GASTONIA — A Gastonia church is among a handful who say they're not renewing their charters with the Boy Scouts of America after the organization announced this year that it would no longer deny membership to openly gay boys.
The Gaston Gazette reports First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia announced last week it would not renew its longtime charter. Senior Pastor Matt Kuiken emailed a statement to The Gazette saying the decision was made "with deep sadness."
The statement is also included in the church's September newsletter, which has been posted on its website.
"While we welcome all in the name of Christ to worship and enjoy the ministries of First ARP Church, and while Troop (hash)4 of the BSA has been a wonderful part of our history and ministry, and a great blessing to all who have participated in its activities, this change in policy by the BSA has compelled us to take action," the statement read.
In May, the Boy Scouts of America's National Council voted to ease a long-standing ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted as Scouts.
Piedmont Council CEO Connie Bowes, who oversees Boy Scout troops in 11 counties, including Gaston and Cleveland, said two churches in Cleveland County said this month they are severing ties with the organization.
Bowes declined to name the churches.
"We respect their decision. We're a volunteer group and it's their choice," he said. "I think the best thing we can do is thank them for their years of service. I don't want to single them out when they do so many other things for the community."
Ben Privett, district commissioner for the Boy Scout's Battleground District in Cleveland County, said one Boy Scout troop and a Cub Scout pack in Boiling Springs have turned in their charters and will no longer have troops. Another unit in Kings Mountain is considering turning in its charter but is waiting on a response from the church sponsor, he said.
"I've had at least three more to say they are waiting until Jan. 1 to see if any changes will be made," he said. "I've had several adult folks to pull out because of the decision."
Christ United Methodist Church in Gastonia is one of the many standing firm. Nora Jerzak, a retired Methodist pastor who now serves as the church's administrative assistant, said even if some individual parishioners might have a problem with the Boy Scouts' new policy, the church as a whole will continue to lend its support and host a troop.
The handful of churches refusing to renew their charters with the Boy Scouts represents less than 2 percent of the almost 400 churches and other organizations still actively involved in the Piedmont Council, Bowes said.