HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) - North Alabama's largest Christian denomination appears ready to part ways with the Boy Scouts of America.
Last month's decision by the Boy Scouts to allow openly gay scouts has created a deep divide with Southern Baptists, who are expected to formally cut ties with the Scouts at their annual convention in Houston this week.
A non-binding vote at the convention is scheduled that calls for Southern Baptist churches to disassociate with the Boy Scouts, a move that would impact approximately 100,000 youths. Southern Baptist leaders say the Boy Scout's shift on gay members is incompatible with Bible teaching, which designates homosexuality as a sin.
Southern Baptist churches around the country sponsor and host around 4,000 Boy Scout units. One area SBC pastor who also grew up in the Boy Scouts called the move difficult, but necessary.
"It's sad, it breaks my heart to see it come to this," said Rev. Alan Crawford, senior pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church in east Huntsville. "We as Bible believers, if we don't stand for what we believe in, then we're compromising. And if we compromise on one issue, we'll compromise on something else... I fully support the amendment that will be brought up."
A vote on the non-binding resolution is expected to take place either Tuesday or Wednesday. Southern Baptist officials said the decision to cut ties with the Boy Scouts will still be left up to individual churches, with some already choosing to end their affiliation. Rev. Crawford said he expected the vast majority of SBC churches to follow suit. He also left open the possibility that area churches would fill the resulting void by hosting an alternative scouting group that supports Biblical beliefs.
"I've been asked by people if I would allow homosexuals to attend this church. I say 'absolutely'," said Rev. Crawford, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout. "But when it comes to supporting something financially, as well as having our name on it, against something we are so strongly against, then I think we're compromising, and that can't happen. I could see another Boy Scouts, may not be the Boy Scouts of America, but because of this, maybe a split in the Boy Scouts where the churches would be back active with it."
The Southern Baptist Convention has approximately 16 million members, making it America's largest Protestant denomination.
Religious groups who said they will continue to host and sponsor the Boy Scouts include the Episcopal Church and the Mormon Church.