The Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday in a much awaited announcement that it needed "more time for a deliberate review" of its policy banning gay Scouts and leaders, delaying a final decision on the controversial membership guidelines.
The roughly 1,400 voting members of Boy Scouts of America's national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013, the organization said.
Here is the statement released by the BSA in its entirety:
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing its youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers' work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013.
With more than two-thirds of Scouting groups affiliated with religious bodies, faith in God is an important component of the private youth organization, but opinions vary among religious groups. Many of the larger more conservative churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have spoken out against the proposed policy change. On the other hand, more liberal groups, such as the United Church of Christ, along with the leadership of the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have supported dropping the ban on gay members.
A conservative group, the Family Research Council and 41 other groups ran a newspaper ad on Monday asking the BSA not to change the policy, and some conservative religious groups have urged their supporters to join in prayer to ask the board not to accept gays.
"The Church is following this proposed policy change very closely," a spokesman for the church, Michael Purdy, said in an email. "We believe the BSA has acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue."
According to NBC News, Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said the outpouring of feedback on the issue came as no surprise to him since his group felt the BSA had not allowed opponents of the change to weigh in on the proposal. Oldham said he had spoken with some troop leaders, pastors and parents -- some who said they would leave the BSA if the new policy was implemented.
He said Wednesday that his group was “very pleased” with the decision to wait and solicit input from all members of the Scouting family.
“We continue to be hopeful, perhaps a little bit more guardedly optimistic than we were before, that the Scouting leadership, having heard from the American public, is going to realize that yes, while it is a divisive issue, that the net loss of changing the policy may be far greater than the net gain of changing the policy,” he told NBC News.