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. Patrish

    Excuse me, but why would I want to support a God, that is narrow minded and petty? No wonder I don't belong to any church nor support religion.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  2. JanetMermaid

    Good riddance. Have not met a much more hateful group than hard core Southern Baptists.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      Well let me introduce you to the Independant Fundamental Baptist (IFB).


      June 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Dawg

    Good, GTFO!

    June 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  4. SkepticalOne

    Ah, the Southern Bigots Convention. No loss to any organization that those losers shun.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Thaddeus McCheese

    Get ready for their new exclusionary scouting organization, The Hate Monkey Crusaders of America. I hear the new uniforms are all white, with a hood instead of a cap.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      Bubba will be working hard on that cross burning badge...

      June 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • JanetMermaid

      Pretty close to the truth. The BSA has ALWAYS been filled with haters:

      "Protests over the inclusion of African Americans arose early in the program. When Boyce departed, he turned the Boy Scout corporation over to the members of the Executive Board with the stipulation that the Boy Scouts would not discriminate on the basis of race or creed. The BSA established the position that African Americans should be included, but that local communities should follow the same policies that they followed in the school systems. Thus, much of the American South as well as many major northern communities had segregated programs with "colored troops" until the late 1940s. Some troops in the South threatened to leave BSA and burn their uniforms if African American Scouts were permitted, but West was key in overcoming those obstacles.

      Since the BSA had early and enduring ties with the YMCA, a firmly Protestant organization, the Catholic church forbade their boys to join. The Catholics accepted the BSA in 1913, but troops would be Catholic only under Catholic adult leadership. Later that year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affiliated their Mutual Improvement Association with the BSA with similar restrictions."

      June 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  6. slinky

    Yay! Gay Southrn Baptist boys will be allowed to join the Boy Scouts.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Tim

    Where are all the little gay baptist scouts going to go to now?

    June 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Good for them!

    Just as gays "stand up" for their convictions, Baptists have a right to do likewise. That's called America - got a problem with that?

    June 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If they want to pull their support because they are no longer allowed to discriminate against certain children, that is absolutely their right. But we have the right to heap scorn on them for their bigotry and ignorance.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      No problem. If the the Baptist decide they don't want their children near African Americans, then they can pull their kids out of other programs as well. Feel free to isolate yourself and be as prejudiced as you like.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  9. jake

    yeah- the sb's are helping all those kids by cancelling the bsa programs. no, wait.......

    June 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  10. Shawn

    If God thinks it is a Sin, then isn't it u to him to decide when and how to "punish"? The Baptists love to preach about "Judge not...." as they decide to act in God's court and make such "Judgements". It's as rediculous as the Muslim extremeists that think their God needs them to make things right. Glad I don't follow such a weak God.
    These kinds of silly things is why religion his falling so fast.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  11. MC

    Intolerance ...

    June 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • doe_john2

      Great trendy word you're throwing out there. How is it applicable to this situation?

      June 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Jesus freaker


      I'm sure MC is pointing out the intolerance of the Boy Scouts not allowing the Baptist to discriminate.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • doe_john2


      I am sure you hit the nail on the head.

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

      That sound was the point flying over your head, doe.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  12. Shawn

    How come when the Baptists (or Christians in general) want to quote something from the Bible, they quote from anywhere in the Bible? But then when you show a flaw or a contradiction, they love to say "Oh well, that's from the Old Testiment (IE Stoning Children to death that misbehave = "Oh that's the Old Testiment") but when it suits their cause they will quote from the Old Testiment, even though the New Testiment says things like "Judge not..." etc. (IE, Man laying with man is a sin is from the "Old Testiment") – So they just pick and choose what parts apply and what parts don't? How conveniant.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • doe_john2

      Look up progressive revelation.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      Look up cafeteria Christian.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Maken

      Stoning misbehaving children to death is also in the New Testament. So is beating the slaves that you own. Jesus spoke on both of those accounts.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bob

      "cafeteria Christian" -fantastic term. Gotta remember that one. Thanks, Freaker!

      June 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bob

      Maken, great point. Makes the Christians squirm (as they should) after they claim that the OT laws don't apply now, and then you point out that similar awful rules are in the NT too. Time to toss the whole thing.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • doe_john2

      I guess none of you bothered to at least google 'progressive revelation'

      Jesus spoke about loving God/others ... He also spoke of turning the other cheek, agape love, and loving your enemy ... oh yeah, He also spoke of truth, holiness and judgement.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • TONY

      And this is why I'm proud to be an atheist! Religion equals delusion for the weak ones.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I looked it up. Unfortunately, it doesn't do a thing for your argument.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • doe_john2

      The real Tom

      Then I guess the concept is over your head. You could get a tutor to help you better understand.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why don't you tutor us all, sweetie? You seem to think you're equipped. Have at it. Tell us all just what's what. I, for one, can hardly WAIT to hear your words of wisdom! It would be such an eye-opening experience to have someone who is so full of knowledge explain it all to little old me. Please, please, tell me ALL about it, doe! Whatever will I do to live a productive, happy, fulfilled life if you don't fill me in on all that I must be missing?? How ever WILL I manage on my own without your guidance? After all, I've been SUCH a complete failure in life without you and your input! You alone can help me to see the light! You alone are the brilliant one here.

      You and dev probably couldn't fit through a doorway at the same time.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ JohnDoe

      Like I said on the previous page, progressive revelation is the term church leaders use when they have to change their interpretation of what the infallible, unchanging word of god says when science and societal enlightenment refutes what the bible says.

      The idea of your god withholding knowledge and allowing large segments of humanity to suffer because of it is a very cruel concept.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • doe_john2


      I'm guessing you do not adhere to the Bible and God, so although I could walk you through a Biblical view of pain/suffering/sin/rebellion and God's tremendous love and grace through Jesus Christ, I think it would take too long and for no reason ... so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Shawn

      "progressive revelation" An omniscient God would have no need, trying to explain anything other than that only proves your God to be flawed and/or weak, so you have two choices, your following a flawed God, or your whole point is wrong, either way, you probably sound smarter to just be quiet about it.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ Doe

      So you can't answer the question because it's too much effort? That's a new one. Aren't you supposed to teach us heathens? What would Jeebus think?

      You assume an awful lot. I was a fundie for decades. I probably know more about progressive revelation than you do. But feel free to try and educate poor lil me.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • doe_john2


      I guess I'm taking a similiar posture as Paul in Athens [Acts 17] ... why bother trying to explain something to someone who doesn't appear to really care or be interested.

      The reality that you appear to have walked away from you faith suggests you truly do [did] not understand progressive revelation, but also I've witnessed many fundamentalists at some point walk away from their faith ... at least for a season until the encounter the grace [and truth] of Jesus Christ.

      Some Christian traditions might argue that you'll return to the fold someday, and that Christ is always looking to bring back that 1 lost sheep. I will pray to this end. That is what Jesus would want me to do I believe.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • doe_john2


      Love the jab, but it wasn't really effetcive. I'm sorry your attempt at trying to be philosophical backfired on you. Please come back at me after you taken more than an intro to philosophy course ... did you pass that btw?

      June 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
  13. JMB

    Romans 1:26-27

    June 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Yup - fer sure

      also romans 1: 29-32

      June 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  14. Jim

    Then the boy scouts will be better off without these nasty, narrow minded evil people!

    June 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Science

    Education...............no god(s) required !


    June 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  16. JMB

    Mark 13:13

    June 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |

    cnn comments is where i come to repeated lose hope in humanity...

    June 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  18. JMB

    Revelation 2:4-5

    June 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Can I play?

      The God Delusion. Page 145

      June 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  19. gmenfan54

    Here's one more reason why organized religion is a pile of dog poop.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • doe_john2

      Why, because they don't subscribe to your advanced thought?

      June 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • twistedpuppet

      @doe_john2 No. It's because they COMPLETELY ignore the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ in favor of intolerance and hatred. The 11th commandment, as handed down by Jesus bids us to love our neighbors as we would love ourselves. This has since been turned into the Golden Rule which states: Treat others as you would treat yourself. It's meant to encompass all of the previous 10 commandments, but it is also the most important because it teaches us to love everyone. This is my main gripe with organized religion in the Christian sects. They completely ignore the teachings of Christ when it suits their own selfish agendas.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • doe_john2


      So to love someone I have to do what they do, believe in what they believe, and attend what they attend ... that really doesn't sound much like love does it?

      See you love the word tolerance but only when it swings in your favor.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No, doe, you are tolerant when you stop insisting that others live their lives according to your views. If they aren't injuring you or depriving you of your rights, then shut up and move along. It's none of your business.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • doe_john2

      "The real Tom

      No, doe, you are tolerant when you stop insisting that others live their lives according to your views. If they aren't injuring you or depriving you of your rights, then shut up and move along. It's none of your business."


      Then why do you care so much what the Southern Baptists do with their time and money. Guess 'it's none of your business", right Tom?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  20. GoodRiddance

    Good riddance, Southern Baptists! Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya! LOL!!!

    June 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
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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.