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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. madtal

    Is this just the Southern Baptist Convention? They're not the only baptists in the country you know.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am |
  2. Babs

    I don't think walking away, or kicking someone out, is what Jesus would have done.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • BO

      Like he did the money changers in the temple?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:20 am |
    • Babs

      Money changers had a choice in what they did for a living. People do not choose to be gay.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • .

      the lie comes out you are not born qu eer qu eer is a practiced activity and being qu eer is not being gay gay is a word stolen by qu eers to hide behind

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
  3. BO

    Good call.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:17 am |
  4. Mion

    WAAAH I CAN'T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST MINORITIES ANYMORE WAAAH

    Cry me a freaking river. Your days of hating and oppressing us folks in the LGBT community are OVER!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:16 am |
    • BO

      Get help for your hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • Mike

      No, actually they are not. In fact replies like yours add fuel to the already hot fire.

      Do me a favor; keep it up.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:34 am |
  5. One one

    What happens when southern baptists parents discover one of their children is gay ? Do they perform an exorcism ?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • Damnable Church

      This is an example of why America is losing its religion. Hatred and Bigotry and I'd venture out to say that Jesus himself would rebuke these southern baptists. None of these pastors are fit to teach Jesus's teachings of love and inclusion to ALL! And they do not teach it, such lack of tolerance and compassion. It reminds me of the muslims. What would Jesus do? He would say: Come one and all and I'll teach you about how my Father Loves all of his creation.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Alex Dumas

      Oh christ...that's a Catholic thing!!! And a tough choice for a holier-than-thou Baptist: Do I hate gays more than i do Catholics???? Sounds like a good topic to teach in their Sunday Schools.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • M

      The Catholic Church doesn't do exorcisms any more – treating a mental illness could land them in jail for malpractice, not to mention ridicule.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  6. Rob

    The scouts made their choice and the churches and their people have a right to make their choice too. If they believe it is wrong them they should not participate/ Just because it tics libs and gay groups off is to bad. Regardless of the side your on, each has a the right to choose and stand by their beliefs

    June 2, 2013 at 5:57 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This teaches children to discriminate and to be bigots. It's an unfounded belief that the Baptists and far too many other christians have when they say being gay is a 'sin'. Sin is only biblical and being gay is purely natural. So instead of being hateful bigots and teaching children this, they should be teaching them to be loving tolerant people.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:02 am |
    • Oh

      Religious intolerance wins again. Would the Baptists leave if they discovered that all the Boy Scouts have lied? And what if the Boy Scouts came out and told the children, even if you have lied in your life, and continue to do at times, we will accept you into our organization. Would the Baptists boycott then, even though their teachings say this is wrong? Hypocrites.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am |
  7. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Enough with this god crap already. Every god throughout human existence is a no show. Every freakin' one. If that's not enough proof for you, you are beyond help.

    Grow up. Evolve or get out of the gene pool.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:55 am |
  8. M

    Yes, the Southern Baptist Taliban will be creating its own organization for outings – the Camping Crusaders for Christ, or CCC. I'm not sure they'll actually go through with this, as more moderate members, if those even exist, would have to consider leaving such a nutty religious sect, and having lost more voices of reason, the Southern Baptist Taliban would become only nuttier, which is sadly possible.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:54 am |
  9. ally buster

    The baptists are rapidly destroying their own religion and making themselves utterly irrelevant.

    And I couldn't be happier!

    June 2, 2013 at 5:46 am |
  10. Tom Bowers

    “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.”

    Yes it is a hate thing, but what you really hate is the fact that you can't legally execute gays like they did in the Old Testament.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:42 am |
    • ally buster

      But you can bet he eats shrimp.....

      June 2, 2013 at 5:47 am |
    • Randy

      Sir Reed, where is this moral stance when you ignore the majority of the population who fornicate, but pick on a tiny minority who are gay.
      I try to go as far away from gays in my private life, but I give them the respect and dignity to them in my social/professional life.

      Well we can never count on the Baptists to do the right thing, like taking on the majority population for fornication,intoxication and greed, but we can count on the Christians to take on the LBGT community who are less than 2% of the population.

      Thats called cowardice and bigotry !!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • Damnable Church

      According to religious doctrine God created all things, that includes gays. Why would a god create imperfection and then damn them to hell? An impossibility to follow such arcane rules. That smacks of a false god. Jesus mainly came to fix Judaism and Paul usurped his teachings and made up lots of stuff. That is the essence of today's Christianity. Jesus never ever in the Bible said to hate gays, or abortion or even contraceptives. That was made up by the vile church to create hatred and strife. These southern baptists have proven that.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  11. Kate

    The Baptists? Good-bye, and good riddance.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:14 am |
    • aacon

      AMEN !

      June 2, 2013 at 5:48 am |
  12. billythebigbone

    Bible Thumpers got to love them NOT

    June 2, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  13. SillyBoo

    Why kick out the scout and hurt them for this I was a scout for years and nothing to do with se.x or se.xuallity ever came up... It makes no sense. They are simply meeting as scouts at your churches, not having gay interactions while there. I know many gay people who attend church.. they are all over and there isn't anything you anyone can do about it.. Its just life on our planet and that will never go away. All the fighting and hate between people of different religions and for what??? We have absolutely no proof that any god from any religion even existes. Its all just speculation until someone comes up with real solid proof that any of it is real. At this point its no more valid than leprechauns, unicorns, the easter bunny, etc. If you choose to believe then thats great for you and I truely want you all to find that place that makes you feel good inside but I don't understand all the hate and violence these days soley based on religious views. There is so much discrimination, violence and fighting over what?? A myth! Nothing more. I would like to know that there is something beyond this world but I am one who needs solid proof. does that make me a bad person? I don't feel like I'm a bad guy. I have nothing against people of faith and have many friends and family who are very strong believers. What I don't like is all this negative between groups based on nothing prooven to be real. Regardless of faith, se.xual preference, skin color etc we are all on the same planet just trying to get from one day to the next. There must be a way for us all to move forward.. This fight has been going for thousands of years and we aren't any better off today than we were then

    June 2, 2013 at 4:07 am |
    • PeterCottontail

      Excuse me, but there is absolute proof of the Easter Bunny. He leaves a basket of Easter Eggs and Candy for me every Easter. Period. It is proof he exists. I feel sorry for those of you who do not believe. You will not share in the bounty of my basket.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:00 am |
  14. reasonablebe

    who cares.? the boys will just find other, non-baptist led troops to join..... which is probably better anyway. part of growing and maturing is dealing with /socializing with people with different backgrounds and beliefs..... limiting social activities to only groups that share your own beliefs is also called being isolated, which prevents discovery and limits curiousity...

    June 2, 2013 at 4:00 am |
  15. BriGuy40

    And people wonder why we have separation of Church and State! Religion does not fit well in any topic. Let religion stick with topics of the bible and their teachings, leave everything outside of church ALONE...geeze...The Southern Baptists – I mean if walk on the wrong side of the street you're going to hell....are they ever happy with anything?

    June 2, 2013 at 3:58 am |
  16. Apple Bush

    When I was in boy scouts, our scout leader was my abusive step-father. Yes, all the parents trusted their children to a man who sexually molested his step-daughter, battered his wife and abused me. But he was not gay, so it was ok.

    June 2, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Oh

      Amen. Exactly.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:22 am |
  17. HotAirAce

    Excellent news! Anorher step towards the eradication of religion outside cult clubhouses!

    June 2, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • Glen

      Ramen!

      June 2, 2013 at 4:43 am |
  18. Believer

    "Those who believe in Jesus Christ have hope eternal.
    Those who do not only can hope He is not real."
    I'd rather have the hope of eternal life than the hope of
    rotting in the ground, personally...
    But then I'm not a pessimistic, narcissist, only obsessed with my
    own pleasure. 🙂

    June 2, 2013 at 3:22 am |
    • OTOH

      Believer,

      Oh, and "eternal life" is not your own pleasure?

      June 2, 2013 at 3:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I'm certain that your body will be destroyed in some way after you die – over a period of time, or perhaps your family will choose cremation. Your hope is that what is essentially you can be eternal. Over eternity, your memory, your personality and everything that makes up what you identify as you would be infinitely diluted if you experienced eternity as you experience life now. That means you would not survive over eternity as you. I prefer nil.

      June 2, 2013 at 3:56 am |
    • Damnable Church

      What would these southern baptists do when they find out that Jesus is not God? Weeping and gnashing of teeth? What would they do if Buddha is higher than Jesus in the scheme of things? Get angry and curse?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:38 am |
  19. Nice Try

    Smite Them… You stated, "You sound quite Luciferish actually…"

    Answer: I'm sure you would know, since he's your daddy…

    John 8:44 – Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.

    June 2, 2013 at 2:55 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How are you so certain you have the right god? You sound like an arrogant ass and not a very good christard but I guess being an ass comes naturally when you have a 2000 year old outdated book of multiple choice to pick from. Using the threat of hell is useless when you can't even provide evidence outside of your buybull for it. Doing that only makes you look like an ass.
      This is your delusion not ours, we're not required to be so gullible and we're not!

      June 2, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      It's like watching people who take it very seriously arguing about who's more powerful –
      Santa or the Easter Bunny.
      I'm not worried about going to hell since hell doesn't exist. Quoting the bible won't convince me otherwise. Neither will threats about how I'll see when I die. I really think you people get off on imagining people who don't agree with you writhing in horrible agony for eternity. And you wonder why we say you're mentally ill.

      June 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  20. anthony

    i grew up southern baptist, once i became a teenager i was able to realize that baptists are the most offensive people i still to this day have ever met... so let them create a little knock off group... everytime something happens in history they want to break off and form their own bigoted version of it. the kkk is baptist too, not that anyone is shocked by it.
    i cant wait for the day that baptists universally are treated with the same dignity and respect we give to the kkk (no respect at all). their morals are backwards and overly judgemental, a lot of religions are, but baptists are openly bigoted and for some delusional reason think its ok. im not a christian anymore thankfully because of the disgusting things i was indoctrinated with in my youth thanks to those vile people 🙂 so i guess i do get to thank them for something

    June 2, 2013 at 2:51 am |
    • M

      Yes, and they can call them the Crusading Campers for Christ, or CCC.

      June 2, 2013 at 5:40 am |
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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.