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. Shecky

    Good for the Baptists. They are sticking up for what they believe in. You may disagree with the Baptists, but they have a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT to support the beliefs of their own religion.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • EvinAR

      And when they're destroying the society around them, if it refuses to white-wash itself?

      There are lines.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      And others have the right to question and disagree with their moral authority.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • maestra730

      You are correct. Not that the LGBT bullies care, of course. Every time we turn on the TV or radio or open a magazine or newspaper, we will still be subjected to having their agenda shoved down our throats. So incredibly sick of it.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Showing Their True Colors

      Ah Shecky, those who were in The Inquisition would have just loved this group wouldn't they with what you say about their beliefs and substantiations! And what group that made news was it that didn't want a couple to be inter-racially married as early as 2012 until they were called on the carpet for it? Ah, go figure.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  2. JayneQP

    There are moments in the human experience when some evolve and others stagnate and die off.  What was once a means of ensuring the survival of our species becomes a detriment, and those who are too weak to embrace the risk required to advance are the ones who fail to thrive.

    You can have a philosophy that centers around the worship of a creator.  You can devote your every effort to serving God in so many ways that do not require you to judge or injure your fellow man.  We are far too fixated on correcting the ways of others so that we can derive some personal benefit, all the while sinning left and right.  I didn't think there were degrees of sin.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  3. EvinAR

    No surprise here... the baptists are showing the world what they do when they think people are Godless and need to be excommunicated. Typical behavior of people whose ultimate reason for doing good is absolutely SELFISH. Anything that taints them and a spotless, heaven-bound fate is shoved out with the rest of the 'devil-marked Society'. These people don't know what it means to truly do something good when NOBODY is watching. NOBODY at all. Ironic... because they and the rest of the God-deluded NEED somebody to watch them and pat them on the back... need a reason to even live. When you're atheist, you go through a hell of a phase... when you wonder, 'just what is the reason I'm still here?'... and you realize finally that you ARE here, you're NOT going to find a reason WHY, so you'd better hope that others can treat you as they'd treat themselves and vice versa, for NO reason other than want of an existence.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  4. Bibi

    That should improve the Scouts immeasurably!!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  5. kdiannepannullo

    It's sad, but I'm not surprised. I was raised Southern Baptist and when I entered the real world, it was like deprogramming from a cult. It's all fear-based. Southern Baptists pick and choose which parts of the bible they will follow. It makes no sense at all. It's very very sad for the boys. I have fond memories of Girl Scouts. It was one of the few times I could be like and spend time with the normal kids. The world is full of all kinds of people. Why not teach your children how to get along with them all rather than isolate them?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  6. John the Baptist

    My former pastor used to preach hate for gays every Sunday.

    That was before he was caught in a hotel room with a gay escort.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  7. Bostontola

    Christian logic:
    People must choose to be gay. Proof – if god made people gay then how could it be a sin?

    No matter how much science there is to the contrary, Christians must abide that logic or their scripture will be broken.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Alias

      But what makes it right to hate some sins, and ignore others?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Chris H

    Well, good riddance to the Baptists. Intolerant so-called Christians aren't welcome any more. As for their precious scripture (you know, that stuff handed down by their imaginary man in the sky), it says adulterers shall be stoned to death, but they seem to ignore that (and many, many other things are ignored, too). When religion disappears from the face of the Earth, we will be on the true path to the salvation of our species.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  9. Colin

    You can be pretty sure you created God in your image and not vise-versa, when it turns out he loves all the same things you love, hates all the same things you hate, has an idential moral outlook as you and wants exactly the same things you do for your own future and the future of those you love.

    It is completely obvious that "God" is nothing more than a projection of our own hopes and dreams onto an all powerful diety so that we can rest assured that they will be realized.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Alias

      Well said.
      The baptists won't get it, but they are not good with the truth anyway.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  10. Bible Stumper

    I've been researching the comments we've seen about "gluttony and it is in fact considered a sin throughout Christian religions. I propose the Baptists have a universal weigh-in and identify all of the gluttons in their flock. By eliminating everybody who is technically obese, especially in Southern states, they can reduce the need for churches, Bibles, and preachers by about 60%. If they can also weed-out the fornicators, the liars, and the greedy they can hold their convention in a mini-van.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Timmmmmy

      Not gonna happen. They love Chick-Fil A as much (if not more) as Jesus.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  11. Heretic

    Good the less xtians the better.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Jim

      I'd rather get rid of the sodomites.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  12. Miguel

    I wonder if Baptists are going to ban military funerals or military weddings now that gays are allowed in the military? Or would God be unhappy with them?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Alias

      You should get out more.
      One bunch of baptists is a step ahead of you on that one.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  13. vic

    Southern Baptists are some of the most backward and ignorant Christians there are. After all, they split from the Northern Baptists because of the slavery issue.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  14. Gary

    Well...I have posted three responses and it seems that censorship has already taken hold. CNN buffers will not allow my post to go through. Let's see if this one makes it.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • C N N

      Gary, you are not using the correct words. Try using words like fuck, titillate, blowjob, asshole, spic and accumulate. You should have not problem then.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  15. Vic

    There were talks in the recent past about dropping the word southern from the SBC because it impedes the work of affilited local churches. I wonder what happened to that!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Vic


      June 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  16. Pastor Bob

    The Boyscouts just became a much better organization.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  17. James L Ellis Phoenix, AZ

    I choose to abandon partisan politics rather than God, Scouting and Boys learning to be Men. Leadership is needed more than ever.

    My involvement in Boys Scouts of America will continue in order to lead and help train ALL boys into men. Abandoning Scouting because of participation by any subset of boys is like leaving a church (or my Faith in God) because of participation by sinners. We are called to a higher purpose in both Scouting and in our Faith(s). Aside from my private opinions I remain in Scouting and in my Faith so as to 'be Prepared' to help someone reach their potential in life- and beyond. it is the individual who needs to discover and confront the nature and definition of 'sin' in their life. I can only lead and facilitate the learning of life skills. Learning to think, choose and recognize consequences of our actions are at the top of that list.

    At the same time, the precepts of the Scout Law and Oath as well as the character of God will not change.

    Boy Scout Law
    A Scout is:
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

    Boy Scout Oath or Promise
    On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

    Jim Ellis, Phx AZ; Member, North Phx Baptist Church/BSA Grand Canyon Council Troop 43

    June 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Pastor Bob

      God makes gay people gay. When God stops making them, maybe you'll have room to judge them. Until then, if you don't like gays, take it up with God.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      How do you know god's character, esp. given it most likely does not exist?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • JOregon

      Show me where in the bible it says a Gay Orientation is a sin. Remember many Gays are Virgins or Celibate.
      When we are talking about BOY Scouts, and CUB Scouts that is most of them.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Absolutely Right!

      You have a wonderful grasp of the obvious, Pastor Bob! You are 100% Correct in what you say!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  18. vic

    Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

    June 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  19. Diogonese

    So what? Since when did it become illegal, or even reprehensible, for people to join or unjoin organizations like th Boy Scouts? Can't we all just get along and leave folks to their privacy?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Alias

      This is no different than leaving an group because they allow black members.
      Or is that okay with you too?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  20. jimatmadison

    Leave it to the Baptists to bail on an organization because it isn't bigoted enough.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:19 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.