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. Frogman

    A little bit of history. In leaving the Boy Scouts of America the Southern Baptist Convention is following its long and sordid tradition. The Southern Baptists have a long tradition of bigotry and shameful actions. Around 1863 the Southern Baptist Convention was started when the Baptist churches with drew from The American Baptist Convention over slavery. The American Baptists Convention had come out against slavery and of course many Southern Baptist were slave owners and so rabidly supported slavery. To Southern Baptists money and slaves were much more important than God. So the Southern Baptist Churches left the American Baptist Convention and started their own. Since that time the Southern Baptist Convention has been the most bigoted and backward religious organization in America, Starting with using God in support of slavery through opposing civil fights in the 1960s and now using God to oppose civil rights for gay children the Southern Baptist Convention has a long and shameful tradition in America.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • ed dugan

      Watch out. Your post will bring out all the baptist fruitcakes condemming you to hell everlastiing. Praise god!

      June 1, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Falwell Foul Well

      If there was a spiritual equivalent of the FDA, people wouldn't be allowed to drink the water of Foul-wells.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  2. devin


    June 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  3. kungfujellyfishattacks

    Why are you working so hard to make yourself irrelevant, Southern Baptists?

    June 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      Perhaps we are witnessing god hard at work here... maybe he's sick of spending so much time 'inspiring' Westboro to open the eyes of the public to the church's message of hatred and division.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      That's what ideological purists do everywhere, isn't it?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  4. rt

    The bible also says divorce is a sin....but the hypocritical Baptists don't want to mention that because it applies to too many of their members.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • The real Tom

      Poor cap'n. Are you being abused in the hospital?

      June 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Science

      Or is that chad cap'y ?

      June 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  5. mykroft

    The reason there are Southern Baptists and not Southern Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. is because the Southern Baptists split off during the Civil War. They believed that the Bible endorsed slavery, and felt it was against God's will that slavery be outlawed. A very moral group here.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • ed dugan

      They don't know the meaning of morality but they sure are stupid!

      June 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • know better now

      Well, any non-Baptist parent who let their scout son enter a Blabtist church knows better now. Having a sign that says Christian doesn't make it so.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  6. mark

    The Scouts should just ban Baptists and other hate groups. This has not a thing to do with "religion".

    June 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • kungfujellyfishattacks

      I've never thought of it like that, but yeah, Southern Baptists pretty much fit the bill of a hate group now.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • rabidatheist

      @ . Truth? Thank you, I needed a good laugh this morning. Because we all know a book with talking snakes, men living in fish for three days, and the sun standing still must surely be "the truth".

      June 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      RE: "I've never thought of it like that, but yeah, Southern Baptists pretty much fit the bill of a hate group now..."
      How about from their very beginnings... the SoB's supported slavery in such a way that they were instrumental in igniting the Civil War and generating racism ever since. It's an evil cult. They did it for MONEY. Look at the faces of Westboro members the next time they are on TV. All you'll see is hatred in their eyes.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  7. Sensible

    GOOD bye

    June 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  8. Friar Truck

    Good job, Baptists. The Boys Scouts will be an evemn better organization without you.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  9. Sam

    I dont understand why the church would turn its back on the overall majority of boy scouts because of a minority few?

    Does this mean that the Baptist church will not allow any gay member to its services or congregation? Are gays in Oklahoma excluded from Baptist Disaster Relief assistance? Should Baptist military chaplains exit the armed forces because gays are allowed? Will the Baptist church disband from states that currently have approved gay marriage?

    Seems like the Baptist church has opened up its own Pandoras Box.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • @chad

      Extremely good point!

      June 1, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  10. brad

    I just dont get it, there are so many sins in the bible that require death as a punishment that Southern Baptists do daily but yet they zeroed in on the one that they dont like. You dont see them getting all holier than thou when they see someone wearing cloth made of two types of thread and when was the last time you say a Southern Baptist farmer getting stoned for planting two crops in the same field?

    June 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • sam stone

      perhaps you should ask topher/gopher when he shows next. he focuses on gays, but doesn't speak of any other "sins"....he has stated that, if following jeebus made him a bigot, he was proud to wear that moniker

      June 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  11. RedMudd

    Since when in a Baptist church could such a decision be made by the pastor regarding use of facilities? That is a right reserved for the members in a business session or at least the Board of Deacons.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  12. kblakecash


    June 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  13. George

    There seems to be a lot of hate spewed on the Baptist from the self righteous posters on here.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • The real Tom

      Hatred from your side came first, stupid.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • brad

      I was forced to grow up in NC as a southern baptist. they deserve every shred of hate they get.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Standing against to hatred, and bigotry is not hatred, it's stanging against hatred and bigotry.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • sam stone

      where did any of these posters say anything about being righteous, georgie?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  14. Great therapy

    This is not about my love for gays, I just feel threatened by Christians, I am here night and day to attack these Christians. My life revolves around what christians say,
    My purpose-Attack Christians!

    June 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • saggyroy

      Christians don't seem to need much help in self-destruction do they? Broaden you goal to ALL religion.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • A penny for your thought

      Enjoy the hatred of Christians!,it must be a great time-filler. For life is long and sweet!

      June 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  15. George

    Bravo for the Baptists. Good for you. Stand your ground.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • brad

      Yeah way to pick the one so called sin in the bible that they don't like and forget about all those others that are supposedly no longer relevant but yet all equally despised by "god"

      June 1, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • anothermuse

      Regardless of the number of children hurt by it, or the inconisitencies of your teaching of love and acceptance. Yes, by all means stand your ground. HIstory will mock and honestly forget you soon, so this is the last chance.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • sam stone

      i agree, georgie......everybody needs to know what sort of nonsense these bigoted fvcks stand for

      June 1, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  16. 8ovie8

    "It has served us well, this myth of God" Pope Leo X

    June 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  17. Howbow

    Gays were in the Scouts before all this hoopala. so what the big deal?

    June 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  18. empathy4us

    I guess those Baptists just skipped over that "love they neighbor" thing...

    June 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • brad

      I grew up southern baptist and got away as quickly as I could. to them the love thy neighbor thing only applies to those that are 100% like them. The church that i was forced to go to literally taught that the other southern baptist churches in town were not quite right and that they would not be joining us in heaven.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  19. anothermuse

    From a strictly laymen viewpoint and admittfedly relying mainly on my sunday school teachings, Jesus was more a walk the talk sort of guy. Meaning I don't remember Jesus threatening punishments, rather he led by example and those who believed, and even some who didn't followed. To not serve "sinners" didn't seem to be Jesus' style. But perhaps the Baptists have a different take on things.

    I find it odd for the Catholic Church mentioned to take that stance. About 95% of their female congregation sin via the use of birth control according to Catholic doctorine, but scouts allowing kids to not hide their identify is worse?

    Either way, by scouts and evangelicals cutting the cord this may strengthen both programs. Scouting can reach more people, and the churches can tailor a program to meet their goals. This may be a win win.

    FYI, I'm pretty sure there were similiar uproars when scouting admitted african amercians and people of other faiths. There just wasn't an internet to blow it out of proportion.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  20. Aaron

    Now if only we could get them to have a mass Exodus of America.. Anyone have any ideas?

    June 1, 2013 at 9:09 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.