May 9 (UPI) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday it’s cutting its 105-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, as part of a new global initiative.
The Mormon church said the move is part of a push to grow its international reach and create a “uniform” and global youth leadership and development program.
“In this century of shared experience, the church has grown from a U.S.-centered institution to a worldwide organization, with a majority of its membership living outside the United States,” the LDS Church and BSA said in a joint statement. “That trend is accelerating.”
Officials said the church and Scouts will continue their partnership until the end of 2019 to allow for an “orderly transition.”
The Boy Scouts serves about 330,000 Mormon youths, and the LDS Church is one of its largest sponsors.
“It’ll be a blow,” Mark Griffin, president of the BSA’s Great Salt Lake Council, told The Deseret News. “We can’t say that it was a total surprise.
“Maybe the timing is a surprise, but we knew the church was working on a program for a worldwide church but that any changes would be based on the need to do the same program in Paris, France, as they have in Paris, Texas.”
The church has been the BSA’s largest faith-based chartering organization and LDS boys have comprised about 1 in 6 Scouts.
Tensions began to emerge between the organizations years ago, beginning with BSA voting in 2013 to admit gays Scouts. Two years later, BSA ended its ban on gay leadership — a move the LDS Church said made them reconsider the Scout program.
“The church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation,” the church said in a 2015 statement. “However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Last year, the church announced it would remove scouting from its Young Men program, which includes LDS boys between 14 and 18.
BSA announced last week it’s dropping the word “boy” from its name and be formally known as Scouts BSA, as it seeks to establish itself as a program for both boys and girls.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible,” BSA CEO Michael Surbaugh said.