(Note: In August of 2012, I wrote a letter to Robert Mazzuca, CEO of the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts had just reaffirmed their decision to not include gay persons in their program. Given their reconsideration and deliberations this week, I thought I would share the letter with you.)
August 1, 2012
Dear Mr. Mazzuca:
As a longtime clergy person, I am writing to you regarding the policy the Boys Scouts of America have recently reaffirmed toward gay people. No doubt you have received many letters, and I’m certain that a few of them have been angry diatribes from people who feel strongly about this issue. Please bear with me, because even though I, too, feel strongly about this issue, my letter is not an angry missive. Instead, I find myself grieving with terrible sadness over this decision.
My association with the Scouts goes back many years. As a young boy, I enjoyed many days as a Cub Scout, and to this day still remember activities and projects we did under the guidance of our Den Mother. After graduate school and becoming a minister, I have had Scout troops in almost every congregation I have served for the past 30 years. These troops were active, vital parts of the church and community. I was always pleased to organize a Scout Sunday for them. I helped many Scouts with their God and Country projects. I worked with Scout troops, particularly if there was a pastoral crisis with a young person or his family. And so, while I have not had a direct relationship with BSA, I have always appreciated the many ways Scouts have made a positive difference in our country.
We are in a new day now regarding how we understand human differences, and that is especially true regarding sexual orientation. As you might guess, I have interest in this topic as a theologian. I have concluded that there was no concept at all when the Bible was written about a person having a psychological orientation toward same-sex relationships. The genetic code is a modern discovery. Biblical prohibitions about homosexual behaviors were, in all likelihood, established out of a concern for either the reproductive needs of a burgeoning nation or were about damaging sexual behavior toward others; something about which gay and straight people should be concerned.
Beyond any theological concern, I look at this issue from a pastoral perspective, meaning it’s not merely an issue at all; it’s about real people, sons and daughters, dads and moms. I have walked with many people as they have come to terms with their sexual orientation. I have witnessed courage and honesty with these people. Over and over again people have said to me, “This is who I am.” That’s different from this is what I do, or this is what I want, or this is what I think I should be. People are crying out, “This is who I am!” When another human being offers such a genuine statement, how can I as a pastor – or how can an organization as the Boy Scouts of America – turn away from them?
I think of all the good Scouting has done in our world. I would never want to diminish that. I have seen it firsthand. Yet, when I think of young people, people who are often ostracized or bullied or driven to emotional despair, I wonder how the Scouting community can turn their backs on them. These are people created in the image of God, people with feelings and skills and something to give to this world. How many suicides could have been avoided had Scouting taken the lead on acceptance? How many cases of bullying might have been eliminated had Scouting taken the lead on this issue, reminding the world that we should treat all human beings with dignity and respect.
The world is very different today than when I first entered the ministry. Families are different. Rearing children in an age of technology is different. Things such as sexual orientation were barely discussed when I was growing up. Yet, some of these differences are exciting and positive. I love it that I have in my congregation two dads and their adopted son! How they conduct themselves is extraordinary. I love the fact that people who are gay and straight read from the lectern each Sunday, serve on my Board of Trustees, and provide leadership in so many different ways. Sometimes social change is not only a good thing; sometimes it is the right thing, and I see that every day in my position as Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
I am asking you to reconsider your decision. From my perspective, every awful stereotype and xenophobic fear has been reinforced by the recent decision of Boy Scouts of America. It does not have to be this way. There is a way to turn back, open up, and stand for the inclusion of all God’s children. Again, from someone who has observed Scouting through the years, the Scouts have been about teaching boys to do the right thing. Doing the right thing by opening your doors dramatically wider will be good for America, and it will be good for Scouting. Most importantly, it will be good for the boy who already suffers from the uncertainty of how he will belong to God’s world and where he will eventually fit in as an adult.
The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier