By Nancy Bartley, The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — The Seattle Boy Scouts of America council has revoked the charter of the church that hosts the troop led by gay scoutmaster Geoff McGrath.
In a prepared statement, BSA said the decision was made to pull the charter from Rainier Beach United Methodist Church “because the church no longer agrees to the terms” of the agreement.
“We are saddened by this development, but remain committed to providing all youth with the best possible scouting experience where the scouting program is the main focus,” Deron Smith, BSA director of communications, wrote in the statement. “We have already identified a new chartered organization to sponsor the units and are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the change.”
But the Rev. Monica Corsaro, whose Rainier Beach United Methodist Church sponsors McGrath’s Boy Scout troop, hopes the council will change its mind once Robert Gates becomes national BSA president next month.
Gates, the former CIA director and secretary of Defense, overturned the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
McGrath, who is married to his partner of 20 years, said he was disappointed and surprised at the decision but insists his group of about 15 boys will continue to meet — even though they’ll be looking for another organization to belong to.
He and the church have retained a lawyer to determine their options.
And Corsaro said that “based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate. We will continue to have our troop meetings here, every Thursday night, with business as usual.”
Last May, BSA’s National Council agreed to allow gay youth into the program but not in leadership.
The controversy surrounding Troop 98 emerged in March, when an NBC News report on the troop prompted the BSA to question McGrath’s sexual orientation.
“I got a call from an attorney from BSA. They had received an inquiry from the press about our troop and he asked me, ‘Are you an open and avowed homosexual?’ I thought the question was abrupt and insulting,” McGrath said.
McGrath acknowledged his sexual orientation to the BSA, which in turn responded by revoking his status as scoutmaster. Now that the church stood by him, BSA has revoked its charter.
“I was shocked and dismayed that parents were going to have to work through this,” McGrath said. And he was in disbelief because a number of people in the Seattle council had known he was gay for a long time and supported him.
The Rainier Beach group offers Scouting for boys who may not have other activities, Corsaro said. She said the support for McGrath has been overwhelmingly positive.
The United Methodist Church is the BSA’s second-largest sponsoring organization, accounting for more than 363,000 youth members nationwide. The Rainier Beach church is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, comprising more than 600 United Methodist communities across the country who welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals.
There are at least 70 other Scouting units chartered to Reconciling Ministries congregations throughout the U.S.
Photo via Flickr; ewan traveler