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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. JMB

    Romans 1:24-26

    May 31, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  2. J

    And nothing of value was lost.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  3. Larry

    Do you pull your kids out of school because of ! gay student? No.
    Do you quit your job because of 1 gay employee? No.
    Do you move out of your neighborhood because of 1 gay resident? No.
    Why would you remove your child out of scouts for such a policy? Your child knows if he is gay or not and if you don't think so your are kidding yourself. My question is what would Jesus do? We all know he would minister to the kids and not quit! Judge not less you be judged, you bigoted Christian sinners.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  4. JMB

    Galatians 5:19-21

    May 31, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  5. Don Pablo

    31,000 Royal Ambassadors is a sin in itself. That number should be closer to a million like it once was. But it was really replaced by AWANAS in most Baptist churches. But Royal Ambassadors was chartered as a Christian scouting organization. You learned knots, camping, hiking, nature, camp craft, and went to camp to practice those skills. There were state and national R.A. meetings along with R.A. choirs. There were easily a million members in its height in the 70's but saw huge drops in numbers as churches chose to eliminate it. Then the SBC killed it with the adoption of AWANAS as the official SBC Wednesday evening activity. The first salvo to kill it was killing Brotherhood. Then Baptist Men, then it was natural to kill RA's. AWANAS replaced it and all it does is wrote recall of Bible scriptures. I one time asked my nephew to tell me his verse for the day. He regurgitated it like it was an audio tape. I then asked him, now how does this verse apply to your life and how can you use it to further the kingdom of God? He said, "what." I asked him again, "what does that verse you just told me mean?" He said, "I really don't care, but if I can say it tonight at the meeting, I can get my forth patch."

    May 31, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  6. pauleky

    Good riddance.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  7. CRC

    If you are Christian you must make a stand against an organization that flies in the face of your higher calling.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      There are indeed many who call themselves Christian, but are too weak to stand up for God in the face of evil. Shameful...

      Mark 8:38 – Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      Except that it is all so obviously hypocritical when Christians all have a different view of all the details that go into the key notions of redemption and salvation.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Your higher calling was demonstrated to you by your Christ who preferred the company of people who were openly disobedient to the law over that of high-minded hypocrites.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Jump Back… What other people do is still no excuse for you to be disobedient to the Word of God. They will be held accountable for what they do, and you will be held accountable for what you do. You have no excuse…

      May 31, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • JH1

      Someone tell me why all of these anti-gay Christian protests and stand up for their higher calling have yet to advocate for the full fledged law of Leviticus 20:13.

      If you actually believed it, you wouldn't stop at simply saying it's a sin. You'd be calling for the death penalty. But that would make you exactly the same as every other crazed, oppressive, fundamental theocracy now, wouldn't it?

      It's quite the pick and choose game trying to balance all that "freedom and democracy" with "follow my god-inspired morality."

      May 31, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      @JustNoFacts

      The Word of God, huh? Hmm. Which version? Let's see:

      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.

      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.

      Christians are simply hypocrites.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  8. Science

    Ancient life.

    No fricking bible...........creationists.........(.chad and doogie included). about 3.5 billion years ago.................geology .

    Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

    May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130528143756.htm

    Bigem crickets .

    May 31, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  9. Silly

    Good!

    May 31, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  10. Minerva

    It is better they leave than stay and try to force their prejudiced policies on everyone else. Failing to make everyone else fall in line with their hate and narrow mindedness masquerading under the guise of religion, they have taken their propaganda and gone home.

    I have only one thing to say to them. "Don't let the door hit 'ya where the good Lord split 'ya."

    May 31, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      And if those Baptists were to reply back to you, I'm sure they'd say, "And don't you make a splash when you splash into the lake either (the lake of fire and brimstone). Which is precisely where all gays are going on Judgment Day...

      May 31, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Jeff

      @Justthefacts:

      If Heaven is populated by people like you, I'll take the flames of Hell any day. The world doesn't run according to your moral authority. You have no power in this world and never will, you weak pathetic little man.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Jeff… Then the flames of hell you shall have. And getting upset with me is not going to change anything. As for the world, this world is not of God. Never has been and never will be. Nor will the world be saved. The only thing you can do is to save yourself out of the world (by following the plan of salvation that Jesus set up and left behind for us to follow). If you refuse to do that, then hell shall indeed be your home…

      May 31, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Athy

      I don't think he's even a man.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  11. bcrunner

    Yes, some if not quite a few will leave... and then they will come back... And if they don't, it's their loss... Bigotry is not acceptable...

    May 31, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      The scriptures clearly tell us to separate ourselves from unbelievers and from those who walk disorderly. So if the Baptist leave, they're only doing the will of God. For what possible reason would they ever want to come back?...

      2 Thess 3:6 – Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

      2 Corinthians 6:14 …for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord

      May 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  12. Jump back in that cave even further

    Many Baptist churches broke away from SBC years ago for their conservative views on women's roles.

    The Southern Baptist Convention officially sanctioned the model of male headship and female subordination, making it a core belief in its "Baptist Faith and Message", in a 2000 revision.

    Additionally, the 2000 BF&M now prescribes a husband-headship authority structure, closely following the apostle Paul's exhortations in Ephesians 5:21-33.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ jump back:
      Jesus died for his bride (Eph.5:25) in the passage you cited.
      Don't you think that kind of 'headship' is something very different from authoritarian oppression?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      That's from the Wikipedia page on the SBC, Russ.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      More specifically, what Wikipedia shows for their article on The Family is:

      Article XVIII. The Family. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      More from Wiki:

      The hardening of SBC positions on gender roles and restrictions of women's participation in the pastorate contributed to the decision by members now belonging to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) to break from the SBC in 1991.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Russ

      @ jump back: let me try to ask it again... slightly differently...
      if they are appealing to Christ as the standard (as is only more greatly evidenced by your citations), do you think they believe Christ's "headship" was oppressive for his 'bride' or liberating? remember, Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served. it certainly seems your cynicism fails to engage their self-understanding.

      implication: do they believe they worship a God who oppresses them and so in turn they can oppress their wives? or are they articulating something very different – something your critique fails to engage?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      Well that's all stuff from the SBC, Russ. And many Baptist churches did leave because they thought their ideology was archaic. As an atheist who experienced some of the upheaval within those organizations, I no longer have need of anything close to a Christian ideology.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      You may want to speak to someone at some other kinds of Baptist churches, i.e., American Baptist churches, Russ, if you want to get some good opinions on why some of those churches broke away from the SBC. Or the drastic difference between the ELCA and the conservative Lutherans, etc., etc. People, especially young people, are not going to put up with this fire and brimstone junk anymore, especially in this information age, where there are less borders between an ever more varied population.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Russ

      @ jump back: do you feel the same way about the high percentage of African American churches that stand against g.ay marriage?

      also, in the US, it is the mainline Protestant denominations (such as the ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, etc.) that are consistently shrinking (and have been for decades). that runs directly contrary to your premise. the numbers only become even more exaggerated when compared globally (with exponential growth among conservative churches in Africa, China & Latin America).

      May 31, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Jump back in that cave even further

      Russ, what "premise" on mine are you talking about, Russ? That many Baptist churches split from the SBC years ago? Something else?

      Also, do you have any statistics that show the change in membership between say the ELCA and say the Missouri Synod or between the ELCA and the WELS that would support what you said?

      May 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Russ

      @ jump back:
      your premise (as you stated): "that young people are not going to put up with that fire and brimstone junk anymore, especially in this information age"

      i can't put my finger on exact stats, but some quick google searches will get you there. here's a NY Times article from last year on the subject, citing a Pew Forum study:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/us/study-finds-that-percentage-of-protestant-americans-is-declining.html?_r=0

      i do have some numbers on the international front...
      China: less than 10 million Christians in 1949 to hundreds of millions at present (again, widely accepted)
      Africa: 9.8 million in 1900 to 380 million in 2003 (roughly 7-10x the population growth)
      Yale scholar Lamin Sanneh cites the latter stat in his book.
      and you might have noticed how the African churches are breaking away from their more liberal, western counterparts. and those stats are eye-opening as well. there are more Anglicans worshipping in individual African countries than the entirety of the UK & US combined.

      again, the growth is among the conservative groups. that is pretty widely accepted. the debate arises on the 'why'.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  13. Timothy Legeros

    Love this...."The priest told CNN affiliate FOX16 that his parish will part ways with the Scouts and develop its own programs.
    ". ........I wonder what kinds of programs? There's already one for intolerant bigots and they wear white hoods and sheets. Why not take this unique opportunity to teach your children about peoples differences, tolerance and acceptance???? We are all not alike and thank goodness for that.

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

      So, just because some people don't like something means that they don't have the right to do so?

      May 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  14. HenryMiller

    "Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts"

    Good riddance.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  15. Hillary

    The hatred inherent in Christianity is against shown by these hate groups. Many of these past generation Southern Baptists have been slave owners and Klansmen. Just another facet of their hate-filled religion.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Hellscreamgold

      because someone doesn't believe in someone else's choice makes them full of hatred? I don't think so.

      And if you're one of those that believe that "being gay" isn't a choice, hate tell ya something...

      May 31, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Joeymom

      Good thing most Christians aren't Southern Convention Baptists. (You seem to have forgotten that).

      May 31, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  16. GaryB

    In other news, Southern Baptist churches will now start stoning girl scouts who disrespect their parents at the temple gates, as the old testament explicitly orders that action as well.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • John in Seattle

      yes... isn't it interesting how Leviticus is cited as "the undeniable word of God" when it's convenient, and ignored when it's not.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  17. J. Wangsness

    Let them leave and let the back door hit them in the a..... on their way out.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  18. Colorado Joe

    Good riddance to the "churches". The crashing and flaming demise of the radical right and hate-mongering of the associated "churches" is well on its way. They just gave tens of millions of young people more good reasons to get out of the right wing, the right wing of today anyway, and move on in life that is free and open and just to everyone.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Just to everyone? But not those that disagree, right?

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

      A country that is quickly going down the tubes because they are moving further and further away from our roots, morals and ethics. No one said to hate, we are to love everyone, but to turn our backs and what God says is right is to flirt with disaster, and we're seeing that play out right now in this country.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Jeff

      Hey Doug, move to Iran. Enjoy your theocracy and see what it's really like.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  19. Michael

    Hopefully the Boy Scouts will go down the drain and does not exist anymore would be fine by me. Thats what they get for accepting those people

    May 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  20. Ben Franklin

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    (in London, from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772)

    May 31, 2013 at 9:59 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.