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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

(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. MillieNeon

    Hooray. The Boy Scouts are finally cleansing themselves of the vile Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  2. John the Baptist

    Poor baby....why is the world so intolerant of your intolerance and hate? What's a hate monger to do?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  3. rmarcb

    If I disagree with the gay agenda, I am a hate mongerer. If I disagree with gay marriage I am a hate mongerer. If I think the gay 'lifestyle' is a sin, I am a hate mongerer. Anyone who disagrees with anything associated with being gay, is a hate mongerer. You can not have an opinion if you disagree. We must just accept and shut our mouths. But if we do speak out, watch how much hate comes from those who agree with the gay side. Who really are the hate mongerers. Just read those who post after me and it is clear...

    June 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Pastor Bob

      You are a hate mongerer because you're full of hate for people who are different from you.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      you can disagree all you want. when you try to legislate lesser rights for a group of people, you are bigot

      June 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • billfitt

      You're just an angry pastor because the Baptists won't BF you and even refuse to let you blow them . Keep looking and you will find a good atheist boy willing to take the plunge. Good luck!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • kyle

      You are a hate monger when your opinion becomes active discrimination, such as calling for kids to not be able to participate in scouting programs.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • billfitt

      You people are hateful bigots for wanting to take away the rights of normal people. Normal people have the right to not be around sick perverts. It's that simple.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  4. TDC Tucky

    As usual, the closed minded are cutting off a very worthwhile organization. The BSA teaches young men how to survive in situations that are not taught anywhere else (aside from the "service"). I am a Proud Eagle Scout who also was a Asst SM for nearly 30 years before retiring (long after my own sons were done.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  5. lomax

    SILLY RABBITS.. D*CK ARE FOR CHICKS

    June 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • tb63

      How original.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  6. Alastor

    Reblogged this on Skeptically Left and commented:
    Oh, yeah? Good riddance.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  7. justsayin'

    Kudos to the baptists for standing for their ground to their beliefs even when it isn't popular.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Bull crap! They also believe gluttony and divorce are sins too. Yet, they let fat people and divorcees into their group. I have no respect for those fvvktards.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • One one

      Do they still stand their ground on their pre-cival war position on slavery?

      June 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • JOregon

      They won't be that way for long.
      Scouting is a recruiting tool, a way to get families into the church.
      Kids will still want to be in scouting. Other churches will have them.As church membership drops the SBC will be right back in the scouting business.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Anon Anon

      Kudos to the hate-filled fairy worshippers? You mean the religion that has been responsible for more genocides and deaths than any other cause? I think it's time get rid of their tax exempt status. You want to have a say in politics and media in this country? Then you'd better pay your fair share.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • and kudos to al qaeda

      they, like the baptists, stand their ground on their extremist medium for religion. bravo al qaeda and southern baptists, bravo.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @justsayin' – "Kudos to the baptists for standing for their ground to their beliefs even when it isn't popular."

      Agreed. The SBC is a shinning example of how believing tenacious superstitions can cause good people to behave badly.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • sparks2000

      well said.....

      June 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Oh well....

      Another "moral" stance based on the the teachings of the Invisible Guy In The Sky. Nothing short of primative.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  8. Festivusfortherestofus

    When I was a scout in late 50's, religion played no part. Sadly today it appears to. Feel sorry for the kids as decisions are made by their misinformed parents.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Leah

    I can be on the fence when it comes to gay marriage. I can be on the fence when it comes to gay scout masters. But I cannot be on the fence when it comes to excluding children who already face exclusion. That is unacceptable. Children need to belong and any act to exclude them, unless they are really misbehaving head cases, is a sin in my book. These are CHILDREN for god's sake.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jason B

      Then following your own "logic" they need to be TAUGHT right from wrong. When they're wrong, they need to be corrected, and exclusion is a good tool for that, especially if the parent(s) aren't doing their job.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  10. Joe Smith's #4 Wife

    Baptists are bigots. Always have been. Bu-bye.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  11. who cares?

    the southern baptist are borderline extremists anyways. dont they have more important things to be worrying about like bombing abortion clinics and killing planned parenthood supporters?

    June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jason B

      The extremists are the perverts and w h o r e s such as yourself who bring such filth into society and force us to accept your disgusting ways.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  12. mk1

    I would much rather have my children exposed to gay youth than the brainwashed youth of southern baptists anyday.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Edweird69

      It's a total myth that gays recruit or get recruited. I grew up on a small farm in the boonies. I ALWAYS knew I was gay. Since I can remember. Nobody recruited me. We do know religionists recruit, however. That is not debatable.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  13. supersecretsharon

    SOUTHERN Baptists, people. SOUTHERN Baptists. American Baptists were among the first to welcome gay members.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Bible Stumper

      Good point. It's easy to see how the generic term "Muslim" gets abused.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  14. Gingeet

    I love the statement by individuals that being gay is a choice. So, I would love to know how many of these people had to make a concious desicion to be "straight". Silly baptists...

    June 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • One one

      Also, why would anyone choose to be abused and kicked around like gays are ?

      June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • tb63

      My favorite is the ol' "it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

      Yeah? Well, Adam and Eve had two sons. Tell me, where did their children come from?

      June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Bible Stumper

      Good question about Adam & Eve's sons... You won't get a comment in reply. Part of being a mindless, religious zeolot is maintaining an ability to ignore obvious flaws in the the ridiculous mythology you follow.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  15. Gerry Daley

    Good riddance. The IQ of scouting should improve enormously.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  16. blackyb

    God Is the Great I AM. Every knee will bow and every tongue will say so before it is all said and done.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Prove it! The bible is true because it says it's true? Horse-hockey!! You are a brain-washed sheep.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • LinCA

      @blackyb

      You said, "God Is the Great I AM. Every knee will bow and every tongue will say so before it is all said and done."
      Do you have any evidence to back up such a ridiculous claim? Without it, your god is about as likely to be real as the Tooth Fairy.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • M

      Reminds me of the line from Charelton Heston in the Ten Commandments.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • stingisthetruth

      I am Southern. I am Baptist. I am an Eagle Scout, bronze palm. And this is BS.
      The Scouts are a great organization, to which we need to be returning, not running from. Responsibility. Hard work. Citizenship.
      The Southern Baptists are being morons.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Bible Stumper

      Get a bullhorn, a white robe, some wild hair, and head downtown to scream at the people who pass. You're ready for that role...

      June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, a quote.....very impressive blackyb

      June 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Scott in Texas

      The only regret I have is that no one, including you, will be around to know you were wrong.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • felixgiordano

      Sorry, but the God of Abraham is an extraterrestrial, the Virgin Mary was artificially inseminated by an alien, and Christ was a human/alien hybrid. Our Creator is real and it is He who is responsible for all that we see but the God in the bible, as well as the stories in that bible are based upon alien visitations.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  17. a loud cat

    Well, this is the best news I've read all day.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  18. The King

    Baptists are to Christians what republicans are to Americans. An embarrasment.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • blackyb

      Well, go get your nun costume on and your red lipstick, your feathers and your leather backless britches and march down San Francisco and see who is the embarrassment to America. You are a very sin sick bunch. Your conscious has been seared and your eyes and mind blinded to the Truth. Play your games for the time draweth nigh when you will be held accountable. God said this too, so take it up with Him. Jesus left you a last will and Testament at his death, so if that which is bequeathed is not good enough for you, then follow after whatever you will. It is your life now and eternal life that is at stake. It would be best to rethink your priorities. Death can come at any second and the Rapture can take place any second. Know that there WILL be an accountability.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Anthony

      Amen blackyb.

      Well said. Well said.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  19. logan5

    Good riddance! And what is ironic here is that with the Baptists out of the scouts, now the scouts are an even more moral organization than before.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • lomax

      Idiot...

      June 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  20. lionlylamb

    JOregon wrote on Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm declaring, "A Homosexual 17 year old Virgin is told he has chosen a wicked lifestyle and is going to burn, because the bible talks about certain ACTS (which he has never done) pretty much fits your definition doesn't it?"

    Any 17 years aged and still a "virgin" are a rarity in these days of sexuality being an ever younger phenomenon of human conditioning.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • JOregon

      When you are Gay the pool is much smaller, not as likely to find someone to click with. Especially in a small community.
      There are also many kids that actually do try to save it for their life partner.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
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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.