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. NB

    I'll take a gay Boy Scout over a Southern Baptist bigot any day.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • RL

      You are free to believe as you choose and so are Southern Baptists. And Southern Baptists are peacefully standing up for their beliefs. Because their beliefs are obviously not yours beliefs does not make them bigots. In our country of watered down faith, Christians need to have "salt", stand by their scriptures, and not bow before the social and government pressure of political correctness.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • silvertop

      I believe RL speaks for many of us.
      To stick to our belief is not hypocritical. We do not hate.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Sane Person

      You are haters, and bigots. The rest of the world is moving beyond you, and really could care less how you see yourselves.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Steven

      Uh, RL... A believe, in fact, does make you a bigot. that is the definition of bigot:
      "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance "

      Your beliefs, by definition, make you a bigot. you are free to them, sure, but do not pretend for one second that if your belief structure mandates you must look down upon another you are free and clear.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • sam

      Damn, that's hilarious. Peacefully standing up...for an intolerant, ignorant, and marginalizing stance that turns its back on kids unlucky enough to be born gay.

      You must be so proud.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  2. Saraswati

    As I understand it, a country can use a federated scout organization model. I doubt at this point that the BSA would sponsor a split, however. Anyway, it's an interesting possibility that likely won't happen on this issue but may later on the religion issue as that aspect continues to evolve.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  3. my favorite part

    “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.”

    He went on to add, "Then we can really brainwash them without further interference."

    May 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  4. Jon Brooks

    Awesome. lets build them some Arks so they can just keep on going

    May 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  5. richard miller

    I wonder just how many of these fine gentlemen that attempt to cram their moralistic bull on us are on some of the "gay" sites with pictures and profiles? C'mon reporters show us some news......

    May 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  6. Lucifer

    This is awesome news. Hateful christians need to be separated from the rest of society where they can do no harm.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Joel Hammer

    They are hateful bigoted people. They don't understand the first thing about the meaning of religion, nor do they understand what it means to be an American.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • patriotic christianity

      Yet their cult somehow found a way to create a bizarre mix of patriotism (seriously... 4th of July celebrations... how crass can you get) and old testament dogma (it is the cult that proclaimed its former leader to be "America's Pastor"). Tell me... what kind of doofus would fall for such insane, illogical nonsense?

      June 2, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  8. QS

    I'm increasingly becoming convinced that just as this country was established specifically to get away from religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution, the reverse will inevitably have to happen regarding the current crop of religious people in this country.

    In other words – If they want to RE-establish that type of system they seem to prefer, they will have to leave this country and go create one of their own.

    Seriously, I believe the first mistake the founders made was Freedom of Religion – how could such intelligent scholars have not realized what that would lead to when they themselves were adamant about not allowing religious influence to gain that much power ever again?

    May 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Atheist

      All right, I'll try this again, since CNN didn't like something I said. Basically, what you propose has already happened, with the founding of THIS country. The Puritans were only persecuted because they kept trying to force their rigid beliefs on everyone at the time in England. Kind of reminds you of some people nowadays, doesn't it.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • QS

      @Atheist – I'm not sure you understood what I was getting at.

      Yes, essentially that already happened once to ESCAPE religion. But what I was saying is that the religious in this country now seem to want to re-establish that theocratic system here which, per my original comment, I believe to do so they would have to do it somewhere else.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  9. Fundies Gone Wild! They are Panicking!!


    May 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • dikelmm1

      Except this is funnier than Benny Hill.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  10. Linda

    At least they will be promoting hate to themselves.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  11. Michael

    This guy sounds Reed sounds like the Taliban.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  12. Will

    Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in the rear....

    May 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  13. John

    55 mil have been killed by abortion YOU IDIOT hypo

    May 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • sam

      I'd say 'huh??' but I really don't think anyone wants you to elaborate. I smell fundie hysteria.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • JC

      Can't kill something that does not yet live.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • rusty66

      Approximately 50% of ALL pregnancies end in miscarriages ("natural abortion") ... doesn't that make GOD the biggest abortionist?

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

      Actually JC, given that the babies had a heart beat at the time of abortion, I'd say you could kill them.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  14. gahh

    The majority of pedophiles in the BSA, were straight men, who supposedidly were model citizens, like dr's and lawyers, and as it turned out, were also molesting their children at home. Southern Baptists hypocrites leaving the BSA, is the best thing that could happen.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  15. Jessica Hall

    What a bunch of depraved human beings. Refusing children of the BSA because of the policies of the organization, regardless of the troop's adherence to such policies and regardless of whether anyone in the troop is actually gay or not. Why don't you just restrict all human beings since some of us are gay and some aren't and you can't guarantee who might be coming around your church...This is the epitome of what is wrong in the United States – grow a brain or get rid of your outdated morals, they aren't helping anyone other than yourselves and that isn't what religion is supposed to be about...

    May 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  16. Saraswati

    It's funny that countries from France to the Philippines, as well as our neighbors both north and south have no issues with gay scouts ans people here somehow think this will kill the organization. This new policy will go into effect and the right wing nuts will leave. The policy will be further updated to modern standards and within a few years no one will even remember this was an issue.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • TheTruth

      How about going back to your country and updating the policies there. Where people of different casts, language and religion and treated with hostility.

      June 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  17. Bhawk

    Now you know why the south is the way it is. I remeber ministers of during the JFK-RMN election hating JFK as a catholic. In recent months that hate has returned. Religious radio has really been after them. in Texas. Funny–during the election months catholic candidates were chiristians now they are Satan lovers. Still shows the worst one can be is black in the south.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  18. [!]

    Adios, SB.

    Here's your hood, what's your hurry?

    May 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  19. Lewis

    And the S. Baptist Churches are becoming more marginalized because of this kind of STUPIDNESS. They are BIGOTS who pick and choose which Bible passages they are going to follow. I joyously left the S.Baptist nonsense and have NEVER regretted my decision! Keep it up churches, you are the reason people are leaving the churches in droves.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  20. Larry Tennessee

    Glad to see the bible bangers go. They're a detriment to society.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:09 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.