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

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    June 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
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    June 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  17. myweightinwords

    What a lesson is being taught by telling young men who have not even reached puberty in many cases, that they are not welcome, that god (for whatever of value of god) despises you for what you are?

    But then, what lesson is being taught by the boy scouts organization telling those boys, hey, you're okay with us...until you pass this magical number, then you have to go because you're evil?

    June 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • .

      no normal person wants to tent with a fairy it's about common sense maybe the qu eers could form their own group call themselves queen scouts

      June 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Only a person who is afraid of themselves would have a problem sharing a tent with another person.

        Being gay isn't contagious. You're not going to catch it through proximity.

        People who are afraid of gay people clearly think far too much about sex to be considered "normal".

        June 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  18. Eagle Scout Bnrian J. Woznicki, M.S.

    As a graduate of a university with Baptist roots, I would not expect a different response from a Baptist minister. Who wrote the Gospel he read and erroneously preaches? Certainly it was not the one of the Jesus portrayed in today’s Gospel (Luke, 7:36-50.8:1-3).

    As an Eagle Scout and devout Catholic Christian, I shout out, “Shame on you, false pastor! May you flock see you for the hypocrite you are, and may they leave you!

    June 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Shwmin

      Tolerance is NOT acceptance........

      June 17, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      How is it any different?

      June 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Shwmin

      Tolerance and acceptance are two VERY DIFFERENT THINGS

      The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with...

      The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
      Agreement to meet a draft or bill of exchange, effected by signing it.
      reception – admission – approval – adoption

      June 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Dandintac

    Goodbye bigots. Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. Good riddance. The BSA is better off without you. No doubt they will form their own neofascist version of the Boy Scouts soon.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • Stan

      Unfortunately, the BSA are bigots in their own right. While they have declared acceptance of openly gay scouts beginning 1 Jan 2014 (purely for political and monetary gain), they have simultaneoulsy disallowed fat boys from participating in this year's Jamboree at their new facility. Bear in mind that they, while doing this continue the requirement of "reverence to God". Our country (and it's morality), is going the way of the Romans and Greeks. Perhaps fat boys are not attractive to gay folks – perhaps they are not "GQ" enough.

      July 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  20. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Good! Southern Baptists have a terrible effect on the Boy Scouts of America, just as Baptists have a terrible effect on all young Americans who are exposed to their vicious scam.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:10 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.