The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders.

But the new policy allows church-sponsored units to choose local unit leaders who share their precepts, even if that means restricting such positions to heterosexual men.

Despite this compromise, the Mormon Church said it might leave the organization anyway. Its stance surprised many and raised questions about whether other conservative sponsors, including the Roman Catholic Church, might follow suit.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote,” said a statement issued by the church moments after the Scouts announced the new policy. “When the leadership of the church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with scouting will need to be examined.”

Only two weeks ago, the Mormon Church hinted that it could remain in the fold so long as its units could pick their own leaders.

The top Boy Scouts leaders including Robert M. Gates, the current president and a former defense secretary who pushed for the new policy, did not immediately respond to the Mormon declaration. In previous statements, Mr. Gates expressed the hope that with the exemption for religious groups, the Boy Scouts might avoid a devastating splintering.

The policy change, which was expected, was widely seen as a watershed for an institution that has faced growing turmoil over its stance toward gay people, even as it struggles to halt a long-term decline in members. It was praised by gay-rights organizations as a major if incomplete step toward ending discrimination.

Mr. Gates gave an urgent warning in May that because of cascading social and legal changes, the organization had no choice but to end its ban on gay leaders.

In a statement on July 13, the Mormon Church seemed to suggest that it could accept the compromise adopted on Monday. The statement said that any new leadership standard must preserve for its churches “the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs.”

But scouting executives hope that with Monday’s change they can renew ties with corporate donors, schools and public agencies and attract parents who had steered their children away from scouting because of the policy.

“Moving forward, we will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth, helping them to grow into good, strong citizens,” said the statement Monday from the Boy Scouts.

The toughest challenge, Scouts leaders say, may be to capture the time and enthusiasm of today’s increasingly urban, diverse and over-scheduled youths. To increase their appeal, the Boy Scouts have built new adventure camps with mountain biking and zip lines, and have created new merit badges in fields like robotics and animation.

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