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. Cory

    Not everyone in the South is a narrow-minded, prejudiced Jesus freak. Just wanting to let everyone know this if it hasn't been said already.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Athy

      Agreed, Cory. I know many decent people in, and from, the south.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • lol??

      "Mat 7:14 Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

      BTW, the "straights" are part of the comedy team. So the joke is on the majority.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:51 am |
  2. rob

    Good riddance to the bigots. The Boy Scouts, and society, are much better off without bigoted religious fanatics.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      That is precisely how a lot of people feel. That is, until they end up in hell. Once in hell, they'll then wish they were in heaven with the same people they had called "bigots"…

      May 31, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • JH1

      It's going to kind of suck for you if Islam turns out to be the one true religion, hey?

      May 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • JH1

      @ JTF

      It's going to kind of suck for you if Islam turns out to be the one true religion, hey?

      May 31, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • GinCas

      @JH1; Exactly, JH1, EXACTLY!!!!!

      May 31, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Dan

      There is no true religion. They are all fake. They are all a bunch of absurd nonsense.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Chris

      Just the Facts...more like fiction, but why would anyone want to be in a heaven with a bunch of intolerant bigots? That, in itself, sounds more like hell.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • JH1

      @Dan and @GinCas

      Not so fast. I am here to state that the one true religion is Leprechism. I have no evidence, so you'll just have to have faith that I'm right. And given that I am right, I plan to lobby for legislation stating everyone must wear only green. For their own good afteral, I wouldn't want them to wander eternally in the shamrockian forest.

      Leprechians will consider joining the BSA if they revert to their old ways of wearing the brownish-green uniform. The current blue uniform is a blasphemous abomination.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  3. CW

    Prove to me that the bible is God's word! You can't do it. the bible was translated by the catholic church and they put in it what they wanted the ignorant to learn. Southern Baptists are bigots! They are as bad as muslims. If you don't belive what they believe you are damned. It wouldn't surpirse me if southern baptist weren't killing gays to get rid of them.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • JH1

      First they need to prove the existence of a deity. Then they need to make the leap that this deity has the qualities of their god. Then they need to prove that their religious text is actually inspired by this god and was not written by people with a control agenda.

      That's a whole lot of assumptions and faith based on zero evidence for any step in the process.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  4. Bostontola

    John 6:40, gay or not.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Russ

      relevant: Rom.6:1-14

      May 31, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Bostontola

      According to your own book, there's lots of gays in heaven. All in heaven were sinners.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Dan

      Santa 12:25

      May 31, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bostontola: I agree... they once *were* sinners (1 Cor.6:11).
      Jesus said to the religious right of his day: the tax collectors and prosti.tutes are getting into heaven before you.
      but do you think by that Jesus was celebrating government corruption and adultery?

      to use the technical terms: you have a strong view of justification, but seem to lack any sense of sanctification.
      yes, Jesus died for such as us... we were once his enemies... but he did not call us (nor leave us) to linger in that condition.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Didn't call for lingering, but didn't exclude from heaven for it.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Russ, it's great that Jesus died for us while were yet sinners, strangers to the truth etc. Have you ever wondered, though, does God or did Jesus actually like us? Not as in love that surpasses all understanding, but simply like us for who and what we are?

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

      @ Bostontola: the cross is that powerful, but to celebrate things that deserve such a death somehow misses the point, doesn't it? to do so is to ignore the very Love that died (and which we claim to be building our new identi.ty upon).

      and that's normally where the divide occurs: what is more intrinsic to your self-understanding... Christ or your se.xuality?

      May 31, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TTTOO: you've asked two different questions there...
      does he like us? more than we can imagine (as the cross makes clear)... he adopts us (Jn.1:12-13). could there be more intimate language?

      does he "simply like us for who and what we are?" that's a loaded question in this discussion. similar to what i said to Bostontola above... is one's identi.ty in what you are *now* or in what God is making us (the goal)? seems to me the g.ay Christian lobby wants to put one's se.xual ident.ity on equal footing with (or claim it is one & the same as) our identi.ty in Christ. but as Soren Kierkegaard rightly said: "sin is building your identi.ty on anything other than Christ." do we need to even ask the question "does God like sin?"

      May 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      @Russ – Get help, you can overcome your affliction, you need only open your eyes and see through the lies you've been shoveled for years.
      There may be a god, but Xtianity ain't even close. It's so ludicrously, laughably false it boggles the mind that any human would fall for such a stolen mish-mash of religious stories and faux history.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Fred Evil:
      thanks for demonstrating my point. if Jesus can save such a mess as me, Christ can save anyone.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  5. tallulah13

    Good. Children don't need exposure to the sort of hate that the baptist church teaches.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • GinCas

      Soooooo true!

      May 31, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  6. TommyTT

    "It's not a hate thing," eh? And when segregationists quoted the Bible to "prove" that blacks are inferior, that wasn't a hate thing, either?

    May 31, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Blacks are racist TOO apparently

      and when everyone jumped on the bandwagon of a 17 year old thug and called the hispanic guy 'WHITE' that wasn't a hate thing either, huh? Posting pics of the kid when he was little, trying to hide pics of him holding a gun, being suspended from school, growing drugs, etc, etc, etc. I know many people that have been robbed downtown by someone who was black but unlike you I"M NOT STUPID ENOUGH to stamp the population.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Wait a minute. I heard about this when I was a child. There are black people and there are white people. Everyone who is not white is black.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  7. JMB

    Hebrews 10:26-29

    May 31, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Nathan

      That is an excellent application of scripture for this question JMB.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Dan

      Santa 12:25

      May 31, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  8. Lando

    It's a hate thing.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  9. Marie

    "Did you feed my children?"
    "Did you give clothing or offer shelter?
    "Did you offer to teach another the skills I gave to you"?
    "Did you ask me to help those, who could not help themselves"?
    "Did you pray for those who did not or would not pray for you"?
    "Did you strive to do right for righteousness without expecting reward"?
    "Did you try and heal my creation (nature) that is being destroyed"?

    "No Lord, but I did judge an entire group of people who I KNOW were not worthy you or ME. I cut them from my life and tried my best to cut them from your world."

    What do you think His response will be?

    May 31, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  10. BK

    It's good that they took a strong Biblical stance. I assume they will be taking the biblical stance on stoning disobedient children to death and allowing slavery.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  11. Dr Matrix

    I'm no religious scholar but it seems to me "Christians" follow Christ who preached love, forgiveness and respect. If they want to quote the Old Testament quit claiming to follow Christ.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  12. buzzhowdy

    A shrinking Baptist influence is good. When they do it voluntarily it is better.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  13. Bostontola

    Aren't there lots of gays in heaven? They accept Jesus and boom...they're in. Just like every other person in heaven, sinners all. So why are gays singled out for sinning when all people sin?

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

      Galatians 5:19-21

      May 31, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Bostontola

      John 6:40

      May 31, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  14. BSA


    May 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
  15. AW

    Proverbs 23:2 states and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. For the Baptist to quote one verse and then forget what I say 30-50 percent of Baptist are(overweight) is wrong. But when is the the time you heard Proverbs 23:2 from the pulpit? I was Baptist my whole life. They talk one thing to your face then talk about people behind their back right in church. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 where it talks about love for everyone.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  16. frmermrine

    Good riddance. People who claim they are being discriminated against when they are not allowed to discriminate against others are not people anyone needs in their organization. They will always play the victim in order to victimize others.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  17. Skipio

    They don't seem to mind taking advantage of a tax exemption for their little churches (hate clubs). Let them give that up, too.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  18. Paul

    Glad they are standing up for their beliefs. I support them and the scouts gave them no choice.

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

      Well, Paul, why don't you join them on the trash pile of obsolescence.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  19. tony

    That should have read "Southern believer in fantasies", not Baptist.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  20. Oh Well!

    There really is little difference between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists - both groups wholeheartedly believe in fundamental falsehoods. Jesus is probably weeping in heaven for these poor, foolish souls.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Marlene Crumley

      Islamic fundamentalists usually kill those who do not conform to their beliefs. Christians just go their own way.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • tom

      Yea may want a history lesson Christians have been killing in the name of god for a very long time fool. Google Crusades.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:43 am |
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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.