When the Boy Scouts voted to allow openly gay boys into their ranks, it was expected that some of the sponsors would object. A lot of troops are sponsored by hard-line anti-gay groups such as the Southern Baptists, the Mormons, and the like, and you might expect them to act on their homophobia. But the Presbyterians?
TAMPA — Troop 4 in Tampa has been a mainstay in scouting circles for nearly a century, teaching youth everything from archery to outdoor skills to character-building.
Now its leaders are looking for a new home.
The Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church, located at the foot of the Davis Islands bridge, told Boy Scout Troop 4 leaders this week it would not be renewing its sponsorship because of the national organization’s decision not to ban openly gay Scouts.
In May, Boy Scout delegates met in Grapevine, Texas, and by a 61 percent margin of 1,400 voters approved the proposal. The delegation, however, stopped short of allowing gay adults to supervise the youths.
Brian T. FitzGerald, former scoutmaster for Troop 4, is heading up a search committee to find a new home. He said there are about 120 boys in the Boy Scout troop and Cub Scout pack who are being displaced come Dec. 31.
“At this point,” he said, “we have to find a new sponsor, a new chartering organization and we are in the process of doing that.”
The troop has been in existence since 1916 and counts itself among the oldest in Tampa, if not the state. FitzGerald said the troop has had a continuous charter at the church for the past 60 years, long before Holy Trinity Presbyterian moved in about four years ago. Prior to that, he said, the church building belonged to the First Christian Church.
Most of the youths are from Hyde Park and Davis Islands, he said. The rest come from different areas of South Tampa.
“We were not totally surprised by this,” FitzGerald said. Over the summer, “We were told that the church was considering this action.”
The church notified the troop by letter, which said, in part: “The BSA in changing its policy about sexual orientation has jettisoned the God-breathed Scriptures as the proper standard by which ethical matters, generally and sexual ethics specifically, are to be settled.
I think it’s a really important lesson for the kids in this scout troop to learn that churches and adults can be sniveling bigots and hide behind superstition and fear.