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. Jimh77

    And what did Jesus say? Obviously the Baptists did not hear him.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Mark

      He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."

      June 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Trevor

      Love one another as I have loved you.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "Hey, when I asked if you could put me up for the night, I was talking about if you had room at the Super 8, not this frikkin' cross"?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  2. Jacob

    Good riddance! The LGBT community is far wealthier (per capita) than any other. We LGBT members can donate to the BSA in place of the Baptists. Again, GOOD RIDDANCE BAPTISTS!

    June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The highest incomes are found in Jewish, Unitarian and Hindu households with Episcopals and other mainline protestants close behind. Baptists aren't going to be very profitable per capita as members.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  3. Frank Thompson

    To the BSA: Simply untie all your well-formed knots with religion and your organization will grow wildly beyond your dreams. This is a great first step toward freedom from prejudice.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • jazz guitar man

      Frank, you hit the nail on the head. Also, churches and individuals can form their own groups and set their own policy. So a win \ win for all.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  4. exred

    Typical religious thinking. It's my way or the highway.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Mark

      Do you follow any set of standards or guidelines for your life or make them up as you go?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • exred

      Love one another. I deal with people as they are. I don't throw them under the bus if they don't agree with me. If someone is intentionally hurting others, then I don't deal with them.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio


      Morality is not absolute. If it were slavery would still be ok.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Mark

      We can and should love one another. We should not accept the behavior.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
  5. First Amendment almost dead

    This dipsh1t federal prosecuting attorney in east Tennessee says that commenting about islam is a crime??? First they go after the 2nd Amendment, now the 1st. What is next for this accursed nation?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • M

      Context, please. Just the facts.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Well if commenting on Islam is a crime, commenting on Christianity is a crime.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • JR

      Oh, stop your whining. Is it law, tardo? No? Nor will it be. Shut up. Oh, and fucking move if you hate the US, you unpatriotic geek.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  6. Rogue351

    Bigots, I am sure the same argument was made at some point about blacks being aloud into white only activities. There is no difference. You discriminate against one you discriminate against all. People are people, supposedly ALL created equal under in gods likeness. Bigots, every last one of them.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  7. extra medium

    Religion is the beginning of evil.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • bj

      Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. You are intolerant.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom."
      Bullshit. Fear of gods is no more rational than fearing the monster under your bed. Gods aren't anymore real. Grow up.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:32 pm |

    I just came back from my fourth wife's x husband's thierd wife's birthday party 🙄

    June 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

      oh it was her sweet sixteen 😉

      June 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  9. M

    Thomas Paine

    I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

    I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

    But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

    I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  10. DaveLake

    Cindy stated"Sad to hear however no matter what religion. Its against the law of nature.an the law of God."
    Cindy-do you realize the law of nature has so far identified over 1,500 species with gay behavior. How could god create all these animals to have gays within their group if he is so against it?

    June 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  11. Mark

    You people tell them not to condemn yet you condemn the S. baptists for following their beliefs. You call them haters yet you spew hate. Hypocrites.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, Mark – I see that you and Jiimin are in agreement about this whole "Knowledge is evil" concept.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • M

      Thomas Paine

      I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

      I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

      But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

      I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Rogue351

      So are we haters for calling out the muslims that believe that women should not be educated. Treating them like garbage, throwing acid on them for going to school ? The haters are the ones that refuse to give people their rights of freedom. In this case it is the baptist. They are the Bigots, do not try and turn this around. The hypocrisy comes from the people who came to love and respect everyone, Until they have to interact with them, then to story changes. The baptist are the bigots. They are also the ones that protested the funerals of fallen solders which is an American disgrace. How long until they are not allowing women to drive, read or vote. How far away are they from discriminating against blacks, again ?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It is not hypocrisy if we are standing for equal rights against bigotry. The SBC are bigots and they are teaching their innocent children this...it's pathetic and immoral.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  12. lol??

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Bullies from Sodom are now wantin' to be in charge of churches. Never satisfied.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Greg Wisner


      June 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      lol??: playing the persecuted christard again??? We enjoy your posts, they're humorous! At least you're good for something.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  13. J. Sandusky

    I see cnn is deleting posts??? One h0m0 took down Penn State. And yes TP, this pedophile IS a h0m0. Deal with the Truth please or dump your name.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • mama k

      Get some education fast. You're in dire need of it.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      J: Maybe reading this will educate your tiny brain. It is not your buybull but this contains updated facts based on actual evidence: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

      I'll change my moniker when you change your bigotry and join the 21st century!

      June 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  14. About Compassion

    Where do we find compassion we just have to ask ourselves?
    Oral Roberts’ gay grandson speaks out | Dallas Voice

    June 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  15. mama k

    Bill Moyers recently interviewed Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of the mind, science & biology. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Watch the video at:

    Dennett says that not for all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that "it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."


    This video is just an interview. Do yourself a favor and watch some of Dr. Dennett's lectures available on youtube. They are excellent.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  16. alxnimrod

    The problem is the blatantly false CNN headline. Reading down to what the Scouts actually did clearly shows policies that function as "Don't Ask Don't tell", which was and is a very good idea for the military and everywhere else in life. Hopefully, the Baptist an other church leadership will take the time to find out what actually happened rather than what CNN reported.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  17. Mark

    No where does the Bible say live and let live. And yes we are to judge to identify right from wrong. We aren't to judge and condemn, only God does that. We aren't condemning when we follow the teachings of the Bible.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The problem is that the buybull is wrong on this and the evidence in recent history proves that.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • mama k

      And in addition to what TP said, the conflicting interpretation within Christianity doesn't help any Christian's case is settling on specific alleged "moral objective truths".

      June 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • mama k

      correction: on settling any

      June 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Mark – and the bible approves of slavery, ra-pe, genocide, and child abuse and child murder.

      So they're okay, then, according to you?

      June 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  18. DaveLake

    God just sent me a message-nobody on Earth really understands what he wants.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • M

      Nah, that's too agnosticy.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  19. Clint

    The Bible also says you shouldn't eat shell fish or work on Sundays, and that women are slaves to their husbands. Strange how the church ignores that part of the Bible.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • justin jr

      actually the bible says dont work on saturday. the catholics changed it to sunday.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Everyone has a choice, mine is to believe...

      Actually, no it doesn't say women are slaves and the shellfish thing is old testament. People are always going around acting like they know what the Bible says and means when they have never studied it. Just looked up info on an atheist website. Try reading and studying and maybe even going to a church that studies the Bible. If your not looking for God, which everyone does at sometime in their life, we are made that way, you are probably going to work against that thought. The devil is very powerful and doesn't want anyone going toward God. If the Devil believes in God, shouldn't you? How can you look at the evil in this world, and it so abundant since the world has moved away from believing in God, and not believe in the devil?

      June 2, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  20. Fundies Gone Wild!


    June 1, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • M

      and this is what some of them honestly believe ... or they're all getting a cut of the TV profits!

      June 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Silly

      OMGoodness! This is hysterical!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:52 am |
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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.