- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2013

Members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are free to affiliate with any scouting organization, although they should be aware of possible conflicts over world views and proceed with “prayerful caution,” the leader of the 2.3-million-member denomination said in documents released Monday.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod neither encourages or discourages its members from being involved with scouting, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the LCMS, noted in the new documents.

However, given the concerns about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) changing its membership policy this year to permit openly gay youth to join, hundreds of LCMS churches were questioning whether to stay with Scouts.

LCMS leaders met with leaders of the BSA and a new alternative group, Trail Life USA, and concluded that “at present, both the BSA and TL can serve the church and her mission if LCMS congregations are committed to theological integrity, exhibit pastoral wisdom … and commit to significant involvement with their local program.”

BSA leaders explained that their new policy is intended to make scouting activities available to as many boys as possible, and that the BSA will oppose “any advocacy for political or social groups within scouting,” as well as any sexual activity — “whether homosexual or heterosexual” — by scouts, LCMS documents said.

Importantly, BSA and LCMS leaders created a memorandum of understanding that said BSA authority would not “supercede” the local authority of the pastor and congregation.

This memorandum of understanding “is critical for those who wish to retain their local [BSA] charters,” wrote Rev. Harrison. The BSA, he added, “is a nonsectarian organization, and so we should not be surprised when it reflects the changing secular worldview of our country.”

LCMS congregations that prefer to affiliate with the new Trail Life USA organization are welcome to do so, the LCMS documents said.

But congregations should be aware that Trail Life will be “highly representative of American evangelicalism,” and some of its materials “are simply unusable by a Lutheran organization with any concern for biblical and confessional orthodoxy.”

Still, Trail Life leaders are strongly interested in responding to LCMS concerns, as their goal “is to be Christian, but not denominationally specific,” the LCMS documents said.

Navigating the world of scouting is going to be “a challenge,” Rev. Harrison concluded. Thus, LCMS congregations chartering with any scout-like group should do so with “prayerful caution” and strong pastoral and congregation involvement.

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