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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. NYVeteran

    Good riddance you bigots! Did you learn nothing about human beings from the civil rights movement? Here we go again.

    June 1, 2013 at 3:35 am |
    • Actually

      While I don't agree with their position here, it is their right and it is not qualified as bigotry (you can check the Merriam-Websters dictionary). The civil rights movement also has no bearing on a religious group associating with the boy scouts. The supreme court has been clear that the freedom of association applies to churches

      June 1, 2013 at 5:02 am |
  2. Valval

    Royal Ambassadors? That sounds so gay.

    June 1, 2013 at 3:32 am |
  3. Ayah

    I think the Boy Scouts just lost more business than they gained by lifting the gay ban.

    June 1, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • skytag

      They did the right thing. Sometimes you pay a price for doing the right thing.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • dorothy

      I doubt that

      June 1, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester

      Wrong. They gained the support of the non-judgmental, non-bigoted majority.

      All they have to do now is quit discriminating against atheists too (that ban on scouts and leaders is still in place) and they'll be a modern organization representative of the real world.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:20 am |
    • Actually

      U think its s handful of groups banging pots and pans and the media blowing it out of proportion. Most reasonable people appreciate the Boy Scouts and all of the good work they do and most churches will still support them. Rational adults know it doesn't matter if they have a rule that clarifies they don't prohibit gay children or teens to participate regardless of the church they are sponsored by

      June 1, 2013 at 5:07 am |
  4. skytag

    The Baptists apparently believe it's important to shun and isolate gays. The stuff I see people say about gays and the BSA now that they've lifted their ban is some of the meanest, most absurd nonsense I've ever heard, and it's uttered by people who hold themselves up as morally superior to others.

    June 1, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • jaina

      Ah, the best part is where they believe they can support one, misinterpreted verse, while simultaneously overlooking who the ONLY judge of sin is designated to be. Good riddance. They are better off meeting someplace that is accepting, and tolerant.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Actually

      I'm pretty sure not all Baptists and not all Baptist churches are shunning the boyscouts

      June 1, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  5. rofl

    Dear Baptists,

    You will not be missed.

    -Signed, Everyone

    -_-

    June 1, 2013 at 3:03 am |
  6. ally buster

    Baptists are just making fools of themselves, and ultimately destroying their own religion. Anyone with any common sense is going to look at them with disdain now, and it will drive people away from their churches.

    Good!

    June 1, 2013 at 2:48 am |
  7. skytag

    I was raised Southern Baptist. NIce enough folks, but at the end of the day they're just another group with a narrative they've decided to believe because they like it better than the alternatives.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:43 am |
    • dorothy

      Really LOL? I always heard that it was Jesus that was "raised."

      June 1, 2013 at 2:51 am |
  8. Barry

    The kids will b better off

    June 1, 2013 at 2:43 am |
  9. MashaSobaka

    It would be nice if the BSA were not bothered by the opinions of hypocritical fundamentalists. But their still-discriminatory policies tell me that they will be. Oh well.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  10. dorothy

    Baptists? Aren't they all kissing cousins of that Westboro group? So odd that people like that were allowed in the BSA and gays weren't. It's a shame that religious organizations are becoming synonymous with hate groups when if they would just put aside their prejudices they could do so much good in the world.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:11 am |
  11. mike

    "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"...Are they crazy in the south? what kid would want to sign up for the royal ambassadors? Sounds like the dumbest thing I have ever heard of and they are expecting a surge of interest? Crazy People.. But the same people have have "white" proms and "black" proms

    June 1, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • Anonymous

      Have you never heard of the 'don't judge until you're walked a mile in their shoes' rule? Oh, wait, obviously not. Watch your stereotypes- you might be mixing in the Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Catholics in there, too...or have you never heard of youth groups? Don't diss on religion, buddy. Some people take it personally. Talk to some of those 'crazy' people, THEN judge.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • gwtheyrn

      No, he pretty much hit the nail on the head. People in the south really are like that, and they're dumb as sticks to boot.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:49 am |
  12. johnsullivanmusic

    It is the Baptists loss. Like an abusive parent who rejects their gay kid! Leave them in the dust of their ignorance!

    June 1, 2013 at 2:05 am |
    • skytag

      It's not ignorance, it's delusion.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:34 am |
  13. Hillcrester

    The less the baptists have to do with any organization, the better for that organization. The marginalization of the bible thumpers continues.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:03 am |
    • skytag

      @lol??: "Bible phobic."

      Sounds like something you'd be dumb enough to believe.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:36 am |
    • Sandy

      Right on Hilcrester !

      June 1, 2013 at 2:52 am |
  14. Scholar

    One can look on their choice as one of abandoning gay youth for whom their orientation is not choice but the way that God chose to make them, despite those who claim otherwise. Discrimination is a choice, acceptance is a choice, but orientation is not. Religious leaders have their choices. Scientists who examine the facts do not choose facts but accept what they find.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:57 am |
  15. canastakid

    I wonder...would Jesus have turned his back on Gay people? I don't think so....not the Jesus I worship.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • skytag

      People believe whatever they choose to believe about Jesus.

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

      Ahhh, the key question that ALWAYS gets dredged up when talking about this mess: What would Jesus do? I agree, he'd love us anyway, no matter what, because in the end, we're all human, aren't we? People get so caught up in the whole 'gay' debate, that the idiots forget that the same guy that started the whole Christianity thing ALSO said, "Love thy neighbor as thee love thyself." Pity.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:40 am |
  16. Wildernessyes

    This group and others like it leaving the Scouts will be a good thing. There is no hate badge, or intolerance badge, or racist badge, or....................................

    June 1, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Sandy

      They (Baptists ) make you not want to go to Heaven, if there is such a place ! To much hate going on with people who are supposed to be loving their neighbors as themselves, I think they hate themselves .

      June 1, 2013 at 2:57 am |
  17. chadhorn

    Don't let the doors hit your ass on the way out!

    June 1, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  18. Stegalaas

    If they could only leave the "Union" I'd be so happy!!!

    June 1, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  19. EvinAR

    Good for them. That's all I have to say.

    I work in a building with a Baptist organization... I can't tell you how quickly my eyes glaze over when I overhear conversations about 'coming to Jesus' and 'bible "study"', etc. I'm just so far gone after too much BS.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Anonymous

      ...and you sort of described most other Christian branches, right there. I'd like to think we're more open-minded about life, though. Just a thought. Besides, have you actually flipped through a Bible at random? The Old Testament's a bunch of wars, in some parts.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:45 am |
  20. tom

    Another reason people are walking away from religion. This is a good thing, more motivation for me to donate to the BSA.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:39 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.