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. Bill

    When you want to join the 20th Century Baptists, let us know, ok? (No, not the 21st, the 20th. One step at a time.)

    June 1, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Crazy People in this World

      lol 🙂

      June 1, 2013 at 1:34 am |
  2. Crazy People in this World

    Southern Baptists are some of the scariest people in this country. They hate EVERYONE. And I do mean HATE. Very, very hate-filled religion.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  3. Nunya

    >“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.”

    Right, because young boys have never ever been abused in religious programs or by religious leaders...

    June 1, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  4. Rick1948

    No matter how you slice it, the Boy Scouts claim they are not taxpayer funded. But, a good portion of their funding comes from Churches. Tax paying citizens have to pay the taxes for Churches since Churches (for some reason I have never been able to figure out) are tax free. So, Church donations to the Boy Scouts, and the Boy Scouts because of those donations, are taxpayer funded. And, as such, they cannot discriminate.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Dippy

      Don't capitalize church or churches. Church is not a proper noun.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Dippy

      Maybe you do, Enough, but I sure as hell don't.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Mirosal

      When Dippy learns the difference between "then" and "than", we might listen a little bit more to him.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • skytag

      Enough, history is full of discrimination justified by claiming it was God's will. Stop using your myths and legends to justify your hatred of those who are different. There is no evidence whatsoever that your God exists, or that if he does you have the scoop on what he thinks. Your religious beliefs are nothing more than a narrative you've chosen to believe because you like it better than the alternatives. If you lived in another part of the world you could be equally convince to believe in one of hundreds of other narratives.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:41 am |
  5. Rick1948

    You know, if people want to shelter their children from anyone not exactly like them, then maybe they should make their kids quit the Boy Scouts. But, they'll also need to take them out of public schools, not let them go to malls or movies, or do anything else where they might interact in society.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • Nunya

      Uh... I know you are trying to be sarcastic, but there are actually quite a lot of said fanatics who are taking all those steps...

      June 1, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • JH1

      @ Nunya

      And thankfully, that means their numbers will dwindle faster than they already are.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Nunya

      @ JH1

      Sadly no. When you can't do anything else, what else do you think they find to do with their time than breed like rabbits? Some of them even make a point of having as many children as possible because scripture tells them to...

      June 1, 2013 at 2:01 am |
  6. jennifer walker

    people who are not Christians need to stop trying to quote the bible. When you repent and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, it does not mean you all of a sudden become the perfect Christian. We will not be complete until we get to Heaven. Jesus was perfect and sinless. We all have sinned and come short of His glory. Just because we oppose something that's is morally wrong according to God's word does not mean we are judging. We do have to help guide people to Jesus. Sin is sin no matter what it may be. Just because gay people want to come out of the closet and the boy scouts want to accept gays openly doesn't stop it from being a sin. I applaud the Southern Baptist for standing up for what they believe. Atheist stand up for what they believe, why can't Christians?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution, we are free to quote whatever book we want. I get that you may be distressed when people use quotes to point out how immoral and contradictory the bible is, but we are only trying to educate those who blindly worship a myth.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Thy

      Jennifer, atheists don't stand up for what we believe. We stand up for what we don't believe. Why can't you religies get that? You always think everyone has to believe something.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • Johnny Walker

      Actually, atheists then do believe in something, or the absence of it I guess. If there was no God would there be no atheists? Just curious?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • skytag

      We both know you have no evidence to support any of that stuff you said. Not a shred. That must be very frustrating for you.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • Lewis

      For all those who are thinking "but the Bible says it is wrong" remember, the Bible also says the following...
      Marriage has not always been between one natural man and one natural woman. In Deuteronomy 21:15-16, a man has more than one wife. In 1 Kings 11:3-4, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. His sin was worshiping other gods, not multiple wives.
      In addition, Exodus 35:2 states that you should be put to death for working on the Sabbath.
      It is permissible to discriminate against the disabled according to Leviticus 21:18-20.
      If you eat bacon, ham, shrimp, lobster, or clams you are sinning according to Leviticus11:7-8, and 11:10-12.
      Have your children been unruly lately? If so, Leviticus 20:9,
      21:9, Deuteronomy 21:20-21, and Zechariah 13:3 commands parents to kill their disobedient children.
      Bible passages were used until just recently to outlaw interracial marriages. When you read Leviticus 25:44 and 19: 20, you will discover the Bible was used for centuries to justify slavery.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:31 am |
    • jennifer walker

      Everyone has a right to their own opinion. Like it was said before, you can led a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it. Jesus is not going to force Himself on anyone. He died for us all whether or not all believes in His word. God bless you all.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  7. JohnK

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out and by the way watch the diversity in your church walk away. And you wonder why the congregation is dwindling and collections are down.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:05 am |
  8. Atheistically Yours

    Let the MORMONS be next! Let them pull the rug out from under ALL the "BSA Troops" they sponsor! Let the BSA die of a LACK OF SPONSORSHIP for being the pathetic, bigoted, and yes, RELIGIOUS organization that they are! LET IT DIE! QUICKLY!

    June 1, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Former eagle

      You are are a funny little man.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • skytag

      The Mormons have stated they will stay with the Boy Scouts. Nice rant, though.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:52 am |
  9. Jimcracky

    Well, the Southern Baptists just got around a few years to apologizing to African-Americans for its support of slavery, racial discrimination and bigotry, all in the name of their God and based on their Bible. So give them another hundred years and they'll be apologizing to the lgbt community. Pity it will take so long, but that's religion for you... always a 100 years behind the times.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • angel moronic

      try 1000 years ...

      June 1, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Crazy People in this World

      @ Enough – Why do you care what other consenting adults do in their spare time with their own private parts? If this is what Christians are worried about, you're a bunch of perverts.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:38 am |
    • skytag

      @Enough: "Moral standards" based on beliefs wholly unsubstantiated by any facts or evidence of any kind.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:56 am |
  10. angel moronic

    Dear Rev. Derek Lappe : so you will have priests in charge of young boys now ? Didn't go very well over the last 30 years , did it ??

    June 1, 2013 at 12:56 am |
  11. Mark

    Yet another example of so called good Christians using the good book to justify their petty bigotries.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      That's the beautiful thing about the bible. It's so contradictory that it can (and has) been used to excuse any atrocity.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  12. Heath

    It is 2013. "Scripture this" and "scripture that . . ." Has anybody on this planet moved out of the middle ages?

    June 1, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • angel moronic

      Most have but unfortunately a few delusional religiculous nuts are trying to take the world back to medieval times

      June 1, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  13. Brandyjack

    Sorry, I accept that I am a child of Noah, with only a passing acquaintance with Abraham and Jesus. I will just look at the rainbow, and accept the covenant and promise it represents. Since there is no list of sins for us, and only the requirement to establish courts of justice. I am can only recognize all humans as family, and expect no less of them. Since, God repented to man for committing murder and promised never to do so again. I suspect a whole lot of people are on the wrong side, spreading hatred and fear of others, and even approval of murder.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • JH1

      How do you accept that when there is very clear evidence that humans were already living in North America significantly further back in history than the alleged date of the flood?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • Mirosal

      is that how you REALLY think a rainbow was formed? By "god"?? Might I suggest some grade school science classes in your spare time? You said you are a child of Noah... care to share with us the research on your lineage?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  14. TexInd

    The Southern Baptist Church who? They are already losing so many members that they are trying to change their name and so they can recruit more illegals.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  15. Peter Millican - Debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument


    June 1, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  16. Minerva

    Just The Facts:

    What you fail to grasp is that many of us do not subscribed to your scriptures. Many good people have passed through this mortal earth not believing in them. What happened to them after their death no one on earth can say, even you. Your scriptures reflect your beliefs. They dictate harshness and cruelty. Good people choose not to accept them.

    I wish you peace for your troubled mind. But until you can rid yourself of the hate in your heart as well as your intolerance and bigotry derived from these ancient dictatorial preachings, I doubt you will ever achieve it.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • Hear This

      ^^^^^ Hear! Hear! ^^^^^

      Thank you, Minerva!

      June 1, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  17. Dennett, Dawkins, Oxford 2012


    June 1, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  18. Justin

    There is actually a children's story about the bible... it's Goldielocks and the three bears... You see Goldielocks is the Crazy Religious Christian and the house represents the bible she tried everything until it suited her and was just right... funny it involved lots of judging, theft and a giant fairy tale!

    June 1, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  19. Phil

    Goodbye, Baptists, and good riddance.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  20. Mario

    Religion is the means to keep man from his internal reality of God. I do not need a male chauvinist to tell me how I should perceive god within my being!!! Man and woman's relationship to God is present within each person if there is peace and quiet within to perceive His presence".

    June 1, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • DiMethylTriptamine

      My belief is that Life is essentially an illusion created by yourself as you are God. This illusion is so perfect and seamless that it has fooled even God. Christ equated Himself with the Father, because He was acutely aware that He is the Father; He is God, of which we all are. The Kingdom of God is a secret that was shared by Jesus only to a select few. We die to remember what we lived to forget.

      "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted."

      "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth,
      and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find
      me there.” Jesus, Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi Library

      June 1, 2013 at 12:55 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.