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Boy Scouts' Membership Change May Grow Christian Youth Clubs
Image: Sally Morrow / RNS

They have pledges. They have merit badges. And they may go camping.

But they're not the Boy Scouts.

Across the country, there are decades-old religious alternatives with names like Pathfinders (Seventh-day Adventist), Royal Ambassadors (Southern Baptist) and Royal Rangers (Assemblies of God).

And with the Boy Scouts of America deciding to change its membership policy to admit gay members (but continue its ban on gay leaders), some of these groups are fielding inquiries from people concerned about the action.

Will there be a mass exodus of religious groups from the Boy Scouts? It depends on who you ask.

Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Pathfinders were asked about their program in light of the Boy Scout vote, said James Black, the Adventists' North American director of youth ministries.

"If individuals saw the Pathfinders as a viable option for their children, we would welcome them with open arms," he said.

Some denominational leaders with strong ties to the Boy Scouts—including Roman Catholics and United Methodists—have said they are still mulling the Scouts' change.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, said the change "would force sponsoring churches to subordinate their convictions to stay involved with the Boy Scouts."

A recent story in Baptist Press included tips on how a church can start a Royal Ambassadors program. The missions-focused program for elementary school boys, is hosted in about 3,000 churches, most of which are Southern Baptist.

Steve Heartsill, managing editor of the program's curriculum, said there has been "some uptick in phone calls" as the vote approached.

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Boy Scouts' Membership Change May Grow Christian Youth Clubs
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May 2013

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