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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. parent

    So great to see all of the BIGOTS leaving the Scouts.
    Proud to have my son in there.

    Tolerance is a good lesson to teach kids. I'd much rather teach him that than hate.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  2. yamama@yahoo.com

    who is your savior –jesus or the apostle paul? decide.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Darrin

      Neither.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  3. JenniferC

    Great! Now that the Baptists are leaving, the BSA can get rid of the prohibition against gay leaders, too.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  4. Craig

    The Southern Baptist "religion" is supposedly based upon the teachings of some guy named Jesus. It's pretty obvious nobody in the church ever read the book that supposedly tells the story of his life, because if they had they'd know that nowhere did he say a word about the LGBTQ community, but he did say a lot about treating everyone with equal respect, he often sat down with "sinners" and certainly didn't consider them "second class" in any respect, and...most importantly, he said to "love everyone." Too bad his fan club doesn't believe in any of those things...because their bigotry and hatred would have been completely unacceptable to Jesus.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  5. Lonewolf

    To the hypocritical baptist, good bye!

    June 1, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  6. mchael

    If only they would remove themselves from society next.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  7. BNick

    Attention, Baptists – the BSA is not the youth wing of your church: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/ReligiousAwards/chart.aspx

    June 1, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  8. Dave Seavy

    It's interesting that a religious group would be so judgmental. After all, doesn't the Bible say something about "Judge no lest ye be judged?" It seems the religious community is the least tolerant of any organized group, yet they preach forgiveness, etc. I was raised Presbyterian, converted to Lutheran, and now want no involvement with organized religion. I'll worship God in a real and unpretentious way, rather than go to a building adorned with riches and crowded with people dressed to impress the others. Further, I've never met a more judgmental group than those I've encountered in a church. They purport to be good Christians, yet they'll knife you in the back in a heartbeat. Somewhere along the line, instead of being a positive force in one's life, organized religion has gotten to be about money and power. The very things the Bible warns against.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • JH1

      @ pentecostal

      It speaks volumes towards credibility whenever ignorance is promoted as beneficial towards an idea's acceptance.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • redzoa

      @pentecostal – To follow "God's understanding and wisdom" one must necessarily interpret by applying their own understanding, whether it's an interpretation of language or some other form of "perception." Unless you are claiming your own understanding to be infallible, you can never truly know if your understanding is correct. Are you claiming you understand "God's understanding and wisdom"? Could you be mistaken in your understanding?

      June 1, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • JH1

      @ pentecostal

      To be clear, this statement, along with the "god works in mysterious ways" standby, is the christian version of the hail mary pass. If something in your belief system seems screwed up, just stop thinking about it before you become a logical, rational person and return to circular logic. The bible is true, because god wrote it, therefore this inconsistency must in some way pan out, because the bible is true, because god wrote it.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  9. Mario

    The hypocracy of the born again churches make me litteraly sick to my stomach

    June 1, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  10. Michael

    Good riddance. The less we see of the Baptists, the better off we all are.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  11. Hate Based Religion

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7XUebtJ_Jw&w=640&h=360]

    June 1, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  12. kent

    any chance the baptists can plan an exodus from iowa?

    June 1, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Athy

      Are they that far north? Maybe DDT would do it. Unfortunately that's banned now. Check with your local exterminator. They may have a suggestion.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Aaron

      LOL ...but through a tear. 2013 in America and this exclusionary mentally still exists? How unfortunate for the children of these "Christians". How unfortunate for us all.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:18 am |
  13. ThemovieFan

    These Baptists are professional asshoIes.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Dippy

      How do they get paid?

      June 1, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  14. tony

    Genesis 1:14.

    Just passed us at 3,000,000 miles, with it's own little moon. Come on Christians -- And the message is?

    May 31, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Russ

      Ps.19:1

      June 1, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  15. Hate Based Christianity

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeWZjTMnUAA&w=640&h=360]

    May 31, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  16. Converted

    Jesus said to love one another and did not put restrictions on that... Paul did. I always find it interesting that when people look for justification, they quote the Old Testament or Paul's writings. His commandments were plain... First love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.... The second is LIKE it... Love you neighbor!

    May 31, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • pentecostal

      converted..and dont forget the most important acts 2:38 that we all need to be saved!

      June 1, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Jessica

      Converted… The only problem is, most people have no clue what "love" even is and have a funny viewpoint about love. For example, Jesus himself said, "Revelation 3:19 – As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." The word "rebuke" means to "cut sharply with words". Thus, telling someone the truth, even if that truth hurts, is still showing love. Unfortunately, most people tend to get upset if you tell them they're not saved or that they're going to hell. But if it's the truth, believe it or not, it's still love. So yes, Jesus said to "love". But what does that mean? That's the issue...

      June 1, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • Converted

      @Lessica
      That's what I mean.... When you try to justify your harsh words, you look everywhere but the red letters. He gave an example of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan did not chastise the Jew for being in the wrong place... He just helped him.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Hear This

      Jessica,
      "most people tend to get upset if you tell them they're not saved or that they're going to hell."

      Perhaps if you showed verified evidence that that's the "truth", they wouldn't be so upset.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • JH1

      @ Jessica

      People don't really get angry that you're telling them they're going to hell if they don't accept your "truth." I get about as angry as I would if my kid would tell me I wasn't getting any presents from Santa.

      What people get upset about is when people push their "truth" on others in an attempt to control the way they live their lives while lacking any evidence that their "truth" is in fact true. Think about it. What if there were legislation in place based on sharia law and people lobbying for the preservation of this legislation because it's the "truth" without giving you any evidence other than stating "Well, the Quran says..." I hope you would say that's utter bullsh!t.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  17. JAMES MOORE

    Finally...some people with common sense.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  18. Hate Based Christianity

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPOfurmrjxo&w=640&h=360]

    May 31, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  19. Mack

    The more bigoted dumb-a's that leave big, mainstream, organized groups, the better. When these Baptist clowns leave and take their hate elsewhere society will be better off. Sayonara, lemmings.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  20. Spencer Brown

    I'm a Baptist and my church dropped out of the SBC because it kicked out a church for having a gay deacon or something like that. And it's not that I thought that other church was right. But I don't think the SBC should be imposing its will over all baptists. Jesus ministered to all. And Protestants long ago rejected the idea of high-level church bureaucracies deciding what's right for rank and file members.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:42 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.