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Episcopal Diocese position on Gays


The General Convention of the Episcopal Church
Seventy-Third General Convention, Denver, Colorado, July 2000

 Resolution C031: Homosexuality: Boy Scouts of America Policy of Homosexuals

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 73rd General Convention recommends that all clergy in charge of congregations and vestries

Inform the local Boy Scouts of America council and other organizations of The Episcopal Church's policy adopted at the 65th General Convention (1976) that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church;"

Encourage the Boy Scouts of America to allow membership to youth and adult leaders irrespective of their sexual orientation

Strongly encourage individual churches which charter or host scout units to open a dialogue with the unit leaders, scouts and their parents regarding discrimination against youth and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation;

Engage in educational programs within their churches to inform members and others about these issues; and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention recommends Office of the General Convention send a copy of this resolution to the National Office of the Boy Scouts of America.


Episcopal Deputies passed a resolution calling clergy, vestries and congregations to "open a dialogue" with local Boy Scouts of America officials
This is from the Episcopal News Service website and is coverage of the General Convention (the every-3-year meeting of the national church.

(This happened on July 10. This was written by The Rev. Jan Nunley, director of communications for the Diocese of Rhode Island.)

Deputies passed a resolution calling clergy, vestries and congregations to "open a dialogue" with local Boy Scouts of America officials about their prohibition of gay scouts and scoutmasters (C031a). The resolution was extensively reworked by Special Committee 25, which is considering legislation related to sexuality issues.

Several opponents of the resolution objected that the resolution "singles out" the Boy Scouts and therefore discriminates unfairly against the organization. Judge Richard Thomas (Wyoming) attempted to amend the resolution so that church policies regarding lesbian and gay ordination were included in the dialogue. "The church looks worst when we advocate what we don't do ourselves," said Thomas, who also proposed extending the dialogue for 25 years. Both amendments failed.

The Rev. Robert Bryant (California) pointed out that the BSA's policy affects not only gay scouts and scoutmasters but their heterosexual relatives, and, in some cases, the clergy in parishes sponsoring scout troops. "What is a young boy to think when his Eagle Scout father is unable to provide leadership in his troop?" asked Bryant. "What is a young boy who idolizes his big brother to think when that brother is expelled from the Boy Scouts? What is a young boy to think who wants to achieve his 'God and Country' award, when he finds out that his own pastor, who is gay or lesbian, is not deemed appropriate to provide leadership, and yet the Scouts require that supervision?"

But deputy Walter Virden (Ft. Worth) warned, "If this resolution passes, our parish leaders will not have to worry about dialogue with Scout leaders. I predict the Boy Scouts of America will move voluntarily and swiftly to relocate Scout units to other sponsoring organizations."

The resolution passed, 492-283.

Episcopalians move toward discussions on sexuality: Church committee writes a resolution about 'heterosexism' on 1st day of meeting

July 6, 2000

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News Religion Writer

On Friday the sexuality committee will work on other issues, including one that could affect the Episcopal Church's extensive system of Boy Scout troops. The committee will consider whether to declare all church-sponsored troops as "open and affirming" to gays despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said Boy Scouts can exclude them.

The Episcopal Church USA inched closer Wednesday toward a debate on whether it's an outright sin to object to homosexual behavior.

A resolution was drafted in a special committee on sexuality during the first day of the church's 10-day meeting at the Colorado Convention Center.

The "sin of heterosexism" will be taken up in the House of Deputies along with a companion resolution calling for continued dialogue on human sexuality.

On Friday the sexuality committee will work on other issues, including one that could affect the Episcopal Church's extensive system of Boy Scout troops. The committee will consider whether to declare all church-sponsored troops as "open and affirming" to gays despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said Boy Scouts can exclude them.

As gay rights activists staked out one turf area and conservative Episcopalians another, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold opened the 73rd triennial convention with a careful call for "a respectful welcoming of difference."

Griswold made the appeal at a morning Eucharist celebration for the estimated 10,000 attendees, half of them visitors to Colorado and some from as far away Britain. Griswold called for members to transform the church, "strip it of our narrow, self-seeking views."

Griswold, who is a strong gay rights supporter, declined at a news conference later to discuss possible implications of heterosexism, saying he would leave that to the discernment of the convention.

Griswold added that the American church's push for more sexual freedom may be faster than the more conservative worldwide anglican communion wants, but that the time had come for new paradigm that rejects black-and-white solutions: "We're moving away from an either-or, Newtonian world to a quantum world that can help us deal with ambiguity and paradox," Griswold said.

For the most part, the church moved with the glacial fits and starts of an opening day - electing officers, intoning roll calls and even helping visitors suffering from their first mile-high altitude headaches.

Church law will be formed over the next three years by majority votes taken by the 200-member House of Bishops and the 800 or so laity and clergy in the House of Deputies.

Many believe a vote will come quickly, perhaps this week, on the historic concordat with the nation's largest Lutheran body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

A hearing on the proposal, "Call to Common Mission," will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at the Westin Hotel.

The convention is being observed by a number of Lutherans, who last summer voted in Denver to accept the concordat, which allow the two denominations to share mission outreach, worship and even clergy.

However, a Lutheran observer told Griswold Wednesday at a news conference that about one-third of the Lutheran clergy have said they would refuse to be ordained in a joint ceremony with an Episcopal bishop. They represent a conservative wing of the by-and-large liberal denomination that objects to being part of the Episcopal church's hierarchal system of bishops.

Griswold replied that those clergy who did not welcome Episcopal bishops' participation in their ordination would not be permitted to take part in clergy exchanges.

Griswold was also asked what each denomination had to gain from the other. To laughter, he replied that Episcopalians would benefit from Lutherans' "clarity of thought" in theology as opposed to "the diffuse way Episcopalians do theology."

Colorado Bishop Jerry Winterrowd warned that if the measure is defeated it would lead to demoralization among parishes where sharing and clergy exchanges have been the norm for a long time.

Gay rights activists support issue on Episcopal agenda

July 11, 2000

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News Religion Writer

In other action, the House of Deputies voted 63 percent to "strongly encourage" its church-sponsored Boy Scout troops to accept members and adult leaders "irrespective of sexual orientation." A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling said Scouts could exclude homosexuals.

Some argued that pressuring the Boy Scouts to accept gays could cause the organization to close down its extensive network of Episcopal-sponsored troops.

"The scouting program is one that works. We do not need to tamper with it," said Walter Virden, a former scout leader from Fort Worth, Texas.

Lay deputy James Bradberry supported the measure, observing that the church's inclusive atmosphere would eventually permeate the church's extensive scouting network anyway: "This is not rocket science," he said. "Above all, let's keep the Scouts in the church. That's where we want them and where we can effect change."

The matter must now go to the House of Bishops for approval.

Scouts urged to accept gays

By Virginia Culver
Denver Post Religion Writer

July 11, 2000 - Clergy and lay delegates to the Episcopal General Convention want the Boy Scouts of America to open their doors to gay members and leaders, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says the Scouts may exclude gay members.

The resolution, passed Monday by the church's House of Deputies at the Denver convention, must now be approved by the House of Bishops before it becomes an official request from the church.

The issue has come before the Episcopalians because many of the nation's Scout troops meet in Episcopal and other churches.

In their resolution, the deputies said priests and church leaders should "inform" local Boy Scout troops meeting in their buildings "that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the church," a quote from the church law.

One delegate said Episcopal churches would be "a little short on intellectual honesty" if they didn't acknowledge to the Boy Scouts that the church itself excludes openly gay people from ordination. An effort to add an amendment saying that failed.

Another resolution, which apparently was in reference to the church's penchant for long-term study of controversial issues, asked for a 25-year study of the proposed resolution. It failed overwhelmingly.

During the short debate, a California delegate said, "It's impossible for the church to communicate love if we tell people, "You don't belong here.'- " The Boy Scouts' decision to bar gays "is based on fear," he said.

The Boy Scout resolution, which passed 492 to 283 by the deputies, likely will be considered by the House of Bishops today.

Episcopal Bishops agree with Resolution

 By Virginia Culver
Denver Post Religion Writer

July 15, 2000


Bishops also agreed with deputies on a resolution calling on the Boy Scouts of America to admit youth and adult members irrespective of sexual orientation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the Scouts don't have to admit gays.

Bishops call for inclusive Boy Scout leadership

By Joe Thoma
July 16, 2000

GC2000-082 Bishops call for inclusive Boy Scout leadership By Joe Thoma

(ENS - Denver) Bishops concurred with the House of Deputies on the morning of July 14, their last legislative day, in a resolution (C031) that encourages the Boy Scouts of America to allow adult leaders to serve regardless of their sexual orientation.

In August 1999, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said the Boy Scouts had violated state anti-discrimination laws by removing an assistant scoutmaster who openly declared his homosexuality. The Boy Scouts appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which then overturned the New Jersey decision, saying the BSA has the right to determine its criteria for leadership.

The bishops' debate centered on the relationship between the scouting organization and the Episcopal Church, and whether the church should attempt to influence the internal policies of the BSA.

Bishop Arthur Williams, bishop suffragan of Ohio and chair of the committee that considered the resolution, said that fellow bishops have brought him conflicting information about the Supreme Court decision. That, plus contradictory information from BSA representatives at the convention makes the official BSA policy on homosexuality unclear, he said.

The BSA policy "is not stated in their bylaws, their rules and regulations, or their procedures for maintaining standards of membership, nor in any leader manual or handbook that boys and parents use, nor in any training course or syllabus, nor in the application," Williams said. "They state that they support traditional family values, but they have not defined what they mean when they use the term family values."

Some bishops have argued that if the BSA policy centers on scoutmasters' behavior, not orientation, the church should refrain from comment. But the organization does, in fact, show itself to discriminate on the basis of orientation, Williams said. "While their stance is apparently don't ask, don't tell, they do act on anonymous tips and common community knowledge," he said. "It's because of that that we wrote the resolution," which was approved by the committee and the House of Deputies.

Resistance to the resolution

Bishop Peter Beckwith (Springfield), disagreed with Committee 25's interpretation of the BSA policy and spoke against the resolution: "If indeed the Boy Scouts have policies that Bishop Williams has described, I would not want to be part of the Boy Scouts." Beckwith also challenged the church's place in passing judgement on the BSA: "I find it incredible that this house, representing a church that is certainly not of one mind on a number of sexual issues, would presume to advise another organization on this particular subject." Finally, he posed a rhetorical question about whether church leaders would welcome policy direction from the Boy Scouts.

As an "openly gay" bishop, Otis Charles (Utah) spoke in favor of the resolution, calling it "a non-confrontative, educational approach." Charles agreed that scouts uphold traditional values, but said the organization also contributes to society's lack of acceptance of gay people. "From my personal experience, the closet is destructive. The closet keeps people from being truthful. The closet keeps people from showing up as who they really are," he said. The discrimination affects the families of gay youth and even has a public-policy dimension, he said: "Also know that the streets of our cities are populated by boys and girls who have been excluded from their families."

Offering a substitute

Bishop David Bena (Albany) proposed an amendment to remove specific references to the Boy Scouts and substitute a general reference to all organizations. "My purpose is that this resolution singles out one organization, a very fine organization that shares values with the Episcopal Church," he said. The resolution "looks like a bit of a paternalistic slap at one organization." Bena echoed Beckwith's point that the BSA won its case in the Supreme Court. "There are many organizations that we are deeply involved with that do not share our values," Bena said. "So if this particular issue is important to us, this resolution should cover all those organizations."

But the BSA has a special relationship to the church, Bishop David Joslin said, in opposing Bena's amendment. Many churches sponsor scout troops, "and thereby assume a responsibility for them." He also said dropping the original resolution would be inconsistent with other General Convention resolutions that have been conciliatory toward gays. Charles, opposing the amendment, said congregations that charter troops have an "organic" relationship with the troops.

Bishop John Rabb (Maryland), a former scout and scouting leader, voiced support for the resolution because it opens a dialogue with the BSA. "I think that's critical, that we dialogue with them regarding this position," he said, adding that the Supreme Court decision shouldn't absolve the church of its obligation to take a moral position. The BSA "was simply permitted, as a private organization, to establish their own policies," Rabb said. "I happen to think that those policies are not policies that I can personally support."

Others said the church's experience with growing inclusivity could help the BSA become more inclusive. "I think the original resolution is in keeping with the spirit of dialogue, of conversation that was called for at Lambeth," said Bishop Barbara Harris (Massachusetts). "If we are to continue the conversation, then it needs to be brought beyond the church

Resolution:  The Diocese of Newark and the
Boy Scouts of America

RESOLVED we the Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark ask the Boy Scouts of America to admit to full membership otherwise qualified homosexual persons.

RESOLVED we ask all Episcopal congregations in our diocese which now sponsor troops to review the terms of sponsorship and to meet with local Boy Scout councils to explore irenic ways together to end the BSA's national policy of discrimination.  We ask priests in charge of sponsoring congregations to file a report of these negotiations with Council no later than our October meeting.

RESOLVED we ask the chancellor of the diocese to investigate all legal aspects of the relations between the BSA and sponsors, including but not limited to the following questions:  As owners of the troops, sponsors incur what liabilities for damages to the homosexual youth harmed by BSA policy?  Does BSA derive its tax-exempt status on its own or vicariously through the sponsors?  What formal mechanisms exist within BSA for sponsors to influence BSA policy short of withdrawing sponsorship?.... We ask the chancellor to report his findings to Council at our October meeting.

RESOLVED that we ask our bishop to appoint an ad hoc committee of Council to network with all sponsors in our diocese and with the directors of all BSA councils of Northern New Jersey. This committee will review the results of sponsors' reports, will investigate all other relations between the diocese and BSA, and will draft an appropriate resolution for Council to introduce at  our 1994 Diocesan Convention.

                 Supporting Information

The Boy Scouts of America refuses membership to homosexual persons. Any gay person who takes seriously the vow to tell the truth risks scorn and abuse from the scouting community.  This policy potentially contributes to lesbians' and gays' disproportionate share of  teen suicides.

The BSA claims that it upholds/enforces family/religious/moral values, yet  Jesus established the "family value" that it is better that a millstone be hung about our necks and that we be cast to the bottom of the sea than that we should harm one of the least of God's little ones.

The Diocese of Newark has already been asked to file an amicus brief on behalf of an Eagle Scout removed when it was discovered that he is gay.

The Diocese does not seek to withdraw from the BSA.  We support the high ideals of scouting, and we applaud families and individual scouts for their commitment to the scouting program.  We want gays in, not the diocese out.  The Diocese wants parishes to remain as thoughtful sponsors, insisting on dialog, enabling BSA to disentangle itself from captivity to a bigoted and prejudiced agenda.  We honor our calling to leaven the loaf.

     Submitted by Louie Crew, Member from the South Essex Convocation
     Passed unanimously by Council on June 9, 1993

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