May 31st, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, it was Scripture versus the Scouts.

“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

So when the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its ban on openly gay youths on May 24, Reed said the church had no choice but to cut its charter with Troop 542.

“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16. “It’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist church.”

Southern Baptist leaders say Reed is not alone.

Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

That number could drop precipitously.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Scouts, according to church leaders.

The denomination will vote on nonbinding but influential resolutions during a convention June 11-12 in Houston.

“There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation at the convention,” said Richard Land, the outgoing head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.”

“Southern Baptists are going to be leaving the Boy Scouts en masse,” Land continued.

Roger “Sing” Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, emphasized that local congregations make their own decision on the Scouts.

But he, too, said he expects Baptist delegates, which the church calls “messengers,” to voice their disagreement with the BSA's decision to allow gay youths.

“With this policy change, the Boy Scouts’ values are contradictory to the basic values of our local churches,” Oldham said.

Several religious groups with strong Scouting ties support the new policy.

“We have heard from both those who support the amended policy and those who would have preferred it would not have changed,” said BSA spokesman Deron Smith.

Faith-based organizations charter more than 70% of Scout chapters, providing meeting space and leadership, according to the BSA.

“There have been some organizations that have decided not to renew their charters with Scouting," said Smith, "but we can’t quantify the impact of the amended policy."

The National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more Scout units than any other faith, all endorsed the change.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which is run with oversight from a bishop, said Thursday that allowing gay youths in the Scouts does not conflict with church teaching. Each bishop will decide whether or not to allow churches in his diocese to charter Scout units, the committee added.

“We ask that Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment,” said Edward Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

But the Rev. Derek Lappe, pastor of the Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Bremerton, Washington, has already made up his mind.

“I do not feel that it is possible for us to live out, and to teach, the authentic truth about human sexuality within the confines of the Boy Scout’s new policy,” said Lappe.

The priest told CNN affiliate FOX16 that his parish will part ways with the Scouts and develop its own programs.

There may soon be an alternative to the Scouts for social conservatives like Lappe.

John Stemberger, founder of On My Honor, a group that opposed the Scouts’ change in policy, plans to convene conservatives in Louisville, Kentucky, in June to consider forming a new Scout-like group, which could be up and running by the end of 2013.

“Churches and Scoutmasters are looking for leadership and direction,” said Stemberg, an attorney in Orlando, Florida.

A number of conservative religious denominations already sponsor their own groups.

For instance, the Southern Baptists have the Royal Ambassadors, an explicitly Christian program founded in 1908 for boys in first through sixth grade. (A similar group called Challengers equips older boys in “mission education.”)

The name comes from the New Testament, in which the Apostle Paul tells Christians to be “ambassadors for Christ.”

The estimated 31,000 Royal Ambassadors pledge “ to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christlike concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body."

While not as outdoorsy as the Boy Scouts, Ambassadors do camp and play sports, said Land, who was a member of the group during the 1950s. But instead of merit badges for archery and bird study, young Ambassadors earn patches for memorizing Bible verses and mission work.

Southern Baptists said they are preparing for a surge of interest in the Royal Ambassadors at their upcoming convention in Houston.

“We really have an opportunity here to strengthen our RA programs,” the Rev. Ernest Easley, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said in a sermon last Sunday, “and to get the boys in a program where they’re going to be protected, where there’s a high moral standard and where they will have an opportunity to learn about camping, missions, evangelism in the local church.”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Gay rights • gender issues • Politics • United States

soundoff (10,821 Responses)
  1. NavinJay

    Great. Less Baptists sharing their crazy with other children.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  2. Insanityreins

    Oh man I am ashamed....I am a Christian and I believe the whole Word of the Bible...But my Jesus does not condemn or abandon but Love. I let Him do what ever work He chooses to do a persons heart and its my job to love others and live my faith out daily not condemn. I apologize on behalf of the Judgmental, Condemning Christian brothers and sisters who seem to lose way.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Austin

      the entire gospel surrounds one issue. The issue of sin.

      Salvation, is freedom from that sin. Once you are baptised, the old man is never to come back, or begins a process whereby through sanctification, one turns from the sin that grieves and quenches the spirit. This is real. This type of salvation isn't always a feel good warm fuzzy. We are tested with trial, and our flesh is not up to the spiritual call. What's up with this situation?

      May 31, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you don't know Jesus as well as you think you know him? Or that maybe you have the wrong impression of him? Didn't think so...

      Mark 16:16 – (Jesus speaking) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      John 3:36 – (Jesus speaking) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  3. Henry

    The real losers in this move by the Southern Baptist churches are the baptist youth. The message given to them is a distorted, uneducated understanding of the Bible. Ignorance breeds ignorance.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Kanageloa

      Henry, you're just flat out Wrong!!! You really have no clue as to what the Bible says so climb back into your Stupidmobile and go away..

      May 31, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Athy

      Actually, they may ultimately be the winners. Assuming this will help them see the truth about extreme religiouns.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  4. Downtown Guy

    Those silly Baptists crack me up. What do they really think God (or Jesus for that matter) would do? If we're to believe what is written in the bible, he would have welcomed everyone with open arms. Good riddance, the Baptists are a stain on our country.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • keep in mind

      that there are very different types of Baptists. the SBC, of course has a grand tradition of hate.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Downtown Guy

      you are correct... my comment was a bit too harsh. Growing up on a southern baptist household, I still have a lot of anger toward them.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  5. Mike

    Didn't the Southern Baptists split because they were pro-slavery? Eventually they softened their stance on that. They're whatever the opposite of 'moral' is.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • some story

      Lucky us I suppose. If they were 400 years behind instead of 200, they'd be burning scouts for witchcraft... though that didn't stop them from burning those who are 1/5 human... What a group...

      June 2, 2013 at 1:53 am |
  6. Beloved4ever

    God is not on the Judgement Seat, He is on the Mercy Seat.
    " For God so loved the WORLD ( not just the church, the saints, the Jews, the straight etc. but The World) that He Gave His only Begotten Son so that whosoever BELIEVES in Him should not Perish but have everlasting life ! God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be SAVED !
    God is not Angry! He Loves Us all so very Much !!!

    May 31, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  7. Science

    All creationists...............a turtle.............but is it to old to have come from the ark ?

    Or chad crawled into his shell on the ark and finally found his way out .............you know chad ?

    The mystery of how the turtle got its shell has finally been solved by scientists studying a 260-million-year-old fossil.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/scientists-have-figured-out-how-the-turtle-got-its-unique-hard-shell-2013-5#ixzz2UspYoTOm

    May 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  8. belfour

    do you know how many non religious organizations would be willing to house boy scouts and support this new progressive policy....in all honesty who cares about the ill-informed and archaic...there are literally thousands of organizations in every town, city, or parish that will house those troops which are banished due to contemporary and correct logic

    May 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  9. Jack

    All of you sinners eating pork ribs at the Camp-O-Ree, prepare yourselves for THE eternal BAR-B-QUE.
    "YOU SHALL NOT EAT of [pigs] flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you." – Leviticus 11:8

    May 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Beloved4ever

      New Covenant....New Promises....No More Laws...except The New Law of Love..."A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV, John 13:34-35)

      May 31, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Belseth

      I love how selective people are with the Bible. You aren't supposed to eat meat period on Friday or work on the Sabbath both of which are more serious sins than any reference to gays.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Beloved4ever

      Hmmm. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, correct? Resting on the Sabbath refers to – Trusting in God.
      And it's not what goes into a man that defiles him but wha rather what comes out of His Mouth. Matt. 15:11. If anyone is lacking in Wisdom let him ask.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  10. skarphace

    Jesus would have berated these "Southern Baptists" and called them false prophets, just like the Pharisees.

    Jesus sought out those that needed guidance. He did not seek to avoid them. These "Southern Baptists" are using scripture to hide their bigotry of anybody different from them. Unfortunately, their children will probably grow up to be just like them. It is sad, really.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  11. allenwoll

    'Bye ! !

    May 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  12. Justin H

    I long for the day when Christianity will be put in it's rightful place along side other ancient mythologies. Hopefully this kind of bigotry will hasten that day.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • belfour

      well said

      May 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • XO

      A lot of kings and empires have tried. However, they're gone and the Bible remains. It will be here long after you and this country.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Belseth

      When I was growing up they still had May Poles in schools and referred to Christmas as the Yule Tide. That ended when some one pointed out the kids were dancing around a pagan phallic symbol and the Yule Tide was the Norse version of a Christmas holiday. The Christians systematically got rid of all the pagan references to the holidays they stole. A few things remain like mistletoe but even Yule Logs and similar symbols have been dropped. Even Santa Claus was a pagan character. I'd say when I was a kid in the 60s 90% of the Christmas symbolism was pagan.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Glen

    This is FANTASTIC news. As a former Baptist I can assure you that the Baptist church is absolutely EVIL.

    They diligently work to destroy the human soul and spirit, with the things they have to say about humanity at large and even their own followers. In the Baptist church you will learn what a wretched piece of cr*p you are, worthy of eternal extreme torture in the fiery pits of hell; pretty much JUST for being born a vile human being. But Jesus will save you despite how hideous a thing you are.

    This is the same message they send to children! The Baptist church has absolutely no business being around impressionable young minds.

    I would have to say even better than gay kids no longer being barred from the Boy Scouts, is the Baptist church leaving the Boy Scouts.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • NNC

      Seriously? You must have been in a terrible church. You cannot generalize all Baptists like we are all cookie-cut as the same. I hope that one day you can crawl out from your miserable hate and realize that you are speaking about imperfect people just like yourself. Regardless of how one feels about the Scouting issue, every church denomination has its views and has thousands who follow what they believe to be true and just according to their interpretation of God's Word. It is their message. You always have the right to believe something else, but you don't have to overgeneralize all Baptist churches and hurt the Kingdom of God with your vitriole like that above.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • XO

      I'm not a Southern Baptists, but know their doctrine well. Never have I sensed any of this from them. I;m treated far better by them, then most atheist I know.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  14. are122

    These are all private organizations and have the right to do whatever seems right to them.....for now.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  15. Steve S

    The Baptists are still living in their wonderful 1950's mirage.
    Gays in the closet, women in the kitchen, and blacks in the back of the bus.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  16. Don't stop thinking...

    Bill Moyers recently interviewed Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, science & biology. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University.

    Dennett says that not for all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that "it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."

    This video is just an interview. Do yourself a favor and watch some of Dr. Dennett's lectures available on youtube. They are excellent.


    May 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  17. Jack

    Those scout scarves and uniforms better not be a Poly/Cotton blend, or everybody is going to BURN !
    "YOU SHALL NOT ... wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together." Leviticus 19:19

    May 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  18. The Lord Your Gawwwwwwd!

    Scouting just got better.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  19. dave_ah

    I agree with this action. When an organization 's values and policies are incompatible with one own's, we have moral duty and obligation to resign from such an organization.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • K.M.A.A.D.

      Well, aren't you the little smug Goddie? Since when is punishing a bunch of cub scouts the moral and just thing to do? Keep on hating, my little friend. Your days of relevancy is numbered. Buh bye.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Dippy

      One own's? Try one's own next time. Makes you look a lot smarter.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  20. jmw

    Anyone ever seen WWJD? According to everything I've heard Jesus was the most compassionate, loving, humble, accepting person who ever walked on this earth. You would think these church leaders would want to emulate him. I think they are more closely aligned with Satan than Jesus.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • The Lord Your Gawwwwwwd!

      What would Jesus do for a Klondike Bar?

      May 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.