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. Bill

    Good riddance! Hope the door hits them in the butt on their way out.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  2. >


    June 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Michael

    Teaching children hate- not particularly new, but certainly not helpful when you want a compassionate society.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Well then, Christians are clearly hating the wrong things. Because there's nothing evil about a gay person.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  4. Science

    Hey Chad where are you or who are you today ?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Science

      The crickets chad............... are what this time of year ?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  5. rswon

    Good for you Baptists. I wouldn't want your bigoted thinking around my kids. You can keep your "Gays are evil" cr@p to yourselves.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  6. CleanUp-time


    June 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  7. saganhill

    Proof again that religion is based on bigotry. Oh, and guess what? Your god hates everything you do. What a coincidence.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  8. Bob

    God bless the Baptists for standing for what is right. In this evil day they know their decision will not be well received by men, but it is not the approval of men that they seek. Thank God.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It must be really stuffy for you with your head in there, Boob. How many states now allow gay marriage? You must be beside yourself.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      Blob: They are inbred cvnts and deserve ridicule for it. Fvck them and you too, pen-day-ho

      June 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  9. steve harnack

    Here come the Neo-Brownshirts. These twisted folks will organize paramilitary groups to teach them hate, superiority, and the holy righteousness of their cause. What are they SO afraid of? Even by their own warped beliefs they are in a "sinful" world and they have many temptations to resist. Are they THAT convinced that turning gay is one temptation that no christian boy can resist? Says a lot about what goes on in their heads, eh?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bobby

      But most of all what just frosts you is that folks have a different opinion than you and follow their freedom of choice. You believe the way you want to. I will believe the way I want to. Even steven. No hate involved, just different beliefs. Think of it!

      June 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • steve harnack

      No Bobby, what frosts me is when parents indoctrinate there children to believe that their friends are sinful and must be shunned because they are made differently than they are. Maybe you don't want to call it hate but what they are doing is hateful and destructive to both the children and society as a whole. To teach that some members of our community are unclean and must be excluded IS hate.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  10. Sandy Feat

    The SBC welcomes you to the 1840's. They have always been about numbers and sticking their heads in the sand......

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

      That's not where their heads are. Sand smells good.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Bobby

      Yep, because in 1840 folks had a choice in the US as well. Intolerance = folks that do not believe in choice. I can do what I want....and you can't do a thing about it. Don't that just getcha.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  11. Bigoted Baptists

    Silly christians, logic and morality is for nonbelievers.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  12. mama k

    Poster devin below says that God hates the sin of homosexuality.

    Religions that agree with devin's statement claim such a notion as an absolute moral truth. We know such notions are founded in ancient writings from millennia past. For many things we have learned about through science, beliefs have had to adapt to keep from looking silly and being out of date with current knowledge. This is simply another time where fundamental religions are struggling to keep up with current knowledge and throwing a hissy fit about the discomforting situation they find themselves in.

    We know that homosexuality has always been a naturally occurring feature across many species including mankind, and science is now getting closer and closer to answers on how it survives across generations. Now that the scientific research shows that homosexuality is not a choice, but formed very early via epigenetic factors (resistant to change), religions that abhor homosexuality look sillier than ever on the issue. For Christians in particular, I would also say their their wildly conflicting Biblical interpretations regarding a wide array of topics including this one is just another indicator that their objective truths are anything but objective.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Baptist

    Hey BAPTISTS...what's that quaint little phrase Jesus once used...."Hate the sin no the sinner!"
    Comprendo, BAPTISTS? Try it...it works!

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

      Heaven, amen Good for you. Most people think its in the BIble. Here are a few more that people like to quote as scripture which are NOT; "God helps those who help themselves" Ben Franklin "Money is the root of all evil" NOT, The BIble actually say: "The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil". Heaven good job. God bless

      June 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  14. Bob

    Other Bob, since you are being a standard cafeteria Christian and dumping select bible bile on us from your Christian book of nasty, let's take a look at what's really in there. From both evil testaments:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

    Leviticus 25
    44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
    45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
    46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Hey, granny-pants, that cough seems to be ever-present. Maybe your god gave you cancer.

      I'm not Bob. I don't post under "Bob" or "Carol" or "Ted" or "Alice" or "Scott" or anything else, you stupid old cow. Get some help for your paranoia. It's silly to believe that only one or two people here think you're a complete moron, HS.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Joan

      Lee, actually Bob addressed your context issue pretty well in his post, and your other problems. Maybe you should read what he said more carefully.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  15. James Wind

    Its always disappointing when people use religion to condone intolerance.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Lee McBride

      Not if what you are opposing is wrong. Some things you should not "tolerate".

      June 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Lee McBride

      You said, "Not if what you are opposing is wrong. Some things you should not "tolerate"."
      True. The hate and bigotry, justified by some dumbfuck interpretation of an ancient fairy tale, should not be tolerated. Opposing the hate and bigotry from the Southern Baptists should be opposed at every opportunity.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  16. Cindy

    The BSA knew this would happenbut didn't care. Gotta make 3% of the people happy and to hell with morals.

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

      This is the moral thing to do. The bigots can take a hike.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Then the BSA should be commended. Who gives a ripe fuck what the Baptists do? They're nuttier than fruitcakes.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Aaron

      The BSA are going to lose a lot more members than they are going to gain. This was a bad move and it was all to appease an aggressive agenda. I wonder who they will go after next?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      How do you know they're going to lose members? And if they do, how will you know this had anything to do with it?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      Cindy, what does orientation have to do with morality?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  17. devin

    Ultimately, this all comes down to who or what is the determining factor of moral truth. Those of us who deny that rationalism and human reasoning is the prime directive, are becoming less. On the bright side, moral truth is never solely determined by the acceptance of the majority.

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

      Clarity would seem to be a prerequisite for determining such things.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • mama k

      The splintered 40,000 sects of Christianity is a sign that objective truth in Christian belief is anything but objective.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Lee McBride

      Exactly. The majority is seldom right. Even Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

      June 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • OTOH

      "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man,"

      And yet you think that your way seemeth right, don'tcha?

      It's turtles all the way down...

      June 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  18. Greenspam

    Jesus also said that the rich would not go to heaven (Matthew 19:23) – Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Should Southern Baptist Church kick out all rich members?

    June 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Well that's one the messages conservative Christians like to interpret in narrow and historically specific terms. ...Apparently God is only generalizing when the behavior of those they hate happens to be the topic of discussion.

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

      How would Matthew know? He was born 70 years after Jesus and never met the man.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • stasisonline

      He said it was hard for the rich, but for some others, he indicated it is impossible.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • dw

      he said harder, not impossible.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  19. linda walter

    Every Baptist congregation is locally owned and locally operated – therefore every single church will decide its own policy on this issue. That is why we are Baptists. As a past Presbyterian – the comment also applies. Many groups use local church buildings and local use policy will always trump.

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

      So what will your Church do? I'd hate to believe that he is actually right.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Lee McBride

      They still have to adhere to overall denominational doctrine. It's not as "willy-nilly" as you make it sound.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  20. rickp530

    Have you ever read in the Bible where Jesus turned his back on someone? Baptist religion is a religion for those who are not well educated and can be persuaded to believe almost anything.

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

      All kinds of bad guidance is throughout the bible, so you can prettty much pick any action you want and justify it from that foul book. More generally, just chop your final phrase and you'll have it right. See, like this:

      "Religion for those who are not well educated and can be persuaded to believe almost anything."

      Fixed that for ya 🙂

      June 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Cindy

      Jesus also said go and sin no more. He DID NOT condone sin of any kind. He NEVER said it was OK. Why is that so hard for you people to understand? He loved the sinners BUT NOT THE SIN.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Chris

      Cindy: Then why, exactly, does the church enable divorce and remarriage, which Jesus considered one of the biggest sins of all?

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

      One of the biggest sins of all? Surely not.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus destroys evil. I'd consider that turning His back on those that love to sin.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      Cindy: How can something not a choice be a sin?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Lee McBride

      Huh? Sounds like you turned your back on whatever it was you were reading. Always easy to do when you have already made up your mind what you want to believe or do (why let the truth get in the way?).

      June 1, 2013 at 3:00 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.