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In the wake of Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept openly gay scouts, at least one Shelby County troop will be shut down.
Bill Pacey, who has been a leader with scouting for 17 years and since 2000 has been the scoutmaster off Troop 137 in Finchville, said he will shut down the troop as of Dec. 31, the day before the BSA’s decision goes into affect.
“As scoutmaster I have always set forth certain principles and beliefs to pass on to scouts looking to me as a leader, and I have always kept my values strong,” he said. “Since the church [Finchville Baptist] chartered us twelve years ago, I’m relieving them of having to make any decision.”
Members of the church staff declined to comment on the situation, instead referring questions to Pacey.
Currently there are six members in Troop 137, and Pacey said two are on schedule to earn their Eagle Scout certification this fall.
“The rest of the parents feel the same way I do,” he said.
Pacey, who in his youth spent two years with Cub Scouts and one with Scouts, said his only regret is that he didn’t earn Eagle Scout himself.
“When I was younger, our scoutmaster transferred away, and no one was willing to step up and become the leader,” he said. “So when my son became eligible for scouts, I wanted to be involved.”
In a letter to his scouts, Pacey said the fault lies with BSA.
“I am saddened, not because I am faced with leaving scouting after spending 20 years of my life, but because the Boy Scouts of America has failed to lead by example and has left those of us who believe in what scouting was founded upon,” he wrote. “Its leadership has turned its back on 103 years of abiding by a mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices. Instead, it is headed down the wrong trail of social experimentation that I believe will place at risk the very youth the organization is entrusted to serve, while destroying the values of Scout Oath and Law.”
Two other troops responded to messages left about their organizations.
Simpsonville Christian Church Pastor Joseph Pusateri said his congregation remains committed to the Boys Scouts.
“The only discussion we’ve had is how grateful we are of the Boy Scouts, what wonderful young men they are and how wonderful the program is,” he said. “We’ve had a very strong relationship with the Scouts and we intend to keep it. We’re honored to be a part of the program.”
James and Brenda Webb, who help lead Troop 270, which meets at Shelby Christian Church, said they don’t expect any changes.
“There are none that I’ve been made aware of,” Brenda Webb said. “As far as I know, everything is the same as it’s always been.”
Last month’s decision to allow openly gay scouts but continue to exclude openly gay scoutmasters has caused a stir at the troop levels throughout BSA.
Several other Scoutmasters and churches that host scout meetings in Shelby County did not respond to messages left by The Sentinel-News. Most of those troops meet in churches of various denominations.
However, Kelly Masterson, the marking and communications director for the Lincoln Heritage Council, which oversees 54 counties across the state and small portions of Illinois, Tennessee and Indiana, said the response from the public has largely been supportive of the BSA’s change in policy.
“We represent sixty-four counties in four states [with fifty-four in Kentucky] and of about eight hundred packs or troops only four have notified that they will not be continuing their charter,” she said. And that included Troop 137 in Finchville.
“In fact, since the news broke of the decision we’ve actually had fourteen new churches call and express interest in charting a new Pack or Scout Troop,” she said. “We’ve had a few Baptist, a few Methodist and some Church of Christ and Christian churches call, all in Kentucky. So, it’s actually had the reverse affect.”
But more churches could still back away from the organization. Officials with the Southern Baptist Convention have stated that they are disappointed with the change, and said to ABC News that it is likely to recommend that its member churches pull away from the Boy Scouts.
Several churches have come out in support of the BSA, including the Mormon church, which sponsors the most troops. The National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Metropolitan Community Church all have supported the change and urged a full repeal of the longtime ban.
Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, which has been listed as one of the five largest in the country with more than 30,000 members and weekly attendance of more than 22,000, announced it is breaking ties with Boy Scout Troop 212 and Cub Scout Pack 212. More than 300 families participate through those two groups.
Officials at Southeast said the decision was made before BSA’s vote to include openly gay members, but that the BSA’s consideration of the issue was what got the discussion under way at Southeast when officials were reviewing the church’s charter with the troop.
Masterson added that it’s not unusual for churches to end their affiliation with BSA.
“We have chartered organizations decide to break away from us every year, for a variety of reasons,” she said.