Unity North Welcomes Exiled Boy Scout Troop

By Terry Newell

An Atlanta Unity church entered the national spotlight when they learned that a Boy Scout troop had been banned from meeting in a local church—the same church that hosted meetings for 68 years. The Baptist church made the decision after the Boy Scouts of America decided to lift a ban on gay youth. 

“The issue for us is simply about supporting the great work that the Boy Scouts of America do,” Rev. Richard Burdick said. “Hey, they’re homeless, and I fall back on Scripture: ‘What you do for the least of these, you do for me’ (Mt. 25:40).”

Because of this offer, the Unity congregation has been featured on local TV news and radio, The Advocate, a number of national blogs, and is still getting media inquiries. Burdick has also been approached by CNN.

Instead of dividing the congregation, the publicity is making Unity North stronger. “My congregation is ecstatic. We have reached across boundaries and demonstrated our love,” he said. In the process, people outside of the church are also reaching out.

“I’ve received a number of emails from people I don’t know. There are a few people who aren’t happy, but mostly it’s been very positive.” Burdick says that 95 percent of the people contacting him support Unity North Atlanta.

As Burdick reached out to three homeless Boy Scout troops, he found one troop leader was having a crisis of faith. “He was upset and questioning his faith, and commitment, for he had attended these [churches] and felt expelled,” he said. But crisis can create change.

“I always find that when you’re confronting your faith, it’s those uncomfortable times you look deeply at what it is you truly believe. Sometimes that causes you to change your mind.

“It’s one of the things I love about Unity—our understanding of God is forever expanding and everyday we’re waking up a little bit more aware, and it causes us to say, ‘Hmmm … it’s time for me to make a shift.’”

With the publicity, Burdick feels he’s being asked to take sides on the scouting issue, which spills over into areas like gay marriage. “There is no black and white. One thing that the [national] press is wanting me to do is to make somebody wrong and somebody right. I respect the Baptist ministers who are making a decision based upon their faith, and I respect the Boy Scouts of America.

“At Unity, we have to go to a deeper, spiritual place that is going to be ‘gray.’ My prayer is that [everyone involved] is looking at this as an opportunity to transcend human disagreement and to go to a higher reality, to find a deeper truth.”

Burdick doesn’t think that the debate will go away. “Unity is brought to the forefront because we see the goodness in all people. We see and proclaim the Light in all people.

“The more we stand in our truth for (all people having) equal rights, the more archaic thinking is exposed. When you shine a light on an issue, it does cause drama, and the press loves drama. They’ve been very proactive in ‘prodding’ me to make a statement in anger or judgment because it sells news.”

But Burdick says he can’t judge other viewpoints, and feels his Unity background has made him stronger. “I have gratitude for the Unity movement, which has allowed me to blossom into the place where I can stand in this fire … I’m going to call it a fire … and be refined. I’m grateful for my teachers and mentors in the Unity movement.”

This issue is not easy for some to understand. “My greatest advice is to search your heart, know the God of your understanding, and take a stand.

“I’ll be honest, being in the public eye is not my most comfortable place, but I’m willing to do it, knowing that I am taking a stand for what I believe is right, what is good, and what is kind.”

He laughed, and said, “It surprised me that our simple invitation has become a cornerstone to push this issue forward.”