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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. The Pope

    Baptists are a false church.

    The Catholic Church is the only true Christian Church.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Scott in Texas

      Excuse Me?

      the catholic church was started by the Romans in order to control the people (the Christian people). It was a "can't beat 'em, join 'em approach.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Scott in Texas

      BTE – I am not Christian.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Another No True Scotman...and from the people who brought you Hitler, the crusades, The Inquisition etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • harrisonhits2

      And the Catholic Church is also the largest organization of pedophiles in the world. And other group would have long ago been jailed en masse for its crimes. Sad to think that people are still fooled by these child molestors.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Mike Breen

    Good to see it's not a "hate" thing for one of these churches....a hateful thing it is, just not a "hate' thing, at least in their minds...wonder what Jesus would think of the whole mess...oh, that's right...these "Christians' don't care a fig for the tolerance that Christ taught, they just cherry pick whatever suits their agenda...

    June 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  3. george

    one day youll see the error of your ways

    June 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Scott in Texas

      are you referring to the SBC, The BSA, or gays?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Scott in Texas

    It's time for humanity to rise above religion! The world will be much better off without the hate and judgment (mis-judgment) brought on by the religious.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  5. bookitybookity

    Liberals simply can't stand it when someone disagrees with them. You know, it really doesn't matter if you think the SBs are "bigots" or "hateful." They have the right to practice what they preach and to live out their beliefs. Don't like it? Don't attend their church. Period, end of story.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Doobs

      No one is saying that the SBs can't take their ball and go home. They are free to live in the dark ages for another hundred years if they so choose. They just can't impose it on others. Get it?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Athy

      You just don't get it, do you bookitybookity?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  6. Pastor Bob

    The Boyscouts should not in the business of spreading hatred.

    That's the Baptist church's job.

    The Baptist church is free to start their own organization.

    Maybe they can call it the Hateful Hypocrites for Christ (HHC)?

    June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • bookitybookity

      Another hateful, intolerant comment. Maybe you need to look in the mirror before you criticize other people.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Pastor Bob

      Really? How so?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Easy pastor bob...just stand in front of a mirror with sufficient light with your eyes open.

      I don't know what he menat by hateful post, that word is mis-used all the time. But glad I could help with the mirror part.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Farmer Johnson

      How can you call yourself a pastor when you are spreading hate. Check youself sir.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  7. george

    gay people by and large are perverted. The same way that crime is more prevalent in ghettoes and slums. don't split hairs . You gay people are more a mob nowadays . Always trying to get your foot in the door , just like the pro pot crowd who argues for legalization over medicinal reasons . Always willing to corrupt the entire society to get your way.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Pastor Bob

      Seriously though, don't you think it's time for you to come out of the closet?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The truly sad thing is that george will never see the irony in his post.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Doobs

      George, please give an example of when a gay mob beat up a hetero person for being hetero. Also, give an example of pot smokers trying to pass laws banning non pot smokers from marrying each other.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Gary

      George, you have some pinned up anger issues you ought to have looked at. Are you by chance one of those gays that converted back to being straight?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  8. darknesscrown

    “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.”

    -- Actually, yes, it ABSOLUTELY is a hate thing. Also, Southern Baptist is another euphamism for "I hate everyone who isn't like me." Just saying. I've never met a person who has subscribed to the philosophies of the Southern Baptist religion who were decent human beings. But maybe that's me.

    They aren't severing ties with the local Boy Scout troop because it's a moral requirement. They're doing it because they are afraid of the world out there and they don't want their way of life to change. Too bad. Learn to co-exist or go extinct.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • george

      so all southern Baptist are bad and all liberals are good . gotcha

      June 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Doobs

      so all southern Baptist are bad and all liberals are good . gotcha

      Please point out where the poster said that.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  9. GayScoutBaptist

    So THAT'S how you get rid of baptists from your group. Good to know.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Xchange

      Enter the perverts...exit the christians. Next it will be teach pot smoking to Boy Scouts. So when are the polygamists going to inter this game?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  10. mama k

    A recent poster wrote that God hates the sin of homosexuality.

    Religions that agree with the poster's statement claim such a notion as an absolute moral truth. We know such notions are founded in ancient writings from millennia past. For many things we have learned about through science, beliefs have had to adapt to keep from looking silly and being out of date with current knowledge. This is simply another time where fundamental religions are struggling to keep up with current knowledge and throwing a hissy fit about the discomforting situation they find themselves in.

    We know that homosexuality has always been a naturally occurring feature across many species including mankind, and science is now getting closer and closer to answers on how it survives across generations. Now that the scientific research shows that homosexuality is not a choice, but formed very early via epigenetic factors (resistant to change), religions that abhor homosexuality look sillier than ever on the issue. For Christians in particular, I would also say their wildly conflicting Biblical interpretations regarding a wide array of topics including this one is just another indicator that their objective truths are anything but objective.

    For issues such as this, with the knowledge we have today, Christians need to come to the table without "scripture", without the faith card, and be ready to discuss such issues rationally. Otherwise they will continue to face an ever increasing tide of distrust and an ultimate indictment of irrelevancy.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

    • =================================================

      Psychology

      The American Psychological Association states "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people", and says most people's sexual orientation is determined at an early age. Research into how sexual orientation in males may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises concerns about genetic profiling and prenatal testing."

      Professor Michael King states: "The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice."

      The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

      "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."

      Biology

      The following is from the article:

      Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find (12/11/2012 – LiveScience)

      [ The search for a "gay gene" may be off-target, new research finds. Another process called epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality runs in families.

      Epigenetics are heritable changes caused by factors other than DNA. Instead of traits getting passed down through the genes, epigenetic change happens because of the way genes are regulated, or turned on and off.

      These genetic regulators may be the reason homosexuality persists in nature despite the fact that gay people are less likely to reproduce, suggests the new study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

      "These things have evolved because they're good for the parents, but they sometimes, not [with] high frequency, but sometimes carry over" into offspring, study researcher William Rice, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told LiveScience. In a male fetus, Rice and his colleagues write, an epigenetic change that benefited the mother may lead to "feminization" of sexual preference — homo- or bisexuality. The same may be true for epigenetic changes passed down by dad to a female fetus. (The terms feminization and masculinization of sexual preference refer to sexual orientation only — not to physical or personality traits of the offspring.)

      The findings add to past research suggesting gay men haven't died out, because female relatives of gay men tend to have more children on average than other females. The study researchers specifically found that two genes passed on through the maternal line could produce this effect.

      Hormones, epigenetics and orientation

      Rice and his colleagues focused on epi-marks, which are molecular changes that act like temporary "switches" to turn genes on and off. If a gene is a blueprint, the epi-mark is the construction foreman who makes sure the product gets built. An epi-mark also determines when, where and how much a gene is expressed, according to the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

      These molecular switches are usually erased very early in the developmental process, but they can be passed down from generation to generation, too, Rice said.

      Some epi-marks are particularly important during fetal development, when they promote normal physical development in the sexes despite natural variations in testosterone during pregnancy. Researchers know that fetal exposure to too much testosterone can masculinize the genitals, brain or behavior of a genetically female fetus. Likewise, too little testosterone can make a genetically male fetus more feminized.

      But here's the catch: There's lots of overlap between the levels of testosterone male and female fetuses get exposed to. That means there must be another side to the story, Rice and his colleagues wrote.

      That side appears to be epigenetics, Rice said.

      "Early in development, we think these epi-marks are laid down so that girl fetuses will be relatively insensitive to testosterone and male fetuses will be relatively sensitive to testosterone," Rice said.

      Biological behavior

      Thus, if an epi-mark that kept a mother from getting exposed to high testosterone in development gets passed on to her son — the opposite sex — it could desensitize him to testosterone, contributing to his sexual preference for men. Similarly, if a male-specific epi-mark from dad gets passed to a daughter, it could "masculinize" her sexual preference, making her more interested in women.

      These findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no "gay gene" can be found, Rice said. In identical twins, there's about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you'd expect a much higher match, Rice said. Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.

      The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in parents of kids with gay versus straight offspring, Rice said. There are, of course, concerns that this knowledge could be used by parents who want to avoid gay offspring, Rice said, but that concern already exists around certain hormonal conditions in utero, which are known to contribute to an increased chance of offspring being lesbians.

      "That cat's already out of the bag," Rice said. He added that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not "unnatural."

      "In fact, it's a major part of the natural world," Rice said. Fourteen percent of Western gulls raise chicks in female-female pairs, he pointed out. And 8 percent of male sheep show zero interest in fertile ewes, but get sexually excited by other rams. ]
      . . . . . . .

      June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • VoiceOfReason

      mama k, no one has to go sodomize another man. you can talk about default attractions but that doesn't make you act on it. i am sure a scientist like you knows the difference between wanting to do something and actually doing it.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • mama k

      Who's forcing anyone to, VOR? You seem obsessed with that for some reason. I wonder why?

      June 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • VoiceOfReason

      I dont know, mama k, maybe it is because I want to come out of the closet? Wow, you goofy libs are so predictable. You actually quote APA as science...that must be the funniest thing I have heard in a while. I recall the "every kid is ADHD" campaigns of the 90s when meds were being passed to kids like Pez dispensers.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ Voice of Insanity

      Please give us an example of the campaigns declaring that every child "is ADHD".

      June 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  11. Vic

    It very well could be that the recent vote was inevitable due to the fact that the BSA is already infiltrated with g a y scouts! In other words, making things official instead of under the radar!

    June 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Peter

    I just don't get it..... These churches send missionaries halfway around the world looking for people to "save" but when they show upon their front door, all but gift-wrapped in a boy scout uniform, they turn them away?

    June 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  13. Andre McCauley

    Bye!

    June 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  14. Plains of Jordan towards Zoar

    High props to the church for taking the high road and walking away from what is clearly against its core principal values.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bob

      Opportunities galore

      Exit –>Church
      Enter–>Atheism

      June 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • JOregon

      Only until they begin to see their memberships drop off, and they will as parents search out churches that do support scouting.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  15. Brother David

    The Baptist Church is full of self-loathing closet cases.

    Hatred for those who are different from you is not a Christian value.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • bookitybookity

      I have seen nothing but hateful, bigoted comments from you. Perhaps you need to get a grip on your anger problem. If you don't like what the SBs preach, don't go their church. They have every right to follow the word of the Bible. PERIOD.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Farmer Johnson

      So since you are not a christian you can condem thoes that are. I wonder what makes you so special. Are you the golden calf. All that should worship you? I think NOT!!!

      June 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  16. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Recently we learned from CNN of a child dying when their parents, members of a Christian sect in Philadelphia, as part of their faith, refused medical care. When incidents like the subject of this article come to light, many Christians are only too ready to try explain how another Christian's interpretation of ancient "scripture" is not quite right.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    June 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Farmer Johnson

      I uderstand your end statement. But does that mean that anything goes? Do you not want a society of faith other than man. Wow what a place we can do anything we want with no consequnces. Your view needs another look.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Deacon John

    Isn't it time that we all grew up and stopped believing in hate-based fairytales?

    The Baptist Church is just spreading hate.

    June 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • bookitybookity

      They are standing up for what they believe in, which is what liberals preach all the time. If you have a problem with it, don't attend. Simple as that.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Brother David

      Yes, they believe in hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • bookitybookity

      Your comments are hateful, bigoted and intolerant. Shame on you.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • timothy

      'Hate'. Simply a word tyhat no longer has any meaning it is abused so often by people who have nothing to contribute on an intelligent dialogue thinking one can 'win' and argument. I no longer listen to anyone employing that word as it has become meaningless in its purely emotional and childish usage.

      June 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Farmer Johnson

      So I ask Deacon, What fairytails do you believe in? I would love an answer.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  18. JOregon

    I know the SBC pretty well.
    Scouting is a recruiting tool, the ones that do leave will come back as their congregations dwindle.
    There will be Churches that will welcome gay scouts, Methodists are second only to Mormons in BSA membership.
    People will still want to be in scouting. Guess where they will go? Guess where their families will end up going to church?

    June 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  19. Barry

    Dont stop with the BSA, why don't you leave the country. Go live in Pakistan and see how you like it being the victim of BIGOTS,. which you are. Maybe after a few dozen of you are executed you will learn your lesson and beg to come back

    June 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  20. pelegrim

    "Imagine if you carried on believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy into adulthood. And even killed and started wars over it. Haha. Imagine that." ~ Ricky Gervais

    June 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • VoiceOfReason

      " I have nasty British teeth and I dont brush them." – Ricky Gervais

      June 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Doobs

      "I don't have any intelligent responses." -Voice of Insanity

      June 2, 2013 at 5:03 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.