Boy Scouts and the Church: Let the Children Come

Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them.
[Jesus, Luke 18:16]

This Bible passage came to mind as I watched Noah and his family walk away after our conversation at the Synod Assembly in June. Noah and his family had approached me in front of the dais after one of the sessions in the plenary hall. His mother said Noah wanted to ask me something.
A bit sheepishly, but speaking clearly and looking me in the eye, Noah said, “I am wondering if you could somehow encourage congregations of the synod to be welcoming to Boy Scouts.”
Noah is 13 and a Boy Scout himself. His troop is sponsored by a congregation that is part of a denomination in which many have expressed dissatisfaction with the Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision “to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”[i] Noah also knows that his church, the ELCA and its congregations, seek to be welcoming communities in the name of Jesus. His request to me is an invitation for all of us to live into that identity and call.
As I said in an interview with a reporter from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette just the day before my conversation with Noah, to cease denying membership on the basis of sexual orientation alone is very close to the biblical values and practices that shape our life together as followers of Jesus in this mission territory.[ii]
We are not in agreement with each other about various aspects of sexuality. Yet, we have agreed to honor one another’s bound conscience around these and other issues. To do so is to offer the radical welcome of Jesus to each other.
We have also agreed that we are called to offer this radical, cross-shaped welcome to other people and groups, including and especially those whom others exclude. The ELCA’s home page on the web summarizes it pretty well: “This is Christ’s church. There is a place for you here. We are the church that shares a living, daring confidence in God's grace. Liberated by our faith, we embrace you as a whole person — questions, complexities and all. Join us as we do God's work in Christ's name for the life of the world.”[iii]
In the end, the welcome Noah invites us to embrace is not about sexuality, ours or anyone else’s. It’s about welcoming children, as Jesus welcomed them and would have us welcome them in his name. It’s about following Jesus in the way of the cross to welcome those whom others will not, to embrace those whom others won’t touch. It’s a way we offer others the same forgiving, life-changing welcome Jesus gives to us cross-marked and Spirit-sealed children of God.
Look again at your congregation’s mission statement, nearly 50 of which surrounded us on the projection screens during the Synod Assembly and during my conversation with Noah. Take a good long look at Luke 18. Then look around your neighborhood, sisters and brothers. Look through Noah’s eyes and heart. Look with eyes and hearts baptized into the crucified and risen Christ. Look for the children. Look for those people and groups that others choose to exclude or banish, Boy Scouts or anyone else…and, please, in the name of Jesus crucified and risen for the life of the world, seek them out and invite them in.

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Table Scraps by William O. Gafkjen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.