Monday, June 10, 2013

TOP STORY >> Gravel Ridge church welcomes Boy Scouts

Leader staff writer

Boy Scout Troop 542 has found a new home at North Pulaski United Methodist Church less than two weeks after the First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge ended its charter with it because Boy Scouts of America lifted a ban on gay youth.

The controversial incident made national news because the local Southern Baptist church was the first in the country to terminate a charter after the policy change.

The troop’s new meeting place at 10 Kelso Road is not even a quarter-mile from the Baptist church at 15915 Hwy. 107 in Sherwood.

Assistant Scout executive Terry Sharp of the Quapaw Area Council said, “It looks like things have worked out well for those guys. The (Methodist) church welcomed them with open arms.”

The pastor of North Pulaski United Methodist Church is Rev. Carol  Goddard. She said, “We’re glad to have them. The Methodist church is a very open church, open hearts, open doors. It was a very normal thing (to do).”

Goddard said the troop met at the Methodist church for several years before they received a charter with the Baptist church.

“The church is small and they kind of outgrew it, and we don’t have a gym,” she noted.

But, Goddard said, that history makes it seem like the troop is coming home.

Sharp said, “What I’m so proud at is that no one is pointing fingers. It was handled in a real Scout manner.”

The Baptist church’s decision to terminate the charter didn’t come as a shock, he noted. Church leaders and the troop have known since February about the national organization impending vote on the policy in May.

Sharp said, “Everybody knew that the decision (on the ban) could go either way. It wasn’t a shock to anybody. It was that harsh reality that kicked in.”

A charter isn’t just a meeting place, he noted.

The charter holder also approves and selects volunteer leadership, Sharp said.

The Methodist church has agreed that scout leader Ed Sawyer can continue in his position, he noted.

Churches hold 70 percent of Boy Scout troop charters and 12 percent of all scouts walk through the doors of a church for the first time because they choose to participate in the values-based organization that builds character in youths through outdoor activities and community-service projects, Sharp said.

Scout values often align with those of churches and chartering a troop can be a great outreach opportunity for churches, he noted.

Sharp explained that the purpose of the Quapaw Area Council is to provide support and expertise to local troops, set up meetings with them and the charter holders, run camps and host district-wide events.