May 31st, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Pacific moderate

    G'bye bigots. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. I'm off to read all those passages in the Bible where Jesus condemns people who are gay, er, I mean judgmental...

    May 31, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • joeskim

      Read Romans Chapter 1 and Revelation 22.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • joeskim

      Read Romans Chapter 1 and Revelation Chapter 22.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  2. Vicki

    Hmm... I dunno. When your "higher calling" is a reflection of martyrdom and an opportunity to piously boast, so sure of your own righteousness, I suggest you check your motives. Perhaps it is simply an opportunity to feel superior. I have always had difficulty trusting people who act smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others. Not to mention an entire group behaving that way.

    Good people, remember, when you do get to heaven, be very quiet when passing the Baptist house when walking down the beautiful streets of paradise. The Baptist will still be thinking they are the only ones there.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Athy

      Good grief. I'm rendered speechless.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  3. Onemore Fakefbpage

    What other sins prevent someone from being admitted to the BSA ?

    The one big one – bigger than anything else shouls be any child worshiping any god but the Christian God. Do you have to be a Christian to be in the BSA ?

    May 31, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Erik

      Nope. BSA takes all religions, but I think you have to basically recognize a "higher power", whatever that means to you personally.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  4. Skeeve

    Good, don't let the door slam you on your way out....

    May 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Likewise, and don't make a splash when you splash into the lake (the lake of fire and brimstone)...

      May 31, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Skeeve

      Oh, look, another 6500-old dinosaur just woke up

      May 31, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  5. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Dear Southern Baptists,

    o "Abrahamics" like yourselves believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Science Assistant - Weekend Edition



      The American Psychological Association states "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people", and says most people's sexual orientation is determined at an early age. Research into how sexual orientation in males may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises concerns about genetic profiling and prenatal testing."

      Professor Michael King states: "The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice."

      The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

      "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."


      The following is from the article:

      Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find (12/11/2012 – LiveScience)

      [ The search for a "gay gene" may be off-target, new research finds. Another process called epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality runs in families.

      Epigenetics are heritable changes caused by factors other than DNA. Instead of traits getting passed down through the genes, epigenetic change happens because of the way genes are regulated, or turned on and off.

      These genetic regulators may be the reason homosexuality persists in nature despite the fact that gay people are less likely to reproduce, suggests the new study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

      "These things have evolved because they're good for the parents, but they sometimes, not [with] high frequency, but sometimes carry over" into offspring, study researcher William Rice, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told LiveScience. In a male fetus, Rice and his colleagues write, an epigenetic change that benefited the mother may lead to "feminization" of sexual preference — homo- or bisexuality. The same may be true for epigenetic changes passed down by dad to a female fetus. (The terms feminization and masculinization of sexual preference refer to sexual orientation only — not to physical or personality traits of the offspring.)

      The findings add to past research suggesting gay men haven't died out, because female relatives of gay men tend to have more children on average than other females. The study researchers specifically found that two genes passed on through the maternal line could produce this effect.

      Hormones, epigenetics and orientation

      Rice and his colleagues focused on epi-marks, which are molecular changes that act like temporary "switches" to turn genes on and off. If a gene is a blueprint, the epi-mark is the construction foreman who makes sure the product gets built. An epi-mark also determines when, where and how much a gene is expressed, according to the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

      These molecular switches are usually erased very early in the developmental process, but they can be passed down from generation to generation, too, Rice said.

      Some epi-marks are particularly important during fetal development, when they promote normal physical development in the sexes despite natural variations in testosterone during pregnancy. Researchers know that fetal exposure to too much testosterone can masculinize the genitals, brain or behavior of a genetically female fetus. Likewise, too little testosterone can make a genetically male fetus more feminized.

      But here's the catch: There's lots of overlap between the levels of testosterone male and female fetuses get exposed to. That means there must be another side to the story, Rice and his colleagues wrote.

      That side appears to be epigenetics, Rice said.

      "Early in development, we think these epi-marks are laid down so that girl fetuses will be relatively insensitive to testosterone and male fetuses will be relatively sensitive to testosterone," Rice said.

      Biological behavior

      Thus, if an epi-mark that kept a mother from getting exposed to high testosterone in development gets passed on to her son — the opposite sex — it could desensitize him to testosterone, contributing to his sexual preference for men. Similarly, if a male-specific epi-mark from dad gets passed to a daughter, it could "masculinize" her sexual preference, making her more interested in women.

      These findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no "gay gene" can be found, Rice said. In identical twins, there's about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you'd expect a much higher match, Rice said. Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.

      The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in parents of kids with gay versus straight offspring, Rice said. There are, of course, concerns that this knowledge could be used by parents who want to avoid gay offspring, Rice said, but that concern already exists around certain hormonal conditions in utero, which are known to contribute to an increased chance of offspring being lesbians.

      "That cat's already out of the bag," Rice said. He added that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not "unnatural."

      "In fact, it's a major part of the natural world," Rice said. Fourteen percent of Western gulls raise chicks in female-female pairs, he pointed out. And 8 percent of male sheep show zero interest in fertile ewes, but get sexually excited by other rams. ]

      May 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • joeskim

      Schumm concluded that children of lesbian parents identified themselves as gay 31 percent of the time; children of gay men had gay children 19 percent of the time, and children of a lesbian mother and gay father had at least one gay child 25 percent of the time.

      Furthermore, when the study restricted the results so that they included only children in their 20s - presumably after they'd been able to work out any adolescent confusion or experimentation - 58 percent of the children of lesbians called themselves gay, and 33 percent of the children of gay men called themselves gay. (About 5 to 10 percent of the children of straight parents call themselves gay, Schumm says.)

      From: http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/17/study-gay-parents-more-likely-to-have-gay-kids/

      June 1, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  6. Robert Morales

    Why is their convention in Houston?! Don't they know we have strip clubs, immigrants, and gay people? You know, all that stuff they don't like!

    May 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  7. Jay

    Im curious....when did 'the right to choose' all of a sudden get stripped from the churches that follow this methodology? you all lambast the churches for their 'closedmindedness' yet EVERY single one of you attacking the churches right now are practicing the EXACT SAME kind of closedmindedness the churches are. its called hypocrisy.....and its practiced by idiots.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • ..

      ??? Who is "you all?"

      May 31, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Austin

      You talking about abortion bro?

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

      It's not closed mindedness or hypocrisy. It's called standing up against bigotry and then kicking it while it's down to make sure it doesn't get back up.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Chris

      They did not choose to do anything according to the right to choose as you say when their choice is based off something that is morally correct. If they chose to do this when accepting gays to the scouts was a cold topic then it would not be ridiculed at all and would be a near non-story. As well doing so this way they are voicing their stance and are opening themselves to everyone. Done quietly and it would not be discussed. So they set the stage as it were and now are ducking the flying rotten fruit.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  8. pentecostal

    1 thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:4;17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      When are you leaving? Need any help packing? Bus fare? Some nuts for the ride? Who am I kidding, you've got plenty of those where you're 'going.'

      May 31, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • tom

      I do not want green eggs and ham, Sam I am.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  9. Chris

    Again with the ignorance, first the scouts and now the church. The fact is the bible states that an unruly child is to be stoned to death or the same with a wife. Pretty certain the church is not following those morally incorrect teachings.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  10. Dan

    Remove brain. Insert dogma.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  11. I'm ok with that

    It's not as if I really needed another reason to reject Baptist theology or doctrine.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  12. Dan

    Camping in the woods with a bunch of boys seems gay anyway.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  13. Dan

    I got brain-washed bible-beaters to the right of me and fudge-packers to the left.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  14. paul allen

    you have no idea what you are talking about "It is better to silent and thought a fool rather than to speak up and remove all doubt"

    May 31, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Subversive One

      Try taking your own advice...

      May 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  15. Subversive One

    There are only two types of religious people in this world. Those who want to share god's love, and those who want to share god's power...

    May 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I remember having a conversation with Russ about the ways people may hope and try to be like God. So the story goes: the origin of sin was when someone said that we can be like God, with respect to God's power, I think.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  16. brotherjukebox2012

    looks like only gays will be in the boy scouts

    May 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • JH1

      Correction. Only logical, rational people will be in the boy scouts.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Athy

      And they'll be far better for it.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      So everyone who isn't Baptist is gay?
      Or do you just think WAY more of Baptists than you should?
      Good riddance.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  17. Malcolm L

    There have been many articles about the current scout families who will be leaving the scouts due to this ruling. It would be interesting to hear about the families who will now begin to consider a scouting affiliation now that the ban has been lifted (if only somewhat). I am a dad who is considering a future membership for my 5 year old boy, whereas I would not have before.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  18. joe

    I pity any poor kid who's born gay into that bigoted close minded culture. They'll learn to hate themselves before they ever find anyone to love.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  19. ChrisA

    This is what happens when you try to infuse politics and people's agendas into places they don't belong. 10 year old kids shouldn't have to deal with issues like gay rights at a boyscouts program. It should be left up to the parents.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  20. Athy

    Actually, the pullout of the wacko baptists is a good thing for the scouts. We should be thankful. I only hope they pull out of society in general. How sweet that would be!

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

      GOD made a women and a men not a men and men!!! GOD have mercy on the u.s

      May 31, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • GinCas

      Oh, sooooo true!

      May 31, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • vogue1973


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

      pentecostal, when were you first brain-washed? There is no god. Grow up.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Athy

      Pentocostal, it's man, not men. Too much Sunday school, not enough public school. Happens all the time.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:22 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.