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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. JMB

    "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel..." – Jesus

    June 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Jesus also told you that the OT is still valid, so do you pnish the women who speak in your church? Stone people for doing labor on sunday...

      Chrrypicking the bible is all that is ever done with it.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  2. Planetalker

    I believe that satan is at work here. He has a simple message, God hates you. I find it particularly disturbing that the church I was Baptized in forty years ago is spreading his message.
    Before an organization actively takes the step to exclude 100,000 children I would challenge it's members to live by all the laws that Leviticus set forth for the Jewish nation. Or, live by the laws that Jesus set forth for Christians.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  3. Jeremiah

    Every organization that cuts ties with the Baptists is better for it. It frees up their members to be more inclusive, more understanding, more accepting, and modern.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/education/22baptist.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    The fewer influence churches have over the American populace, the better off we'll be as a community and as a country.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  4. Tom

    I am guessing he searched long and hard thru the Bible to find the least little scrap supporting his bigotry. Missing entirely the teachings of Christ. Especially the part about being without sin and casting the first stone.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • saggyroy

      Religions need to start combing their holy books for passages for inclusion not exclusion. My wife's uncle (by marriage) is a very devout Palestinian Muslim. I absolutely love the guy. One of my favorite people in the whole world. He combed thru the Quran to find a reading that would allow his daughter to keep a dog in the house. If it works for dogs, I think it would work for people. BTW I am a white ex-Catholic devout atheist.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Bruce Mc

      He should have read the rest of that book. Bet the good pastor enjoys his bacon and eggs despite the prohibition against eating pigs. And the abomination of eating shellfish! No Baptists eating surf and turf, I assume.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  5. Zaphod2010

    So much for that loving your fellow man/woman thing you preach about all the time.
    Get over it. Gays and lesbians are here to stay. They have been around us probably since the beginning of time.
    Before I forget, don't let the door hit you on the way out haters.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  6. JayHo

    Intolerance, bigotry and segregation. Thank you for reminding me why I left the Southern Baptist Church 30 years ago!

    June 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  7. ejank1234

    So if a dude decides to hang out with 12 other dudes and do all his travelling with them is he gay?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  8. JeffS

    Where in the bible does it explicitly state it? The answer is nowhere.If Mr Reed follows the Bible explicitly, then he and his followers don't wear gold, eat shellfish, have rounded haircuts or play or watch football (the football being pigskin). but stop by on Saturday for the weekly animal sacrifice. Or perhaps Reed's doesn't follow the Bible word for word, just in what suits him. Leave the Scouts, they'll be better off without hate mongers.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Brad

      Romans 1:26,27

      June 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      .: The truth in the buybull is very minimal.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  9. Juls1314@att.net

    “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. ...

    “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening.

    So what parts of the Bible are we supposed to pick and choose from?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Austin

      what happens if you don't wipe your butt?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      We call you smelly.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • sam stone

      "what happens if you don't wipe your butt?"

      we start having dead cat hallucinations?

      June 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  10. David Battle

    Good riddance, don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  11. dede42

    I think the Scouts will do just fine without the Baptists in there mucking everything up. After all, look at what it has done to the Republican party.

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

    I will say discrimination is the word of the church going people. This is the exact reason that me and my wife do not attend any church at all. We do not want to be told how to vote or how to believe in rights for other people. There is more discrimination in the American churchs and that is why they are dying out. They are not dying out in the southern United States because it is a more of social thing down there. It is to bad that these so called christains are teaching their own children so much hatred and it will be passed on generation to generation.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  13. Connie

    Whew...good thing the pastor isn't a sinner, or then he would be a hippocrit.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • spell checker

      hippocrit properly spelled is hypocrite

      June 1, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  14. Lou

    The Order of Creation

    Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.

    Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

    Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  15. JJ

    Why are hate groups such as many Christian denominations tax exempt?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Royboy

      Because these hate groups wants to pretend they are christains but they will only do good things for people exactly like them selves.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      If they're not tax exempt then they get a say in the political arena. The second they cross that line, they risk losing their tax exempt status.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • JJ

      But, as we all know, they are directly involved in politics down to even instructing on how to vote from the pulpit. A lot of churches are little more than PACs anymore.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  16. Robert

    There's a reason it's called the "Boy Scouts of America," and not the "Boy Scouts of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge." It may still not be entirely "of America" yet, but it's making progress.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  17. sfeadmin

    Westboro 'Baptist' Church... yeah, them Baptists are just full of love...

    June 1, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  18. Lou

    MATTHEW 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

    Jesus endorses the ma-ss mur-der, ra-pe, slav-ery, tort-ure and inc-est written about in the Old Testament.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Austin

      Lou......that would be the all out vitriolic way of pessimism. Imagine what Paul was like , as he stood there as steven was stoned. They had all ready rounded Christians up. What kind of a mood was Paul in?

      But something happened. and it was the same way in my life. I hated the bible, and christianity, thought it was an aggressive mental prison and abuse, the worst of all lies. and I vandalized my church. Then the Holy Spirit revealed His presence. Evil is the other real presence that binds your emotions and mind with an ice like brain freeze.

      Let the heat of spiritual light show you the waters of everlasting life, where you will never thirst again.

      John 4:14 ►

      but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

      June 1, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • The real Tom

      I don't think you have a clue what "vitriolic" means, Austin.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  19. Martin

    Romans 3:23
    New International Version (NIV)
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    My interpretation of this is that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING has sinned, and will sin. Just what exactly is the purpose of saying omg there's a sin we are going to cut off ties with this group?

    When Jesus was faced with someone pointing a finger and saying whoa check out this sinner and act against them!!!! he said..

    John 8 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    so is this Southern Baptist church and its people then saying they are without sin? Is that what I'm hearing?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      your own religious scholars have stated, and have generally agreed upon, the fact that the story of stoning the sinner was not in the original texts, but added centiries later. And please tell us, WHY a "perfect" deity would create an imperfect being (humans) then fault them for the defects "god" created and punish us for all eternity for those flaws?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  20. Andyc1110

    Over the past few months, I have been noticing an upswing in articles where "christians" complain they are being discriminated against (cue world's smallest violin). Apparently, they are unfamiliar with the expression "what goes around comes around".

    June 1, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      the new definition of karma .... "now let's see how you fu'cking like it"

      June 1, 2013 at 8:14 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.