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. saneCanadian

    When will someone address the shocking decline in both the quality and taste of girl guide cookies?

    June 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      They cut down on the number of girl scouts they put in each batch.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  2. The real Tom

    Those who are predicting the end of the BSA because of this are the same ninnies who made the mistake of assuming the gays would never be able to marry. Do you think that other organizations won't step forward to take the place of the Baptists? Your crystal balls haven't been terribly accurate thus far. And apparently they're the only balls you have.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • saneCanadian


      June 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Guest

      No organization with the money and resources that the church provides. Plus numerous other organizations avoid politically touchy situations.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Guest, you are daft. There are plenty of other CHURCHES that would support the Scouts, and you don't have a clue what sort of backlash there may be that will produce more support for the BSA than the SB ever did.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Pete

      "No organization with the money and resources that the church provides."

      There are churches that support gays and gay marriage.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Huebert

      Baptist churches account for about 4% of boy scout venues. Scouts will be fine without you.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • billfitt

      Sure! the Gay Liberation Army will step up, and then the Scouts lose the Methodists, the Presbyterians, and the rest of the Protestant crowd. Don't know about those Catholics though since boys are involved.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • ..

      Bull. The church provides them with a meeting place. Some other organization will, too. Your SB are racist, bigoted, and fast growing irrelevant. As they should.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Guest

      I don't brake for gay people.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Four percent? Why even waste time on the Baptists? Let them pull out.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Pete

      "Sure! the Gay Liberation Army will step up"

      It would be more than that it will other religious people too since 57% of Americans now support gay rights.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • billfitt

      That survey was in San Francisco you mow ron!

      June 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Another Point

      Yes, The real Tom, you are correct! And in addition, this is the same argument that some straight folks tried to make about the ending of Dont Ask Dont Tell in the military. It was their inherent fear that once it was done away with, the big burly straight men with rosy plump rears would be the prime target of gays in the military. Didn't happen. And to this day there has not been even one incident! The same will go for the BSA. But it's fear and prejudice coupled with hate that brings these misguided church groups down and casts them in extra bad light for all to see. And we're seeing a prime example right now with this article.

      June 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  3. JWH

    You made you bed Boy Scouts, now you can lie in it with your life partner.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Tamsyn

      *Make that legal spouse. After they've grown up, of course. Which is a pretty good suggestion for you, being as this is children we are talking about.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • JWH

      No Tamsyn I'm talking to the leaders do the Boy Scouts. Idiot!

      June 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Nice Try

      The BSA is clearly in bed with Lucifer now and there is no turning back...

      June 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      God created Lucifer, knowing what would happen. God is ok with anything lucifer does.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  4. Shawn

    Wait a minute? The Baptists dis agree with the Scouts so they started their own group....

    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."

    "Christlike concern for all people" – "all people" – they need to change that to "all people who are not gay." or "all people who are not sinners like us, thats why we can cast the first stone."

    June 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • billfitt

      "they need to change that to "all people who are not gay."
      Excellent idea!

      June 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • willremainundefined

      It doesn't matter what any pledge says or doesn't say, the message they truly speak is "if you aren't exactly like us and hate all the same people we hate you're wrong." And if you want proof of that try to speak reasonably with any Baptist about why you disagree with something they "hold sacred" and see how fast they resort to either telling you to enjoy burning in hell (for disagreeing with them) or something very similar.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Bernard

    I guess over 100 years of Scouting didn't teach these people much. See ya later bigots...the Scouts don't need ya.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  6. Gino

    So do southern baptists quit their jobs, school, and gym memberships because gays are allowed there too? Or are they just choosing to be hypocrites about boy scouts?

    June 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • openmind

      AMAZING point! 🙂

      June 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  7. Bayley0402

    Baptists claim to be Christians but shun anyone who is different and doesn't tow their line. Good riddance to all who claim to be one thing but in reality are nothing buy hypocrites.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Dippy

      Toe, not tow.

      June 3, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  8. greg

    moral stance? They want to judge gay youths as so sinful as to refuse any association...Southern Baptists are great about "telling" their morality, attempting to prove it by condemning others, but they have a hard time actually showing it through love of their fellow humankind, caretaking our planet, remaining faithful to promises made to God (given Baptists divorce at the same rate as "heathens."), showing kindness to the poor, basically being examples that draw people to their faith instead of away from it. Indeed, SBs help drive him people entirely out of the Christian faith altogether. They are far from being the light on the hill.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • LouAZ

      The "light on the hill" is another forest fire they have started with their Burning Bush.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • michael

      no we are that light

      June 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  9. L Galvan

    What hypocrites. Their Wholly Babble explicitly condemns a LOT of things - for example divorce - but you don't see Baptist congregations expelling their divorced members, since they'd lose 50% of their $$contributing flock if they they did that! I know one Baptist minister who's on Wife #3. But no – they only stick it to the kids. Didn't Jesus say "suffer the little children" after all?

    June 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  10. Lara

    Buh Bye! Don't let the door slam your ignorant, hateful and prudish asses on the way out!

    June 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Jon

    If I don't let a black person into my restaurant because of my morals or my interpretation of scripture, does that also mean it's not hate? The Church can't stand by and say that this is based on morality. This is hate, plain and simple, and if the church can't admit that, then I wouldn't want them to be part of the scouting movement anyway.

    June 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  12. LouAZ

    A fine examle of baptist sharia law for all to see.
    Thanks !

    June 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Norman Page

    Scouting will be vastly improved because of this.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Guest

      Well there will be less complaining when instead of doing mainly things they starting doing more fairy things like cooking and making sweaters. Real men know what their tool is used for and don't drive up one way streets. That is so disgusting.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ Guest

      Do you get migraines from your stupidity?

      June 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  14. Vic

    Not to change the subject matter but I have seen a lot of references to ancient writings predating the Bible on this blog. What's fascinating to me is that the people who refer to those writings have no problem approve of them as authentic and not the Bible!

    For the benefit of everyone, look up the Dead Sea Scrolls which have also been authenticated by state of the art technology!


    As for the perpetration of a lie, the same thing goes for ancient writings! Otherwise, it is a double standard!

    Regarding the subject matter:

    June 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Colin

      Vic, yo usaid "For the benefit of everyone, look up the Dead Sea Scrolls which have also been authenticated by state of the art technology!"

      So what? That doesn't mean their content is worth a damn. It just validates their age.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Vic, The problem is that you need to be very specific about what you mean my "authenticated". Something can be authenticated as really written at the time it was claimed to be, really by a specific author (a complicated issue regarding something "inspired") or authenticated as being "true". When people talk about pre-christian writing they are usually only refering to writings being genuinely from a particular period. What Christians are often claiming with regard to the bible is that is is somehow authenticated as true. Even claims of authorship are more than people claim regarding, say, the Gilgamesh stories. If you play around changing your definition each time you speak you can argue almost anything.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Vic you ignorant s l u t

      "The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating back to about 1772 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world."

      No one is saying that the bible wasn't written a long time ago. They are saying that other books that contain moral codes also exist and even predate the bible so to say the bible is where modern day morality comes from is beyond foolish. Also, the fact that the dead sea scrolls exist says nothing to their supposed divine authorship.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Not to change the subject matter but I have seen a lot of references to ancient writings predating the Bible on this blog. What's fascinating to me is that the people who refer to those writings have no problem approve of them as authentic and not the Bible!

      For the benefit of everyone, look up the Dead Sea Scrolls which have also been authenticated by state of the art technology!'

      what a bizarre statement. Authenticated as what? as being real and old? no one disputes that. Its the content of the writings that makes the difference, not that the scrolls exist.
      As for other ancient texts.......no one reads the Iliad and actually believes that Achilles was really invulnerable everywhere except his heel because his mother dipped him in the river styx. No one reads those texts and believe the magic in them is real, so why start thinking the stuff in the bible is?

      June 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  15. Colin

    Daqcute, your point would have merit if gays were trying to get the internal rules of the Southern Baptists changed, but they are not. In fact, I have never heard of a group of gays trying to deny Southern Baptist couples the right to marry, Southern Baptists the right to serve in the millitary or generally tell little Southern Baptist children they are "morally degenerate."

    No my friend, the gays have the moar (and intellectual) high ground on this one.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  16. Pat

    Good riddance to this group – The Boy Scouts do not tolerate bigotry and racism. My spouse has worked in the south and found that they will say "Well, I have to go home to pray about the decision I need to make" and when they make the decision and you turn your back to them they stab you in the back. Think about their decision to back, support and then vote for Mark Sanford. an admitted ADULTERER, and send him to Congress. He committed at least one of the 10 Christian sins – These "Christians" that voted for him and others like him have written a one way ticket to HELL. The Southern Baptists are not praying to God, but to the other guy.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Tim

      Sanford was not the only candidate that cheated on his spouse or go though a very messy divorce in the race. He was the only one that did not get arrested in the course of his divorce.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  17. just me.

    I'm sure Fred Phelps would be in total agreement with these folks.Nice work.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • BaptistCatholicJew

      What! Bet they thought Fred was winning the Hate Game

      June 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  18. Guest


    June 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • .


      The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Like their heterosexual counterparts, many gay and lesbian people want to form stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Indeed, many of them do and that large proportions are currently involved in such a relationship and that a substantial number of those couples have been together 10 or more years.

      Research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Research examining the quality of intimate relationships also shows that gay and lesbian couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.

      A large number of gay and lesbian couples raise children. Children and teenagers whose parents provide loving guidance in the context of secure home environments are more likely to flourish – and this is just as true for children of same-sex parents as it is for children of opposite-sex parents. Based on research findings, mental health professionals have also reached a consensus that the quality of relationships among significant adults in a child’s or adolescent’s life is associated with adjustment. When relationships between parents are characterized by love, warmth, cooperation, security, and mutual support, children and adolescents are more likely to show positive adjustment. In contrast, when relationships between parents are conflict-ridden and acrimonious, the adjustment of children and adolescents is likely to be less favorable. These correlations are just as true for children of same-sex parents as for children of opposite-sex parents.

      Assertions that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, have no support in the scientific research literature. On the contrary, the scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.

      June 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  19. CallUOut

    "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."

    Well, that will certainly come in handy when you've become lost in the wilderness. Gee, I wish I could tie a knot with this mission work. Why won't a fire start after reading Bible verses? Great tools for life you're providing for your youth, there, Baptists. Good riddance.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • just me.

      It has been proven,beyond a shadow of doubt,that when you are lost in the woods,prayer is your one and only chance.LOL.

      June 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It reminds me of that idiotic God Take The Wheel country song. That singer will be lucky if she doesn't get sued for someone's death for giving such crap advice for a situation in which real actions can be taking. These folks are scary.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • LouAZ

      You are just not reading hard enough to let the real heat of the Burning Bush come thru to start the fire to keep you warm.
      Oh, by the way, DO NOT read when you are in a drought area. Too many "wildfires" have been accidentially started by what could only be baptist and there EVERYTHING BOOK.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Reading the bible Can start a fire...

      if you are reading it with a magnifying glass on a sunny day!!

      June 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  20. DLCraig

    This is as it should be. The BSA will run out of money, the government will subsidize them and my tax dollars will go toward the purchase of rainbow colored neckerchiefs worn nattily at a decided slant.

    June 2, 2013 at 12:53 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.