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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. Truth Today

    Christianity as Jesus lived it is what we should achieve. The Southern Baptists have corrupted the gospel of grace and love with their own self-righteousness and bigotry. Jesus Christ would have never separated himself from sinners. He only separated himself from the religious hypocrites. Maybe it is time to gravitate toward the unbeliever and to distance ourselves from the Southern Baptiss. Now, this is what the Bible says we should do.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Chris

      That's not going to happen. Religion has been all about exclusion and power for a very, very, very long time.

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

      Almost there "Truth". Toss the idiotic, obviously false bible stuff, and become an unbeliever. Then you'll have it right.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • OTOH

      HeavenSent,

      Your LUST for your own special eternal bliss is quite evident.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  2. where is the sanity

    Good Riddance.. The scouts are better for their inclusion than their exclusion.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Lee McBride

      Time will tell.

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

    I guess the only kids who still can't get into the scouts are athiests.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Chris

      Wonder if they will ever get about to fixing that.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  4. Seyedibar

    Why expect anything else from Baptists or any other sort of Christian? Their entire religion revolves around social and scientific ignorance. They hold stupidity as a virtue. Even the first chapter of their holy book explains how God will punish you for trying to improve your intelligence.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Bobby

      It is just terrible to have a choice, isn't it? How awful to live in a country where folks can choose.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      They can choose to join the KKK if they want. But having the option to join a philosophy doesn't make it a healthy choice.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  5. jleoxii13

    Whats the real reason the Baptists are disavowing the scouts? Insecurity, and a desire to feel better then. If I am secure in my beliefs, I am willing to work with others of all beliefs. If I am humble, I do not disenfranchise entire segments of the world. This is not about religion. It's about maturity. The boy scouts are more mature then the baptists.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • stasisonline

      How do you know it's about insecurity and a desire to feel better then? How do you know it's not a desire to obey what they believe God has commanded?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Bobby

      Sounds to me like you have a problem with freedom of choice. There are some other countries in the world that are better suited for you.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      jleoxii13, the real reason is:

      “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’.” ― John 14:6

      Amen.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  6. Homer10

    See ya! Good luck with that.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  7. Pantheist

    What do you expect from divisive, holier-than-thou religious nuts? Intolerance is what they represent!

    June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • devin

      I'm guessing you would have said the same of Jesus in His day.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Homer10

      they get to not be Scouts, sit in the corner, and pound salt. You all have a wonderful life. Meanwhile we will all have fun.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      God never has tolerated the devil. So why should we?...

      June 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • OTOH

      JustTheFacts,

      “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God?”

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

      OTOH… And please tell us who made YOU the judge of God?…

      June 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • OTOH

      JustTheFacts,

      Heh... backatcha - only YOU judge "God" to be good 'n stuff...

      June 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  8. danielwalldammit

    These are the scorched earth policies of sanctimonious bigots. If they cannot use the BSA as a vehicle to spread the malice they call Christianity, then they will destroy the scouts in their wake. Jesus is little other than a name these folks give to their own vices.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  9. ohio Mary

    Years ago the Baptist Church did a great service to me and taught me about judgement. All the while he was preaching about sin and hellfire etc etc. our minister was having a affair with the assistant ministers wife and she even had a baby by him. I was young then but put it all together and decided that the hypocricy of the church was most unGodly and left it for good. I developed my own faith on terms that were much more honest. In my opinion the biggest fault I see in this situation is the inability for so called Christians to stop picking and choosing what they call sin and inability to stop with the judgement's already!

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

      Same experience in my Southern Baptist church when I was a kid. Pastor had an affair then publicly left his wife for the lady congregant.

      And, the church retained him as their pastor.

      Hypocrites, yup.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Southern Baptists in my region effectively banned Halloween and killed it as a traditional holiday. They went door to door pleading parents not to give candy to children and to ostracize those who did. It worked. No more Halloween.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think we can safely say that the Southern Baptist church kind of sucks a lot.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Bob

      Heaven, good job. Amen. Needed to be said.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  10. Robert

    Southern baptists, aren't they the ones who tried to boycott Disney and other companies for their pro gay policies? How did that work out? Right, a dismal failure. The BSA will survive and grow with the other religious supporters.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  11. eigenklarg

    "Moral leadership" from the denomination that not only tolerated slavery and segregation, but insisted that these practices were God's will. What would Jesus do?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Just gotta add a prefix 'im-' to understand what they mean by that phrase.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Equalizer357

      WWJD? of course not approve gay lifestyle...100%

      June 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Equalizer357

      You said, "WWJD? of course not approve gay lifestyle...100%"
      Calling it a "lifestyle" betrays the depth of your ignorance. Being a dumbfuck believer is a lifestyle choice, being gay isn't.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  12. Truth Today

    THE Southern Baptsists ARE WRONG....WRONG...WRONG....WRONG....WRONG.....WRONG....WRONG....WRONG....

    And You cannot make Wrong Right No Matter How Much Your Try.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  13. jerry

    Ok, so you say the bible says its a choice. So you "christians" are too stupid to take the evidence of science and instead listen to a book that was written centuries ago, and edited by, people who blatantly wanted nothing more than to control the masses through religion. Why do you christians not still keep slaves? Why do you allow your women out of the house? Why are you not following every scripture in that book? Why do you only cherry pick the ones you want to live by? This is the exact reason you are now the minority in America?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  14. NolaSunshine

    What a shame that the Baptist cannot find the strength to stay involved and be witnesses to everyone by showing God's love for all of his creatures, just as Jesus did during his time on Earth ... you never heard about Jesus hanging out with temple dwellers ... somehow he was always with the sinners; showing them Christ's love not by berating them but by showing them a better way. Until Christians learn that the church is not their personal podiums to help make them feel better than other people through judgment and until Christians learn that their job is to love and witness not condemn and flee in fear every time they come across a "sinner," then these same Christians may find themselves spending eternity with the rest of the sinners. This is why people are starting to foresake religion ... for the church has become a "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

    June 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Bob

      Nola, the priority is always first, to protect God's flock. His children, believers. Second to witness. You may mean well, but you are more concerned about the godless than the people of God. Your priorities are your priorities and not those of God.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • jerry

      how is being born a certain way a sin? please enlighten me? The bible was put together, by man, to control the masses, nothing more. How they can put so much weight on "scriptures", which were written centuries after a certain man was supposedly crucified, and they know what he said? Come on really? ever played telephone,where a bunch of people whisper something in the next person's ear, and by the time it gets to the last person, the meaning is very different...now, imagine a game of that lasting for centuries!!

      June 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Their faith has never been about God's love. It never has and it never will.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bob

      jerry, the sin is in doing things that God has clearly condemned. Stop trying to justify evil. God calls this practice and abomination.

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

      Bob, did your god approve of remaining stupid? Then stop being stupid.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  15. msrief

    Great point of view from a denomination who split from the Baptists over slavery.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  16. fastball

    No big loss. A Baptists couldn't start a fire in the bush, anyways – unless you told him they were burning witches. Or gays.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  17. Jill Peterson

    Later, you judgmental bigots...

    June 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  18. mark

    To quote Grumpy Cat, "GOOD!"

    June 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  19. pep

    What we gotta have next is coed bathrooms.

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

      There have been coed bathrooms since the late 70s. Coed dorms, too. And not just by alternating floors. Have you been in a coma?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There was a guy nattering on about Boy George and scouting yesterday. I think a lot of people have been in comas.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Meh... This neither follows nor horrifies.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  20. Bob

    I am the Light of the world...he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness. ...Jesus John 8:12

    June 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      "You never forget my friendship, never miss a chance
      To pay me the honor I deserve among our comrades.
      For all that you have done for me Achilles,
      May the immortals fill your cup with joy!"

      The Iliad, Book 23, lines 722-725

      June 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
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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.