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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. Klaark

    Good riddance to evil bigots. May they all be in need of a gay person's mercy and tolerance.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • John in Seattle

      Amen to that. Southern Baptists don't get it and probably never will.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Athy

      Well, if they "got it" they wouldn't be Southern Baptists, would they?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  2. pbtad

    Let them go. Let all of the Baptists form their own little club where they can pray to their god and read their bible.

    That will leave the BSA for the rest of us to enjoy free from religion.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      From the BSA website.

      A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.

      To encourage members to grow stronger in their faith, religious groups have developed the following religious emblems programs. The Boy Scouts of America has approved of these programs and allows the emblems to be worn on the official uniform. The various religious groups administer the programs. Check with your local council service center or contact the religious organization directly to obtain the curriculum booklets.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Doug

      You do know that BSA was originally founded on Christian values right, and that they still take an oath to do their duty to God right?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Jay in NC

      You said, "A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion."
      Yes, allowing gay scouts was only a small step toward equal access. The BSA has quite a ways to go.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Silly

      If the BSA is not a religion it should get over the swearing to god. They don't do that in US courthouses, why should the BSA? Oh, and which god?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  3. Harry

    So long, southern baptists, it's been good to know ya. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Hellscreamgold

      I'm sure you'll be looking at the gay boys, mr. pedobear

      May 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  4. Dorothy

    Thank God.....why would the BSA want bigots in their organization anyway? It seems contradictory to what they are supposed to stand for. Interestingly enough many organizations lost membership when they started allowing blacks in them too.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • JH1

      Society progresses one funeral at a time.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  5. hunbeesara

    I have been a member of three Southern Baptist churches in my life, and the Royal Ambassador was a joke in all three churches. It will not be a good replacement for Boy Scouts.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • JH1

      On the plus side, the Boy Scouts get to rid themselves of a parasite.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  6. JD

    These Baptists are spewing hatred. I was raised Christian but I am not a Christian now, and I feel really frustrated and saddened when I find myself linking Christians with hatred. The Boy Scouts are doing the right thing and yes, how much more fun to earn merit badges for outdoor skills and bird watching skills- I did not know they did the bird stuff. Wonderful!

    May 31, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  7. Vicki

    That "redeemer" article IS hysterical. It is also "proof texting".

    May 31, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  8. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Word Gay is based on, intention by heart and mind is word Ya, base word for word yes, and GA is what ever one wishes from his mind and heart. Letter a without umlaut means subordinated to, letter Y represents word Ya, yes. Word gay means nothing else, but a hindu secular, filthy self centered, in disregard to truth absolute. No one should have any thing to do with a gay, other wise translated as a criminal.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • NESTLE FOUNDATION OF OVALT INE

      Don't pay Sam B any mind -he just likes to dance post weird shit. He was also somehow able to take the letter "i" out of "Sam".
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSc5gG0Ugqg&w=640&h=360]

      May 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  9. hooah

    End of BSA? Shame.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  10. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Will the Southern Baptists plan an exodus from the military? I'm pretty sure there are openly gay people in the military. Shouldn't someone tell the Baptists?

    May 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Julia Gershon

      Good point.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Ernie franco

      This is not even same thing. The military is not renting out the church. They are simply saying if you meet in our building you cannot be against the things of God. I am sure they would do the same thing with the KKK.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  11. Vicki

    Thank goodness the Baptists are leaving if they are feeling uncomfortable. Their actions and deeds are so UN-Christlike, they appear to make such poor examples of Christian-like behavior. "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." – Mahatma Gandhi

    Baptists! Try to remember, we are all children of a loving God.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Like Gandu Gandhi was like their Christ? he himself was a hindu gay, filthy secular by faith.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • montyross

      Jesus overturned the money tables in the temple and was very angry because the Priest were making money off of the people

      May 31, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Ernie franco

      The christians are being completely Christlike. Did you remember when Jesus flipped over the vendors tables in the temple because they were using Gods house as a supermarket to rip people off. I wouldnt follow ghandi because his faith was not in Christ. Anyone who does not follow Christ goes to hell according to the Bible. I would agree christians at times are not Christlike like the rest of the world. My hope is not in people but in the perfect God of the bible.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  12. Robert

    It won't take long for a new boy scout organization that doesn't sent out young boys with others who want to sodo-mize them to have most of the current BSA members.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Julia Gershon

      So, you think the new organization is going to ban straight male scout leaders? Because that's who most of the pedophiles are.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • spencercourt

      > whenever atheists have obtained political power mass murder and denial of the most basic of human rights has followed.

      Why don't you cite the history Robert? Then, let's compare the body count of atheists murdering folks because of their religious beliefs to those of Christians who did that. We can start with the Spanish Inquistion. Then, when the Protestant Reformation came about, the Catholics tried to massacre all the Protestants they could find, such as the Huguenots.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huguenot

      Christianity is definitely in the running for one of the most murderous religions, especially of other Christians.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  13. Incensed

    Just another closed-minded move made by the Southern Baptist organization. As someone else said, they are full of hate. Not to mention very, very judgmental. As I recall, the Bible says "Do Not Judge; Lest Ye Be Judged." Southern Baptists love to judge. Always have, always will.

    And I was brought up a Southern Baptist.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • HenryB

      You hit the nail on the head

      May 31, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      Really? The "do not judge" canard again? Please learn something about the Bible. Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” The SBC is making a right judgment – one in line with their beliefs and one in line with scripture.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • TheMilhous

      Just another closed-minded post made by the ignorant. As someone else said, Incensed is full of hate. Not to mention very, very judgmental. As I recall, the Bible says "Do Not Judge; Lest Ye Be Judged." Incensed loves to judge. Always has, always will.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  14. Holly

    Oh please, one church announces that they are turning away their boy scout troop, and all of a sudden, the CNN following sheep assumes that the thousands of Baptist Churches across the nation are following suit. That makes about as much sense as saying that because one gun owner shot someone that all of a sudden, every gun owner is going to go crazy. Those that jump on the 'hate' bandwagon are usually the worst offenders.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Dan

    Time for the SBC to be labeled a Hate Group. I am tired of the religious right cramming down their values on society. This past election made it clear, this country is no longer interested in the "family values" of the Republican Party. CNN needs to keep highlighting the follies of religion and pushing its secular/atheist agenda. Time to move on American.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Robert

      Anti-theists should certainly be labeled as hate group members. Time after time whenever atheists have obtained political power mass murder and denial of the most basic of human rights has followed.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Robert, If you read the posts on here reguarly you would have seen that debunked hundreds of times. I presume you're equating communist with atheist and refer to, for example Stalin. Stalin did not kill because of religion, it was power and ideology that drove his killing. While not defending his ruthlessness, many of the deaths on his watch were inadvertant – the result of poor policy, for example millions died of starvation in the Ukraine because of poor agricultural policy combined with the rigidity that comes with a totalitarian ruler.
      Whereas the Crusades, Inquisition, and many missions were solely for religious reasons.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  16. Nik

    Thank God someone finally backs the Bible!

    May 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • boo

      The Bible. Ah yes, the text that was "messed with like a San Diego hooker when the fleet is in".

      May 31, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  17. Laura H.

    There's this little problem that the Old Testament and the New Testament don't say the same thing. The Old Testament is condemning, Jesus is loving. This is the "fundamental" problem of "fundamentalist" churches. (That's supposed to be funny.) I was taught, as a Christian, that the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament, so I can't understand "Christian" churches that stick to Old Testament doctrines that contradict what Jesus said. If you don't believe Jesus' teachings, why do you call yourselves "Christians"?

    May 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's best not to believe any of it, but someone will come along shortly and point out that the Christ of the New Testament fulfilled the law of the Old Testament but did not do away with any of it.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Laura: I think you might want to actually read what Jesus said about the Old Testament (e.g., Mt.5:17-20; Lk.24:27,44; etc.). Fulfilling the law very different than contradicting it.

      Helpful article here...
      http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363

      May 31, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Laura H.

      So if he said things that flatly contradict other things in the Old Testament, they're both right?

      May 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Laura: like I said, the article is helpful.
      but i think an example might make for a clearer discussion... and you obviously have one in mind.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Laura H.

      BTW, I think that "redeemer" article is pretty funny. (http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363) "We're not picking and choosing," just rationalizing picking and choosing!

      May 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • HenryB

      The reason they run away from the old testament is because it does not fit their narrative. If it did, they would be all adopting it. What a hateful bunch of people – the American Christian that is.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Julia Gershon

      Do the Scouts routinely expel pack leaders who commit adultery? Just wondering.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Laura: so you're conceding that the Bible teaches Jesus is God, and that he actually came in the flesh in the NT (i.e., lived the life we couldn't, died the death we deserve, and rose from the grave)...

      but your primary objection – despite allowing the idea that God actually entered history (logically the bigger discussion piece) – is the way the rules BEFORE God came are affected by this event AFTER it?

      seems to me you are swallowing the camel & straining the gnat...

      May 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Henry: Christians are not running from the OT. As Jesus said, it's all about him (Lk.24:27,44).
      To punt the OT is to punt Jesus. Google Marcion.

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkNa6tLWrqk&w=640&h=360]

      May 31, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  18. dill-dough

    Now if all of the Mormons would leave the Boy Scouts, it would be a pretty decent organization.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Athy

      How about the holy rollers?

      May 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • montyross

      it is becoming Sandusky-like

      May 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  19. carl wiley

    The fact that women can vote and blacks can live in any neighborhood also must drive the Southern Baptists insane! However, it is still only ok to openly discriminate against gays. The SBC is just a group of hateful old white men wrapped in the sickening, loving blanket of Jesus with a lovely xenophobic flag on top. History will judge the SBC as the immoral hate group!!

    May 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      It is the Northern cities that are segregated.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  20. brad1001

    Sooo .. rather than learn the beauty of the planet and learn to be stewards of it .... let's memorize Bible verses ... whoo hoo .. let the good times roll !!

    May 31, 2013 at 9:29 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.