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. BB

    The way I look at it, the acceptance of being gay is now becoming a part of the culture. It's not really a matter of right or wrong (it's wrong), it's a matter of habituation, or conditioning. The gays have been at it for some 70 years, and it's working. It's been front and center for so long that we are now becoming accepting of it. And the younger you are and the longer you have been exposed to the gays in your face since the day you were born, the more OK you are with it. It's no surprise that the younger generation is much more tolerant of the GLBT bull than the old guys.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Acceptance of homosexuaity is actually common sense, as all evidence indicates that its natural and innate and no more harmful than heterosexuality.

      On the other hand, there is no evidence to support the existence of any god, so using the bible as an excuse to discriminate is as immoral and wrong as using your own discomfort as an excuse to discriminate. I'm happy to live in a time when such baseless bigotry is being rejected by decent people.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • BB

      On the other hand, I'm glad, since I myself am old and gay.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • BB

      Being gay is about as natural as a dog attacking a lamp post.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      yeah, those kids......

      not accepting of their ancestor's bigotry

      how uppity of them

      June 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      awwwww......BB.....the world ain't going the way you think it should go? too bad, so fvcking sad.....

      June 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Kinda feel sorry for ya there BB; hope you get better.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      Don't get better, BB.....eat your sidearm

      June 2, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  2. doG


    Kids don't join the Boyscouts to be taught to hate.

    If they want to learn to hate, they can just go to church for that.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  3. jimmy swaggart

    Satan! Satan! Satan! Evil! Blahahahaha!

    June 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Tandy

      Ignorant! Ignorant! Moron! Dolt!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • ahhh say seeeee yunnnned

      You left out the money shot: (tears streaming down swaggart's face on cue) Fer-geee-uvvv me...church... ahhhh hay-yuv seeee-yunned. (forgive me I have sinned fer yew Yankees)

      June 2, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  4. Jeff

    46 years ago interracial marriages became legal in the United States. How many Christians pulled their kids out of the scouts then?

    June 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Paul

      33% of people in some Southern states believe that interracial marriage should be illegal. At least gay advocates should feel a little less alienated after knowing that.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Marriage isn't common among Scouts.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Paul, I was bicycling near Tuscaloosa Alabama and stopped at a small store for a soda. The owner, an older lady, told us of an interracial marriage. The couple had a child. Wide-eyed, she confided to us that "it lived".

      June 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  5. BB

    They take their lead from the U.S. Postal Service. They cost the public billions, and if it fits, it sss hits.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • BB

      the gays of course!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Jay

      The Postal Service doesn't get a penny from Uncle Sam.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  6. emskadittle

    "its not hate its morality"? No its hate, you make your own morality based on your views

    June 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • BB

      I don't hate maggots, either, but I wouldn't eat what they eat.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      You already eat what maggots eat. How many items did you eat today that a maggot would eat? Most, probably.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  7. jimmy swaggart

    Leave his body satan! Leave his body satan! Blagraharfwabwaha! Save me someone! Satan has possessed my body. Lord Jesus save me!!

    June 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  8. Daisy3

    This kills me, and why I don't go to church anymore, where we live being baptist is almost required. and baptist are some of the meanest parishioners and clergy I've ever seen. God and Jesus preached love, compassion, understanding and overlooking of others before all other judgements. That God is the only one who can judge the human condition. I really think baptists are so afraid at the fact that all their inbreeding might show, that they deflect the attention elsewhere. Seriously ya'll, compassion and love for all is what is gonna get you through the pearly gates. Throwing stones, not so much.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  9. Sane Person

    Good. I dont want my kids exposed to crazy SB nuts.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  10. jimmy swaggart

    Evil, wickedness and sin. Darkness, misery and woe. Lucifer, hell, demons, darkness and suffering.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  11. faith

    What can be said with certainty is that, once the confrontation has been experienced—the rocky summit climbed, the interminable desert crossed—an unimaginably delectable vista presents itself, so vast, so luminous, so enchanting, that the small ecstasies of human love, and the small satisfactions of human achievement, by comparison pale into insignificance. Out of tactical despair comes an overwhelming strategic happiness, enfolded in which one is made aware that every aspect of the universe, from a tiny grain of sand to the light-years which measure its immeasurable dimensions, from the minutes" single living cell to the most complex human organism, are ultimately related, all deserving of reverence and respect; all shining, like glow-worms, with an intrinsic light, and, at the same time, caught in an all-encompassing radiance, like dust in a sunbeam.

    malcolm muggeridge

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • M

      You know, it's interesting to hear a religious person incorporate science into their philosophy. That's quite a way to come from originally accepting the entire Bible as fact.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  12. vilap

    I didn't realize the BSA was a religious organization.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  13. jimmy swaggart

    Satan is real folks. Hell aint no joke. He has cloven hooves, horns like the mormons have and carries a pitchfork. He reigns in hell.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tandy

      Coming from you, that's really ironic.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Jay

      Most Mormons I know are much better than you.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  14. jw

    we need more psychological therapy accessible in this country because religion is a fairy tale....and grown adults need to treat other grown adults with respect. There is no heaven or hell , you adults reading this! Grow up!!! you don't have the answers for everyone else....concentrate on your own self growth and LEAVE OTHERS ALONE!!! Put away your silly bibles and GROW UP!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • @

      It's called conditioning. Gays certainly made a lot of people go along with their bullshift!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • @@

      That is your opinion and while I respect it, I will still continue to worship God in my own way. Just because you can't understand the fulfillment of religion and how science and religion support each other doesn't mean that God is not real. I'll pray for you.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • M

      I can only believe that you live a very intellectually secluded life to think something like that.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious


      I guess the christards need to learn a thing or two from the gays, then. At best, gays make up 7-10% of the population, and nowhere near that number are outspoken about it. Christards are almost 90% of the population. Are they stupid or losers? hmmm.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  15. jimmy swaggart

    Demons begone!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Does that come in aerosol?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  16. shimolie

    I em a blabtist. Everything has to be spelled out to me in simple, pat, black & white style. If ever I ponder things like: why does god allow newly-born infants to die in horrible I remind myself what my self-appointed authority says and it restores my faith and fills my heart with glee. And I repeat those words of wisdom: they had it comin'. Thanks to gawwwwd, lifes answers are as easy as reading Dick And Jane (no reference to quaaaaaaaaars intended)

    June 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  17. Hey! You!

    A church that turns away sinners. Isn't that like a restaurant that turns away hungry people?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Daisy3

      lol this made me laugh more than it probably should have. very true as well.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  18. Savior

    You better pull your kids out of the Scouts before they catch the gay disease!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  19. Jonathan

    I'm a Christian. As a Christian, I know that Jesus said lusting after a woman is a sin equal to adultery. So do these Southern Baptists believe that any Scouts who lust after girls should also be kicked out of scouting?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Jesus also said forsake your family and friends and follow him only. Funny how he made that much more clear, and yet Christians tend to brush that one aside...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • M

      Human desire is quite natural and only harmful when selfishly imposed or satisfied, but it's no sin – that's too much weight to carry for just being human, to be told that your basic reflexes are evil – that creates too much self-loathing.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Miss Demeanor

      No... if a woman attracts a man, she is a sluuuu ttt. You don't seem to grasp the way blabtist gawwwwwwwwwwwwd made the world. Men are in charge, wimmin are secretary's, housekeepers or who res

      June 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Daisy3


      you do realize however that the bible was written through man's interpretation, and that man is unequivocally flawed right? The bible itself was translated from ancient text to english and that books in the bible were edited and some kept out all together, why? because man wanted his deity to fit his particular persuasion. can you honestly say you know the truth about how God thinks?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  20. @

    Both sides get about the same response from the majority of the people: Who cares?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:49 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.