Philosophical differences have led to a split between Northwest Bible Church and the prominent local Boy Scout troop it has sponsored for more than two decades.
Last May, Boy Scouts of America adopted a resolution stating it would no longer deny membership on the basis of sexual preference or orientation. A few months later, the leaders of Troop 125 were told by Northwest Bible Church officials that their longtime charter partnership would be discontinued and they would have to find a new place to meet.
Donald Huffines, who was the Troop 125 Scoutmaster at the time before resigning last fall to run for a state Senate seat, said the national vote led directly to the decision by church leaders.
“I think the church felt that the current BSA policy did not align with their beliefs,” Huffines said. “It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision for the church. They prayed about it a lot and discussed it at length.”
Northwest Bible Church officials did not respond to requests for comment, but Huffines said he was in discussions with church leaders about their intentions even before the results of the vote.
“Christ is a very important part of our fellowship with the troop,” Huffines said. “I’m not upset with the church. We understand their position. We appreciate our relationship with them. They could not have been a better sponsor.”
The vote to change the membership standards of BSA was favored by 62 percent of local delegates from all 290 councils throughout the organization. The resolution maintained the admission policy for adult leaders.
“Our job is to try and impact as many young people as possible with a positive program,” said Pat Currie, CEO of Circle Ten council, which oversees troops with more than 54,000 Scouts in 12 Texas counties, including Dallas. “Scouting has never been about sexuality at any level. We don’t teach sex education.”
Troop 125 — which primarily serves boys from the Park Cities and Preston Hollow — had its final meeting at Northwest Bible Church in early May before its charter transferred to Grace Bible Church in Preston Hollow.
“It’s inconvenient and unfortunate,” said Jeanette Smith, a Troop 125 parent. “I respect their right to have their opinion and their right to act consistently with those values. I strongly disagree with those opinions, but fortunately the troop was able to find another church host.”
Smith said she hopes the troop will be able to continue its membership growth despite being uprooted.
“Troop 125 has been an amazing experience for my son,” she said. “We’ve got strong leadership. I hope we’ll continue to have strong membership.”
Smith said that while Northwest Bible Church has been accommodating to the troop during the transition, the decision by its leaders was based more on exclusion than inclusion.
“They strongly believe that if they allow homosexuals in, then it goes against all their principles,” Smith said. “My faith is a little different, but I respect their right to have an opinion. I think it’s a bad representation of what Christ would have us do.”
Currie said most of the charter partners for troops in Circle Ten are churches and other faith-based organizations. Those agreements are renewable every year, so turnover is common.
He hasn’t noticed a significant spike in the number of charter partners who have bowed out because of the change in policy. Within Circle Ten, the turnover has been only slightly higher than usual in the past year.
“There are some people who are not pleased with that decision,” Currie said. “It reaffirms that to be in Scouting, you have to have a belief in God, and it reaffirms that the membership policy of the Boy Scouts will be inclusive of as many young people as possible.”
Currie said he is not aware of any scouts in Circle Ten who have declared their homosexuality. While such a scenario would not get a boy removed from scouting, inappropriate behavior would.
“It’s not about if you’re gay or straight. It’s about who you are as a person,” Currie said. “I haven’t found a church yet who said they would remove someone from the church just because they said they were gay.”
Huffines, a Dallas real-estate developer, resigned as scoutmaster in October 2013 to run for the District 16 seat in the Texas Senate. He defeated longtime incumbent John Carona in a contentious Republican primary race in March.
“I love Boy Scouts. It’s the greatest organization in the world to teach leadership, character development, and morals,” Huffines said. “It’s going to accelerate the erosion of their membership, because they’ve alienated their core members. They need to embrace their core principles and core beliefs.”
Furthermore, Huffines said the vote by BSA delegates could lead to a fracturing of the organization with regard to spiritual ideals.
“I think it was a big mistake what BSA did. They said they were not going to change the policy, and then eight months later they came back and changed it. The national leadership of the BSA cannot be trusted,” Huffines said. “They can’t be trusted not to open the door for more infiltration from the gay agenda. Eventually we’ll have gay scouts and gay scoutmasters and gay troops. They’ll keep coming until their mission is fulfilled.”