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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
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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. James

    The problem with Baptists is that they don't hold them under long enough. Seriously, "God's word" also says things like "Any woman who is not a virgin when she gets married should be put to death," yet somehow they don't enforce those verses, usually by claiming that they're outdated. If you claim that for a part of the Bible you don't agree with, then it can be applied to ANY part of the Bible. Either it's ALL "God's word" or it's NOT. So quit cherry picking the Bible to justify your petty bigotry, you foul brood of hypocrites.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why are you so bothered by gays, cap'n?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • The real Tom

      What "truth?" The only truth I can see here is that you're about 16 and a probably gay yourself.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      Sweetie, why lie? You know, since you've been here for eons, that I'm straight and married. If you have to lie to prove your point, your point isn't valid.

      I suspect that you are, indeed, gay and are posing here just for effect.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  2. LeeCMH

    Of all the people Christians hate, I am glad they hate Muslims.

    Just think what would happen if the hateful Christians got together with the Muslim jidhadists?

    Talk about end times!

    June 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  3. Paul Williamson

    Somehow I'm not surprised.. scratch a Southern Baptist and you will an uneducated bigoted KKK member who thinks the world was created iin 6 days...

    June 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      What's the matter, cap'n? Constipated?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Larry L

      Paul – You've been cursed by a Southern Baptist who disagreed with your statement. Ironic a "volunteer" could emerge so quickly to prove your point...

      June 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • The real Tom

      Do you speak the words aloud as you type, cap'n? Does it help? Apparently not much.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Diana

      Having been raised Southern Baptist and lived in the south during integration, I wholeheartedly AGREE. It is the dirty little secret that everyone knows.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • TexasR

      Another liberal, secular bigot. You're smarter than the Bible. If it's not the inspired word of God, then it's just an antique guidebook of ancient principles, written by the ignorant of a backwards and unenlightened times. Paul, why are you so scornful of those who believe? If Jesus wasn't the Messiah, he was an insane fraud. Who was the Apostle Paul speaking of in his first letter to Corinthians in Chapter 6, verse 9? Was that his list, or God's list? Just because I was born doesn't mean I'm perfect in God's eyes and don't have any rules that apply to me. It's about love, but it's also about salvation. That's the part that Satan has taught us to resent and attempt to ignore. I'm not that arrogant.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • The real Tom

      Texas, hating liberals is a sin, too.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Expanding On the Obvious

      TexasR – You quote the Bible to prove the validity of the Bible... See anything wrong with that approach? You have your religion because you were dropped from the womb into a location where Christianity was common. Had you been born in some other location you'd likely be a fanatical Muslim, Hindu, or any one of the hundreds of other religions. When you argue it's important to remember – atheists don't "hate" god. Nobody really hates mythical creatures – the hate comes from your side. We simply see absolutely no proof of the existance of any diety. Theology was all written (and edited) by men and is subject to all of the weaknesses of mankind. So threatening us with passages from the Bible is ridiculous and using the Bible to prove your point is quite the waste of time.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • sam stone

      texas: you are arrogant enough to know what god is thinking. that seems pretty arrogant to me, pen-day-ho

      June 1, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  4. MagicPanties

    So Tim Reed, Marcus Bachmann and a pink unicorn walk into a bar...

    June 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  5. corpsman

    The Scouts will survive this, and be better off without sponsorship by religious extremists.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  6. steve

    Don't let the door hit you in the ass during your mass exodus.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  7. Bobby Frank

    If we wouldn't have told you that we were Gay then we would be accepted with open arms. Lying is a sin and alot of people will have to answer to God for that. I welcome everyone being honest here and getting this out in the open so I think the Scouts were right in their decision. Gay youth were born that way and who do you think created them? And he or she keeps creating them all over the world even in places were death is the sentence for being honest. It seems to me that some religious leaders pick and choose the parts of the bible that they like and ignore quite a lot of it. I am so glad that the youth of today get it which makes me think the future for them is really great!

    June 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  8. Dp

    Who are Southern Baptist Leaders? I go to a Southern Baptist church and we don't listen to anyone. If they told us to consider disassociating with a boy scout troupe, we'd think they were silly for thinking we care to hear from them on the subject at all. Some SBC churches may be considering it, some may not, but my point is that there is no such thing as a "non-binding but influential resolution" because no one is listening. The Convention is a bunch of old people we let run rampant because they have so little power over us it's not worth bothering to oust them.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Rick

      Robert
      And there are a lot of people who might just opt for a more liberal church as a consequence, because they really do value their boys being members of the BSA. Can you see many people actually joining these churches because they oppose the BSA over this?

      June 1, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  9. tony

    According to the bible, we humans should all study astrophysics, and update our religious views (and our clocks) on what we learn from that.

    Genesis 1:14

    June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  10. Science

    Chomp Chomp

    Prehistoric Park : T-Rex Returns – Episode 1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFcoGAMsQfE

    June 1, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  11. JennyTX

    And Christians wonder why people are leaving Christianity in droves?

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

      Well, if someone is basing their faith, not to mention their theological and philosophical ideology, on a particular denominations response to a group of scouts, then they should leave in droves.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • don_joe2

      'leaving in droves'? I think you exaggerate.

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

      And people wonder why our country is going down the tubes. Do some thingking.....how many school shooting did we have before prayer was taken out of schools? The same thing is happeneing now that God has been taken out of society. Political correctness has destroyed us.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • tallulah13

      Aw, Dean, since the Contiittution makes you so sad, maybe you should move to a nice theocracy like they have in the middle east so that you can live in a place where religion is law. \

      June 1, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • The real Tom

      Dean, you are an idiot. There is no law against prayer in schools. Children are free to pray whenever they wish.

      Something else must have been wrong with the school YOU went to.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      RE: "Dean
      And people wonder why our country is going down the tubes. Do some thingking.....how many school shooting did we have before prayer was taken out of schools?"
      How can you justify your logic when Hitler, Stalin and Mao mass-murdered tens of millions WHILE prayer was in schools? I know your pastor would reply that all of those victims 'had it coming'... but your 'logical argument' is bogus and childish. People like you are always targeted by cults like Westboro. Find another church that doesn't promote hate. Anyone with a conscience can do that much if they want to serve Jesus. Also, your cult is lying about praying in school. My kids can pray (without making a hypocritical Westboro TV spectacle of it) in school when they feel like it. What the law does NOT allow is for cults like yours to indoctrinate innocent children against their family's wishes. What put your cult in charge? Not god... that's for sure.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Dean...try researching before you post.
      I found over 50 listed in just this one article
      http://freethoughtblogs.com/rodda/2012/12/16/no-mr-huckabee-its-not-because-god-has-been-removed-from-schools/

      June 1, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • TheTruth

      Here's why... it's hard being a true Christian.

      "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Mt 7:13

      June 1, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  12. Bostontola

    How is it that one sect of Christians must pull out of scouts because of gays, and other sects don't have to? Christians are so inconsistent I don't know what to make out of them. How would anyone be able to choose Christianity if you can't even tell which sect is right?

    June 1, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  13. devin

    Here's the question I pose to my fellow Christians: Although concurring that h o m o s e x uality is morally wrong, on what basis do we exclude one specific group while admitting most others ( for instances adulterers, of which I am one, though not in practice, in theory) ?

    June 1, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      devin
      If being gay is morally wrong (as if it is a choice), Why does your god make so many of them...He/she/it must be immoral too.

      Also , By the bible, you judging another immoral, is immoral too.

      I'm an atheist but have a greater grasp of the alleged teachings of your "god".

      June 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • don_joe2

      People – both Christians and not, engage in adultery. We, however, wouldn't teach that engaging in adultery is acceptable – that is the difference.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • tallulah13

      Well the difference it that a relationship between adult, consensual gay partners is natural and harms no one. Adultery is the act of breaking a promise in a very hurtful way. It's pretty simple, once you take off the bible-colored glasses.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • bruce

      The presumption that logic guides the religious heart is not well founded in experience. It's frustrating to see the Adults involved in scouting make foundational support decisions based on what is really a side issue for Scouting. Scouting, as founded by Powell, is really about boys learning to work with and lead other boys, in a responsible and meaningful way. Sure, there are lots of activities – ropes, camping, merit badges, camp – which provide the means to the end. But it's not inherently about knots, or setting up a tent, or how to date a girl, or how to worship god. The core of scouting is the 8 person "patrol", not the troop or the . I was in scouting for 12 years, from cub scout to head of staff at one of their large summer camp reservations. There was little emphasis on religion, aside from a short prayer at meals and some beautiful songs at campfires (Kumbaya, my lord, anyone?). I was raised in the evangelical protestant tradition, but my Troop met in an Episcopalian church, and Jewish and Catholic and Muslim kids, and atheist kids i presume, were all welcome. If the SBC can't support a scout Troop unless they get to dictate the religious instruction for that group, i'd say their participation was not in good faith to begin with. I'd suggest they look within their own heart to find what it was they were really in it for. And, then find another avenue to promote the growth of leadership, responsibility, and justice among young and adolescent boys. Scouting may not be their thing, but the goals of Scouting are worthy.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • TheTruth

      When God created man, he created them to be man and wife, to procreate and fill the world. That was God's plan – one man for one woman. Any time we deviate from God's plan for mankind we go against Him. That's a sin. Now that is not the only sin that man has committed. There are all sorts of sins including adultery, stealing, murder etc and the list can go on and on. Which is why the Bible says that we are all sinners.

      When we acknowledge our sins and turn away from them, we have forgiveness. And turning away means not going back to that same old behavior. Including adultery or what ever that sin might be. It does not mean that you can continue to delve in that sinful behavior.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      Well said, Bruce.

      On the other hand, If you call yourself the "The Truth", you should be able to prove that your claims are based in reality. Until such time as you can prove your god actually exists, you should stick to calling yourself "The Opinion."

      June 1, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  14. jeff

    where was the exodus when the phedophiles were discovered hidden by the leaders not turned over to the police.. that was ok ?

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

      ever notice that when the weekend rolls around, cap'n asshole shows up like a mushroom, rising out of the soil and spewing spores of poor grammar everywhere?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      Gee, honey, if you can write fine literature, why aren't you able? Is it just tooooooooo hard to use punctuation? Is it too difficult to manage to spell a word correctly rather than incorrectly? Does it make your poor little head hurt to write a sentence?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  15. Dean

    sam

    Good, I hope the end comes soon, and the faithful get whisked up into the sky or whatever so progress can continue down here with the sane people.
    ----------------------sam when that day comes you won't be down here with the sane but you will be down there with satan.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Andragogue

      'xactly. Can you imagine an existence in Heaven with such as these hangin' 'round?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Jerry

      Dean, actually Odin's gonna whup your ass then for worshipping the wrong god guy. You lose, loser.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • tallulah13

      Won't Dean be surprised when he meets Osiris and his soul is weighted against Ma'at's feather! I don't think a guy with this much hate in him stands much of a chance of getting into the afterlife.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  16. BD70

    Don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

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

    Some fool has again brought NAMBLA into the conversation, but the poor thing can't provide any evidence that NAMBLA has even weighed in on the issue of gay boys and the scouts.

    Why do you suppose that might be?

    June 1, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • midwest rail

      When they lack facts and evidence, they build bigger straw men.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  18. Mark

    If I had a boy, I would not subject him to the Boy Scouts based on their new stance. He's too young to have to go through why a boy would choose to like another boy instead of a girl.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Justin

      Some people here sound so ridiculous. "I don't want to hate gay people, its just a matter of beliefs".........what the hell does that even mean?!?! You don't want to hate the gays, but you are going to anyway? Idiots.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Good grief

      Or you could, I don't know, learn to talk to your children? Explain to him/her that people are different? That seems a much more reasonable approach, no?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • L

      He probably wouldn't even ask that question – because to him, the other boys in his group are just that – boys.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Jerry

      Mark, sad that your boy has to be subject to you.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • tallulah13

      There are not going to be badges for "gay", Mark. This is still the Boy Scouts. But now they will include boys who identify as gay. Perhaps you should volunteer. Maybe by meeting some gay boys, you will realize that they are not monsters, just children who want to go camping and to learn all the skills taught by the Scouts.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  19. ROCKWOOD

    I don't support the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. The way these kids are programmed (and yes I remember some of that programming when I was a Boy Scout, although I don't remember Cub Scouts being full of programming).

    I do consider myself a Christian, and if you're going to use verses out of the Bible to pick and choose who you 'shun' then you better not have pork on your breath from your morning breakfast.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Bostontola

      Programming, good description of Christians.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • LeeCMH

      If a bunch of boy scouts in uniform marched now the street goosestepping, you would not tell them from Nazi's marching.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Bostontola

      Lee,
      If a bunch of soldiers marched down the street goose stepping, they'd look the same, what's your point?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • LeeCMH

      During the late 19th and into the 20th centuries, organizations set on programming the youth used uniforms, ties, marching special salutes, etc. as an attractant for the youth.

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

      Lee,
      If your point is youth are easily programmed, I agree. How do you think there are so many religious people? They are programmed by their parents, the people they trust most.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Programming by it own nature is not good for children or society.

      Sure, young people are shown how the world works, but they should be able to build their own lives.

      Gone are the Spock, the baby doc days where parents are told they are given a formless block of clay, the parent are then to form into a human.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  20. Asenith

    Ah, religion...gotta to love it. Those Sunday morning Christians and weekday bigots. Does the bible not say love thy neighbor like thy self? Does the bible not teach acceptance of others? "Do unto others..."?
    My religion teaches that all are equal unto others, that each person makes his own peace within themselves, that whatever your belief you do not demand that others believe as you do, that you do not make only those who believe as you do your peers. I, of course, am not following my own tenants....this article just makes me mad, and sad, and I feel the need to put my own beliefs into words, even if it is not "Christian."

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

      So then why are you bashing these groups for their conviction? Hypocrite much? The bible is pretty clear on the subject. These groups do not hate the gays, but they can not endorse them either. I know you do not understand the paradox because your faith blends with your politics and your faith is as shallow and meaningful as your politics.
      Would you suggest that a muslim eat pork chops? NO you wouldnt would you.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Asenith

      You are correct....I should not put my own thoughts into words that might offend anyone else. I apologize.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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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.