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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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    I was a Boy Scout, a Southern Baptist, and a Royal Ambassador. When I was fourteen, at summer scout camp, my tent mate offered me a fee (insulting, 25 cents) to share an intimate experience with him. I just said no.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  2. PTUBAN

    why not just form another group called the Gay Scouts?? Or let the gay boys join the Girl Scouts and the Lesbians the Boy Scouts! Eh??

    June 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Joe

      You got it right.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  3. erin

    Ah, Southern Baptism – representing the worst of Christianity.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Athy

      What represents the best of Christianity?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Mark

      How so? By following the written precepts of the Bible? Doing so isn't hate or intolerance, it is following the teachings of the Bible.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Rod

      I follow the teachings of Jesus, who loved and welcomed all, even those who were considered sinners. He did not shun or discriminate against anyone. His only commands were to love God and love each other. That is the root of the Bible. Everything else is just commentary.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Mike

      The best of Christianity is loving your neighbor regardless of their race, gender, orientation, etc. Too bad too many denominations focus on their own interpretations of Old Testament versus rather than listening the pretty plain message from Jesus saying to love one another.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Mike

      *verses

      June 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Whobawhat

      Rod, Actually Christ used a whip on the money changers who were in the temple doing business. So, he might have loved their souls but rebuked their actions. Not that I think a whip is called for here! 😉

      June 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • my momma says

      RE: "How so? By following the written precepts of the Bible? Doing so isn't hate or intolerance, it is following the teachings of the Bible."
      The J man said that the golden rule (treat people the way you'd want to be treated) trumps ALL the old testament laws. Do Westboro fanatics treat others the way they'd want to be treated? No they do not. A person who follows the letter of the law yet violates the spirit of the law is using the law as an excuse to do something is was not intended for. That is Westboro's vile brand of hate. They are defiling god's love. Hate is not love. Look at their eyes when they are ranting. If you don't see hate in their eyes, you are a lost soul.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • hate is not love

      I would add that anyone who doesn't openly refute the hate-filled 'message' of the cult-of-Westboro is supporting them in with their silence... and is defiling the intention of Christianity. Hate is not love. Not ever.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  4. olvera32066

    and the scouts prosper without indoctrination and regain their focus of learning how to survive in and appreciate nature. what could be more godly than appreciating what was created by guess who.... instead of being a hypocrite. GO SCOUTS !!

    June 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  5. Guardsman

    That doesn't surprise me at all. The Southern Baptist Church has a long history of discriminating against disenfranchised minorities. The SBC interpreted the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery for many years, and it was not until as recent as 1995 that the SBC Convention voted to adopt a resolution renouncing its racist roots and apologizing for its past defense of slavery, segregation, and white supremacism. That was 31 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Mark

      As I recall, nearly every faith group supported slavery at that time. Are you forgetting the fact that many of the civil rights leaders were Southern Baptists?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • moop

      Cowards go after easy targets: slaves, any 'suitable' candidate for eugenics-promoters, mixed marriage couples, quaaaars. The basis of the Westboro-spawning cult of hatred is segregation

      June 1, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • i believe everything my cult says

      RE: "As I recall, nearly every faith group supported slavery at that time. Are you forgetting the fact that many of the civil rights leaders were Southern Baptists?"
      What kind of revisionist dogmatic 'history' books have you been reading?????
      You can't just pretend there were no denominations that hid and smuggled slaves to freedom in the northern states. There were. They were. You cannot seriously believe all the denominations that supported abolition and had a major influence on the ethical stance Abraham Lincoln took in refuting pro-slavery dogma did not exist. Where did you go to school? Let me guess...

      June 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  6. Earthling147

    The sooner these religious lunatics disappear from the face of the earth, the better off humanity will be.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • that's funny

      only one problem... when the religious disappear off this earth, the rest of the humanity ain’t got a chance of being around…
      convert, u sinner

      June 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Allowing the "Royal Ambassadors" to form a Baptist, all-straight-or-in-the-closet boys' club for scout-like activities is a fine idea. I thought of it myself not long ago. Will it include persons of color?

    June 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jason

      it's already formed and yes it includes persons of all colors

      June 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Roger

      Old idea, actually. Used to go by the name of Hitler Youth. Think it broke up back in the '40s.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  8. greentiger90402

    Cancer is to body as Baptist is to country. I'm all for them stepping out of any of our American activities they want to. Good riddance.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jason

      why do you feel that way?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • fun.somenights

      Baptist are the biggest hypocrites. That's the point. Get them out of our secular lives forever, no more chemo necessary!

      June 1, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  9. shimolie

    we need to take science out of schools and replace it with factual scripture. All these asteroids whizzin' by lately are a sure sign that gawwwwwd hates science and quaaaars and loves the Westboro Taliban (if, like me, you have the gift of translating signs). If only blabtists believed that electronic communications were ungodly...

    June 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • M

      Factual scripture – is that what we call irony.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • shimolie

      "Factual scripture" is an oxymoron... special irony that only gawwwwwd can inspire.
      It always tickles me when some religious 'authority' takes an anti-science stance. Science is purely focused on fact-proving. Churches that don't appeal to the ignorant seem quite happy to believe that god is beyond our comprehension and so science will never arrive at the level of knowledge needed to observe the diety. I don't see why the dumber churches can't copy that idea. Lack of faith I guess.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  10. R.Williams

    The Bible says many things these church leaders don't follow, why do they suddenly care what it says in relation to this?

    June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • M

      Because it supports their learned hatred.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  11. Tomm Katt

    GOOD!!! The farther away we can get our kids from ignorant conservative lunatics the better. Baptist are going to he** anyway because they drink, dance, and play musical instruments inside of churches. Isn't that in the "Scriptures" too?
    This proves that many that claim to be Christian have no idea who Christ was.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • M

      I don't know...I mean, if they only have people like themselves left to observe/talk to, how will they ever learn to evolve and become more than just the blind followers they are?

      June 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  12. DM

    Good riddance...

    June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Farmer Johnson

      WOW, What a reply! I would expect tolerence for thier decision since you know it all. What it is in you that would put this kind of hate on the church and scouting organization? I must pray for you. I am an Eagle scout. And if I had the money to shut your mouth and further the Boy Cause I would.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Farmer Johnson

      You said, "I would expect tolerence for thier decision since you know it all."
      Their decision does nothing but perpetuate the hate and bigotry. The world would be far better off without them. In the mean time the more they isolate themselves, the better for society as a whole. They are a cancer.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • DM

      These Baptists are only willing to hang around long enough to deliver judgment. That's what I am responding to.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  13. clarke

    wow, I had no idea the Boy Scouts of America had become a religious organization that judges others and no longer does fun things to earn badges,

    June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Saraswati

      They always were if you read the fine print; it's just that more people were willing to overlook the issues in the past.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  14. CM46

    The SAn Francisco Oakland Boy Scouts have long had gay boys as a member of their troops and the local Baptists churches have continued to participate. This is just hate reaction by part of the Baptist churches.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  15. Michael

    Ignorance and religious intolerance go hand in hand.
    Whether you are in the Taliban or a so called Christian I guess.
    WWJD? I'm sure he wouldn't quit the Boy Scouts.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Nice Try

      Michael... I see that you are unwilling to tolerate the beliefs and views of religious people. So what's the difference?...

      June 1, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • M

      No, he's unwilling to tolerate hatred.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  16. Lily

    I would rather send my boys to a camp where boys will be boys, not girls. I don't want religion involved either. What happened to being an outdoor person

    June 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • M

      That's interesting – exactly, what is a boy? Is it 95% of what you know, or 100%

      June 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • CM46

      Scouting remains a predominantly outdoor program.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Nice Try

      Then the safest solution is to keep your boys at a home. In the world we live in today, anything can happen when they are out of your sight...

      June 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  17. Joe Hunter

    Bye bye Baptists....just like the Mormons, you are showing your true colors on this issue. God makes the final choice, not you.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • M

      I still missed where you indicate who they are harming.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • M

      Mispost above.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Nice Try

      Joe... Through the word of God, the eternal God has already make it known what his final word is. And we don't have to wait until Judgment Day to find that out...

      June 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Nice Try: That is your belief and it is obviously not one shared by everyone. Your book of multiple choice teaches the division of humans and yet it can be shown to be wrong on almost everything. You're entitled to your opinion, you're not entiitled to your own facts. Outside of your belief, you'd have no reason to be bigoted towards the LGBT.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  18. Justanuthaone

    It is not fair when people use religion to justify their hate.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • M

      But it is their learned nature...

      June 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Athy

      Shit, isn't that what religion is all about?

      June 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nice Try

      Justanuthaone... Why should a person need a "justification" when they are simply obeying the word of God? The word of God clearly instructs us to separate ourselves from those who walk disorderly....

      June 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Shows the Self Righteous dumb*** they are. I was born a Baptist but feel more unlike one every day. Jesus ate with the sinners so he could witness to them. Here the Baptist run away from those that need to be witnessed too. And in the process they turn their back on all the young men that need God. Way to go you self righteous Ba**ards. All you are interested in is your Fat paycheck that you Do Not work for.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Athy

      How can you be born a Baptist? Is it some kind of genetic disease?

      June 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  20. rosa, b'ham al

    Bye bye baptists, sont let the door bang you on the bum on the way out.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:37 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.