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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. Jack

    Some of my fondest memories are of being a boy scout. Sad the SBC will not allow this for many boys. The BSA is about helping others (not just those who share the same beliefs) and being understanding and inclusive etc
    . This is nothing new. There were boys when I grew up who weren't allowed to become scouts for all sorts of crazy reasons.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  2. WowWow

    BUH BYE NOW, Don't let the door hit you in the ass, hypocrites.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • livingston

      Well said. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • TheTruth

      If most of the churches withdraw, Scouts will fall apart. Since they use their facilities to meet most of the time.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  3. Edward

    Just for the record: God, a spiritual being, has no corporeal existence. God has no fingers with which to write nor mouth with which to speak. God never "said" anything. God never "wrote" anything. It takes fingers to write and God has no fingers. If it was written, it was written by a man. If it was spoken it was spoken by a man. You don't hate gay people because God told you to, or God wrote you a note telling you to. You hate gay people because you are full of hate.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Religion - Christianity, Islam - is used to rationalize preexisting hatred.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Al

      Gen 1:26 And God said, let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
      Odd how God was able to speak without a mouth, able to form humans without hands….

      June 1, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Mark

      Yea, I don't agree with a word that you typed with your fingers

      June 1, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Martha Ireland

      Ah, now, Edward, You are marvelous lad. So glad to have you on the planet at this time. Thanks for being here.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • TheTruth

      And you know all this. How?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Gen 1:26 And God said, let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
      Odd how God was able to speak without a mouth, able to form humans without hands…."

      Have any evidence that anyone was around when your god formed humans? Oh, wait..

      So, how do you suppose anyone knows what your god "said" at that point? Nobody does and nobody ever did. Men, fallible, lying, ignorant men made up stories to explain how the universe began. Every culture has such tales. They're no more than fairy tales.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • mystery of faith

      You have to give schizophrenics some of the credit. These days, if a schizophrenic claimed that god talked to him, SoB's would be the loudest ridiculers, yet a few thousand years ago, that is how the 'word of gawwwwd' was 'inspired'. That is why it is essential to start 'em young...

      June 1, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  4. LeeCMH

    Over many four decades I've endured Christians spewing hateful venom directed at people like me.

    Hey Christians, I hate you back as much as you clearly and demonstratively hate me.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • TheTruth

      As far as I know, Christians don't hate gays. There is a big difference between hating something and not approving it as a lifestyle for their members. Would be like saying Vegans hate non-Vegans.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Oh please, I've heard that one for decades. Why did you leave off "hate the sin but love the sinner"?

      These are arguments used by hates to soften their public image.

      I've witnessed for over four decades the manifestations of Christian hatred that has resulted in pain and death.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Sandy Beach

      Everyone I know, Christian or not, instinctively recognizes that the cult of Westboro spreads hatred. It does not serve Christianity.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Rob

      Now I can respect that. Thank you for your simple truth, but I do not hate you, not at all. I do not agree with your lifestyle. But I absolutely do not hate you.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • TheTruth

      I am sure any misdirected person can cause harm. And that is true of Christians just like anyone else. We can't attribute to Christians the things that the Bible doesn't teach. The things that they decide to follow on their own.

      The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and fallen short of the grace of God. There is no exception made here. Hence no Christian who knows the Bible would say that your sins are bigger than mine and that I am more righteous than you. Since all stand condemned for their sins and it's through God's *grace* that we receive salvation. Not because I am better than someone else.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Pete

      Leaving the boy scouts certainly does not show love or respect for gays, if anything it shows hate and disrespect. You have basically said that gays are so bad that you don't want your kid to be anywhere near them, and somehow people aren't supposed to take this as hate?

      June 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Jesussaysgoodriddance

    Jesussaysgoodriddance

    The fallacy of rational people trying to reason with brainwashed zealots is that somehow showing the logic of your argument will persuade them. These are people deeply invested in self-deception and they have long since sacrificed reality in favor of whatever benefit their fantasy belief system instills in them. In fact it's kinda cruel to keep baiting them since some part of them must understand they are deluding themselves – like telling a 4 year old Santa isn't real. Except these four year olds have adult responsibilities like raising kids that aren't bigoted.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Andragogue

      Bingo! You've hit the nail on the head and described the problem perfectly. Now imagine what would happen if the same kind of true believers succeeded in packing a major political party such as, say, the GOP? Well, tarnation! I think you're on to something!

      June 1, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • TheTruth

      Don't talk like an id!ot. Santa is not even part of the mainstream Christian tradition. It's mostly a catholic/german folk story. And most people that I know talk about Santa to their kids because it stirs up their imagination, just as Harry Potter does. Children live in a world of fantasy. Why ruin it for them.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Andragogue

      Methinks TheTruth is Confused.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • The real Tom

      The Truth is poorly named. He/she also can't recognize a point even when sitting on one.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • squinky one

      Yep. You have to live in denial (which is what faith really is) to believe there is a loving, all-seeing, all-powerful gawwwwwd who could end all suffering with a blink of an eye (the munificient all-powerful, loving master of all things). Blabtists explain it away by using the sleaziest approach in all religion: claim that every victim 'had it coming'... even if a seconds-old newborn is crushed in an earthquake... they steadfastly cling to such nonsensical denial. I know from personal experience that they so fervently believe this blather, they will proclaim it right to the face of a parent who just lost a child. It is a sick cult that is rooted in hatred (claiming that slavery was gawwwwds will).

      June 1, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  6. Peter Bishop

    Bravo for them. At least they stand by their principles.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      So does the Taliban.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Steve

      Humanist – Well said.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  7. LouAZ

    Oh, he gave me special instructions back of the pulpit Christmas Eve. He got to howlin' "Repent! Repent!" and I got to moanin' "Save me! Save me!" and the first thing I know he rammed the fear of God into me so fast I never heard my old man's footsteps! – Lulu Bains in Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis 1927.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Andragogue

      I have GOT to read Elmer Gantry!

      June 1, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • LeeCMH

      The movie is good too.

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

    I'm sorry, but we are going to have to revoke your tax exempt status as a church. It's not a hate thing here, It's an Economic stance that we must take as a Nation

    June 1, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Lynds

      I love your comment – that is all.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Sodoma

      We are absolutely sure that He wasn't gay. By the way, nobody wants to hate gays, it is just a matter of believes, I don't like gays, that's all; that makes me a bigot? You advocate the gay community? ok, I don't.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Dean

      And when you do that will you also take over all the charitable functions that the church does? They run hospitals, orphanages,
      food banks, community centers, old age services. In Utah alon the Mormoans spend a fifth of what the state does on welfare and as much as the state spends on health.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Pete

      If churches really care about doing those things, then they will just need to find a smaller building, and pay the preacher less so they can continue to help the poor. I think this might be a good way to see if churches actually care.

      June 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  9. GonzoinHouston

    I am caught smack in the middle of this debate. I have worked with a troop as SM and COR for over 15 years, producing over 30 Eagles. I am a Unitarian Universalist, and for many years my little UU church was the sponsor of the troop, at least on paper. In this, they defied their own national organization. At the same time, the parents of a scout arranged for us to meet at a local Southern Baptist church. Recently, my former church (we left, but still have contact) merged with another, larger UU church. It looks as if the new church will not continue our sponsorship. Now I see this movement by the Baptists against the scouts.

    I would like to call both churches' attention to the matter of a couple of dozen adolescent males whom we would like to see grow up to be honorable men and citizens. They are at least as important as your political leanings.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • LeeCMH

      I hope you are aware that Baptists do to consider Unitarian Universalists is a religion.

      Over decades I've heard Baptists cast aspersions at UUs.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • LeeCMH

      I meant to say Baptists do NOT consider UUs a religion.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  10. afnmvet

    Why doesn't this Baptist Church and others take another "moral stance" and start paying taxes?

    June 1, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • ChristialLiberal

      Amen. I have long been a proponent of all churches paying taxes.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  11. Lonny

    God's word also says anyone who works on Sunday should be put to death (Exodus 35:2). Accordingly, I assume Pastor Reed does not allow the following people in his church: doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, NFL players, NFL coaches, and the millions of others who regularly work on Sunday.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • afnmvet

      Of course he allows these people to be members of his church. Those are his biggest contributors on Sunday. Everything is about money

      June 1, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      He's working on sunday too.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Al Wolfe

      where?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Al Wolfe

      when did sunday become the 'seventh day'?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Al Wolfe

      Luk 13:14 But answering, being angry that Jesus healed on the sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the crowd, There are six days in which it is right to work. Therefore, coming in these, be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
      Luk 13:15 Then the Lord answered him and said, Hypocrite! Each one of you on the sabbath, does he not untie his ox or ass from the manger, and leading it away, give it drink?
      Luk 13:16 And this one being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, eighteen years, ought she not to be freed from this bond on the sabbath day?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      blah blah blah...words from the god spell are irrellevant to the point.

      Even if you think it is not a sunday, christians work on every day of the week, your argument is moot and off topic.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  12. MoralAtheist

    What a bunch of hypocrites. It's amusing that the Royal Ambassadors include " to have a Christlike concern for all people ". I guess we Atheists have a different definition of "all people" and I guess my idea of what "christ-like" would mean is also wrong. Doesn't Jesus love ALL the children of the world??? I guess the Southern Baptist Jesus doesn't. I hope community centers and schools rise to the occasion and increase sponsoring BSA chapters. Kids don't need the threat of hell or promise of heaven to learn how to be good people and good stewards of Mother Earth.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Really??

      Really, Moral Athiest? You deny the existence of a god, yet care about "Mother Earth?" Isn't that a little hypocritical?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • MoralAtheist

      Mother earth has no religious connotation. You and your fairy tale do not own Mother Earth. I am better defined by ability accept and understand science than I am by a denial of a figment of your imagination.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  13. GlenRN

    Why would anyone be surprised? This is the same denomination that took 100+ years to publicly apologize for supporting slavery. Their ONLY saving grace is the independence of individual churches and congregations within the SBC. Some whom are enlightened have chosen to leave the community of hate and bigotry. Kudos to them!

    June 1, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  14. KMSI

    I It truly amazes me how many people are calling Christians bigots, haters and most of all God haters. Sickens me too see a generation that loves evil and wickedness rather then righteousness. But then again, God's word says in the last days, everything about this generation full fills everything he said 2000 years ago. 2 Timothy Chapter 3! It also states not to argue with the fool that says there is no God. Enough said!

    June 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      It's "fulfills," dear. Just one word, not two. And nuts like you have been yammering about the end times since day one. Stuff it.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Al Wolfe

      sad, that many don't believe ... but then, i guess, to each there own
      And even as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right, having been filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, iniquity, covetousness, malice, being full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, evil habits, becoming whisperers, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, proud, braggarts, devisers of evil things, disobedient to parents, without discernment, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful, who knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also approve those practicing them. Amen

      June 1, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • cmnsns

      Your guy didn't exist 2000 years ago. That's a fact, not a belief. Get over it.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Thank you Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus!

      June 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Al Wolfe

      oh yeah... i forgot....

      Because of this, God gave them up to dishonorable passions, for even their females changed the natural use to that contrary to nature. And likewise, the males also forsaking the natural use of the female burned in their lust toward one another, males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving back within themselves the reward which was fitting for their error. that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also approve those practicing them. Amen

      June 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • The real Tom

      Another fundie who can't manage the "your/you're" conundrum and could have avoided it had he any clue that both would be incorrect in that sentence.

      Why are you guys so ignorant?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Apple Me

      use the word "than"

      June 1, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • MoralAtheist

      You weak-minded fool. You need a fairy tale to get through life. In the end, your flesh will rot in the ground and you will cease to exist. Get rid of the crutch and accept life for what it is. A short stay on earth with all the other creatures- whom, coincidentally, also rot on earth.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  15. William Earley

    Don't let the door hit you in the a– on the way out.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  16. Hank

    It has become clear that the leftists supporting gays would like nothing more than the demise of the Boy Scouts which is a moral group focused on creating leaders that will oppose the leftist ideals. Very shrewd move. I pray that others can see this as well.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • The real Tom

      Watch out for the black helicopters, Hank, honey.

      June 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • LeeCMH

      I've monitored hate groups like the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins) spew Christian venom for years.

      The claim that those who disagree with you are out to eliminate you is a fund raising gimmick, designed to motivate people like you, out of fear, to send them money.

      Follow the money.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Hank

      I will wait patiently for a list of achievements in Scouting from any posters.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Jack Otley

    The girl scouts have never had a ban on gay scouts. Are the Baptists also throwing them out. How bout the Campfire Girls.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  18. Beverly Kirby

    The Bible explicily says that eating bacon (any pork) and eating catfish, shrimp, lobster, etc is a sin! – an abomination! Leviticus 11: 7-41 What are the Baptist going to do about that? Oh, yes, there is this issue about the Sabbath being a holy day. The 7th day, Saturady – NOT – the 1st day sunday. My, my, how we pick and choose our interpertaion of Scripture. Glad I'm not a Southern Baptist..... Now what would Jesus do if he were here? Do nothing, Say nothing,... He would be hanging out with us sinners having dinner. He even eats with sinners....imagine

    June 1, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • ChristialLiberal

      You are right. We tend to pick and choose what we want to believe and practice when it suits our worldly beliefs and standards. For every argument won with a Scripture passage there is another that counters it.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  19. LeeCMH

    The Southern Baptists are the face of hatred in America.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • ChristialLiberal

      It does appear to be a hateful act. But, it's more like fundamentalism. While the bible is the basis for the Christian faith belief there is much more that is not found written in the gospels (as John states), and the reason the Holy Spirit was sent to "reveal" what Jesus said, and the apostles were not ready to hear. Apparently, there are still many of us that are not open to the revelation of Jesus' teachings through the Holy Spirit. Ahhhhhh, God's people. He must be smiling down at us and just shaking his head.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  20. Sf guy

    That's fantastic. Keep them from inculcating our youth into closing their minds to reason, science, and compassion. Let this American branch of the Taliban continue to isolate themselves into oblivion.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:53 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.