area churches are looking at alternatives to Boy Scouts, although he declined to give names of specific churches.

“Very few of our Baptist churches are staying with Boy Scouts, if any,” Jones said.

Robert Tucker is one of the den leaders with Pack 560, which is associated with Pine Forest United Methodist Church in Dublin. He said he thinks multiple churches in the area, including Pine Forest, are taking a “wait and see” approach. He said his troop is waiting to see if there will be additional changes from Boy Scouts of America before the end of the year. In the meantime, his troop is exploring alternative programs.

Tucker said he is not anti-gay, and that gay Scouts could join programs similar to the Boy Scouts. “But don’t take a private, faith-based organization that’s been around 100 years and destroy it,” Tucker said.

Tucker said he thinks alternative programs in line with church values will replace many Scout troops, especially in the South.

“Scouting is dead in the Southeast, and it will never recover,” Tucker said.

But Williams said Scouting in Middle Georgia is alive and well. He said those six or seven troops that lost their church’s charter have not had trouble finding new organizations to sponsor them.

“In a lot of cases, the adult leadership is still active and wants to have a Scout program,” Williams said.

In addition to the troops surviving charter changes, Williams said seven new programs were formed this year, all of which were aware of the changes to membership standards.

He also said many churches, including Baptist churches, have decided to continue hosting their troops, and he cautioned against painting the decisions of individual churches with a broad brush.

Cele Minshew, office manager at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Macon, said that as far as she knows there have been no changes or discussion of changes regarding the troops hosted at the church.

Tom Whatley, the Boy Scout’s chartered organization representative for Vineville United Methodist Church, said in an email, “Vineville will continue its strong support of building character in boys through Pack and Troop 19.”

To contact writer Jaime Williams call, 744-4331.

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