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Plant City church ending sponsorship of Boy Scout troop

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Published:   |   Updated: September 5, 2013 at 09:01 AM

PLANT CITY — A church founded 17 years ago on conservative religious principles is ending its sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 14.

The nine elders at Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Plant City took the action after national Boy Scout leaders in May decided not to ban openly gay Scouts.

Larry Eben, who served as session clerk for the elders, said the church leaders felt they had no choice.

“This is contrary to our biblical stance,” said Eben, whose son earned the rank of Eagle Scout with Troop 14.

The troop was established at the church at 1107 Charlie Griffin Road about 14 years ago.

Evangelical Presbyterian was founded in 1996 largely by First Presbyterian Church of Plant City members who were upset about what they viewed as the national Presbyterian Church USA's increasingly liberal views on homosexuality and abortion. Those members formed their own church affiliated with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Plant City continues to hold to the same beliefs and didn't feel it could continue sponsoring the Scout troop, Eben said. The church will sever ties with the troop at the end of the year, when the sponsorship was up for renewal, he said.

Scouting officials either couldn't be reached or declined comment Wednesday. Scott Lingle, the interim pastor at Evangelical Presbyterian, couldn't be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, Boy Scout Gulf Ridge Council CEO George McGovern said a handful of organizations had withdrawn their sponsorships in this region.

The church elders met in June and again in August as they wrestled with the issue, Eben said. Ultimately, the elders decided they needed to stand on their religious beliefs.

“It was not an easy decision,” Eben said. “We deliberated over it.”

Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tampa also recently decided not to renew its sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop, citing similar concerns.

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

(813) 394-5103

Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

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