Two of the biggest sponsors are the Mormons' Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose units serve roughly 420,000 scouts, and the Roman Catholic Church, which serves about 280,000 Scouts. Mormon and Catholic leaders, who have signaled support for the no-gays policy in the past, declined any official response to Monday's announcement of the possible change.
"We've had 100 years of a very conservative approach to scouting," said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council. "A major shift along these lines could change the face of scouting, but we'll have to just wait and see."
Scott Barr, a scoutmaster in McKinney, Texas, said his Mormon-chartered troop would likely wait for guidance from the national Mormon church.
"I don't know what the position would be," said Barr, who's been involved in scouting for 25 years. "I wouldn't even dare to speculate."
The Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, said it was "saddened and disappointed" by the proposed change.
"Homosexual behavior contradicts biblical teachings and God's created order for the family and human relationships," said the Rev. George O. Wood, the denomination's leader. "We pray BSA will give careful consideration to this matter and hold firm to the beliefs that have made it a strong and influential organization for more than 100 years."
The United Methodist Church, the second largest sponsor of Scout units after the Mormons, expressed support for the change — saying it was in line with church policy opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
News of the proposed change came just ahead of "Scout Sunday" next weekend — an annual event in which churches across the nation have special worship services and luncheons to honor scouts.