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. This guy

    God is real. His words are truth. The denial of it to suit personal choice doesn't change this. I feel deeply sorry for those that are so completely blind to the truth and love that is there free for the taking. The only hate I see here is toward those that believe in the Lord. The Church doesn't hate anyone. It is taking a moral stance as it should. The things that most non believers accept as truth and science are far more unbelievable and make far less sense than the truth.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Because common sense just makes no sense.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  2. Mark G

    Do not alloweth thine door to hittest thee on thy fanny on thy way out yonder door.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:49 am |
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    June 15, 2013 at 3:03 am |
  4. tony

    There are a heck of a lot of US Christian denominations who preach keeping children out of public schools – so they can be home "schooled", stay brainwashed and have large families of new "believers".

    June 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  5. faith

    no nazi god hating fascist wants 2 discuss DM Murdock?

    June 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • faith

      ain't that telling? our filthy nazis argue about everything. dm murdock gets a free pass. my my.

      June 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      "Yes, I want to receive Acharya's cutting-edge messages about religion, mythology and history."

      Please, oh please, add me to the mailing list, so that I may too get spammed by another get-rich-quick Christian.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  6. faith

    go girl

    June 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  7. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I liked it better in the olden days when it was just, "Stay out of our bath houses!"

    June 13, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  8. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Normals are "the straight men" for the comedy teams.

    June 13, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  9. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Where is Gandhi when you need him?? Marry the boys off YOUNG! By the time the boys find out what hit em, they'll be deep in dependent responsibilities.

    June 13, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  10. faith


    June 13, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • Science

      Hey faithy...............shake the faith...........join the truth...............not the bible BS

      High Diversity of Flying Reptiles in England 110 Million Years Ago

      June 12, 2013 — Brazilian paleontologists Taissa Rodrigues, of the Federal University of Espirito Santo, and Alexander W. A. Kellner, of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, have just presented the most extensive review yet available of toothed pterosaurs from the Cretaceous of England. The study features detailed taxonomic information, diagnoses and photographs of 30 species and was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.


      June 13, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • sam stone

      Interesting that filth is on every day, exhorting people to boycott CNN, while her postings provide revenue to CNN.

      How is that lawsuit going, filth?

      June 13, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  11. faith

    we will allow the courts to process the claims of hate-speech, violations of freedom of speech and terroristic threats aimed at christians by the defendants

    June 13, 2013 at 2:12 am |
  12. faith

    we will allow the courts to process the claims of hate-speech, violations of freedom of speech and terroristic threats aimed at christians by the defendants

    boycott cnn

    June 13, 2013 at 2:10 am |
  13. cgs

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) didn't endorse the change like the article said. It's simply a non issue and a non change for them. My dad was a Mormon scout master for 20 years. Every Tuesday night he held a scout meeting for whoever showed up – boys who were weird, normal, macho, effeminate, shy, extroverted, or whatever. He didn't turn anyone away. That is how it has always been for the Mormons. No boy gets turned away. The Mormon Scout leaders provide a great scouting experience and fatherly mentoring for any boy who shows up at their meetings.

    June 13, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • bulbsnather

      thats why your conciderd a cult, you do not go by the whole word of god, you ad to and take frome the word, even so, you compromise, bad boys, bad boys, what you going to do when he comes for you. you wrote your own bible, like the world is doing today, the lord does not compromise, every dot and tidle that is written is by the holy spirit, and by jesus christ and inspired by god the father, you will be going to the great B.B.Q. according to the holy bible, not the book of mormans.

      June 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  14. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I got a wunnerful idea I learned from Athena and the educratists. Put girls in the pup tents like in college so ya got more babies to kill!

    OOOOhhhbamacare approved!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  15. lazarus00000

    Here is apiece of advice for all Baptist. Read the book by a man named Geza Vermes. He and his associates translated the dead sea scrolls and he has written many acclaimed books on the subject of early christians, Chris, and John the Baptist. His research is valid and without religion prejudice or influence.
    Give it a try to see the light shinned onto the darkness.

    June 12, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  16. lazarus00000

    I found the love of God in a Baptist church after 40 years of searching. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church where the sermons always envoked the hell fire onto sinners while the preacher always wanted to drive a better car.
    The Baptist Church I found was a modern Baptist church that offered "Non traditional" services. I was renewed in faith of God that had been taken away from me all those years ago. I am a student of history partly because I wanted to seek the truth about why the hate filled religion seemed to be based on vice, hidden in scripture.
    I was guided by God to do so, and by Jesus to speak out, and protected by the holy ghost while doing so. Faith is blinding, but when faith is based on historical facts, it is illuminating.

    June 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  17. lazarus00000

    Good riddance to bad rubbish. I fear for children being raised in a hate filled religion.

    June 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Seek the Giver of life before you face the reality of death

    It's ironic that scientist, atheist, nor anyone else can provide that smallest piece of evidence PROVING the non-existence of an intelligent Creator. By definition making them people of great faith. Yet they boast around blinded by the pride of their foolishness thinking themselves wise. They say Christians believe in an imaginary fairytale, yet all of their changing theories came from the thoughts and imagination of limited minds. On the contrary Christians embrace the evidence of creation which shows intelligent design. Proving its origin being from a mere coincidence impossible, and clearly pointing to the incomprehensible genius of an Immortal Creator. Q:If life was not created by an intelligent Creator, why are the smartest among the geniuses of the world finding it impossible to figure out the origin of life? If you are open minded to learning visit http://www.theeternalwisdom.com Trusting in finite minds to figure out infinite things is more senseless than a blind mind chasing the wind. P.S. I'm speaking of a Creator not a specific God...

    June 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Sarah

      It's not ironic that scientist, atheist, nor anyone else can provide that smallest piece of evidence PROVING the non-existence of anything. It's impossible to prove a negative. By your first sentance you show everyone here what a glaring idiot you are. It's almost sad watching these morons post as if they think what they are saying makes any sense at all.

      June 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jomo Kenyatta

      Sir, I am a scientist, physician, atheist and father of two boys. Your faulty logic and clear misunderstanding of the basic tenets of science make it obvious that you missed out on an education that might have allowed you to participate and contribute something worthwhile to our society. Religion came into being in an era where the majority were illiterate and there were no explanations for any natural phenomena. We've come a very long way in the interim. I do understand that there are still folks like yourselves and the Taliban who cling to that ignorance and would like the rest of us to do the same but, having taken a bite of that Apple in your own mythology, we can never go back. Knowledge is power and you sir are a nitwit.

      June 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  19. Science

    Salvation Army says “Gays Need to Be Put to Death”

    by David Volz posted on June 10, 2013 08:15PM GMT


    June 12, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  20. Dane

    This makes you wonder! Did these churches become Scout sponsors because they believed in the principals of Scouting or because they wanted to "recruit" young kids for their church?

    June 12, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      The primary objective of any Baptist church I've even known is "recruitment to grow the body of Christ". Larger numbers means more money in the pastor's pocket. Organized religion is a business and I think it will someday be taxed accordingly.

      June 12, 2013 at 9:54 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.