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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. Old Scout

    Im sick and tired of the chrsitian element thinking that the Boy Scouts is a Christian organization like they think our country is a Christian Nation. Believe what you want but there were plenty of Jewish and even a few Muslim scouts at my camp in the 1960's. My tent mate for an entire summer was a Muslim. By the way "reverent" has NOTHING to do with religion but religion does have something to do with reverence.

    rev·er·ent
    /ˈrev(ə)rənt/
    Adjective
    Feeling or showing deep and solemn respect: "a reverent silence".
    Synonyms
    respectful – deferential – reverential

    June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  2. GW Hamer

    People have a right to choose not to be around activites they "personally" don't agree with. That's what makes this a wonderful nation, If a person diislikes drinking, ect. dosn't make them a "hater", Find another dog to kick. I don't have to be around what makes me uncomfortable, that dosn't qualify as hate , seems theres a lot of it going on here.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Jonquil

      Being g-ay is not an "activity", just like being not g-ay isn't one. If we're talking about inappropriate acts going on in front of kids, that's a different matter. You should have a better explanation for your bigotry.

      Girl Scouts never had this problem.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      What you're saying is that you can't stop picturing that "g.ay activity". Tell me, do you picture hetero activity when you're interacting with hetero people? No? Then I'd say you have a problem. Actually you have a problem either way. Just can't get s-ex off your mind, can you?

      June 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  3. Move_on

    You do not have to go to the Middle East to find religious leaders pursuing backwards agendas. Poor kids caught up in this.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Mark

      I myself am a pastor and I agree with you Move On 100%. I get very tired watching the kids get caught up in all this crap, seeing programs politicized, etc. If someone does not agree with the by laws of a church, non profit, business, or club the thing about this country if I remember right was you DON'T have to belong to it if you don't want to. I always wonder just how much of stuff like this is about religion and how much of it is about losing funding.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  4. F. Lee Hall III

    Baptists are one of the major driving forces behind the republican party. One only needs to look at the state of that party and their perceived goals to get a good picture of their beliefs. Both seem to take the Ostrich approach to dealing with others in the 21st century.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Jonquil

      ...and it's not even like this is some curriculum these Baptists are complaining about, like s-ex ed classes. Even though I think it's ridiculous, I could understand why they would protest about something like s-exual education in schools. But this is simply about their desire to exclude kids who identify as ga-y, which would, more or less, be a handful of teenagers. I don't know why they now assume this mean that it's okay for s-ex acts to be performed during scout meetings. Their ignorance is truly astounding.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  5. John

    Why do you take two Baptists fishing with you?

    If you take only one, He drinks all your beer...

    June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Rationalintn

      Protestants don't recognize the Pope.
      Jews don't recognize the cross.
      Two Baptists in a liquor store don't recognize each other.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:10 am |
  6. Keith

    Good riddance.

    As for not about hate–scripture says all sorts of things. This is bigotry and hate, plain and simple. That Pastor Reed can't see that doesn't make it not so. If it weren't bigotry, he'd be advocating all sorts of scriptural nonsense that he isn't, like no shellfish, stoning non-virgin, unmarried women, etc. Hypocrisy, bigotry and hate. That's all this is.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • F. Lee Hall III

      These charlatans take a few scriptures from the bible that they see will resonate with the segment of the population that they plan to exploit and control. The fact that they can do this with such ease, should tell you about the intelligence of their followers.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  7. Kev

    Do these people actually believe that there were no gay youths in scouting already?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:47 am |
  8. Equal Scout

    Nothing wrong with havnig Gay Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. Have to think about a few things now: Do girl scouts allow gays in.. we need equality. And I certainly hope the gay scouts are kept in a separate tent from from the non-gay scouts. Just as we segregate boys from girls bathrooms, we should do the same with tents. I don't see anyone crying foul with segregationalist restrooms. Is this more hate ?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  9. havanas

    This is much to do about nothing. Boy Scots has always attracted pedophiles, not gays. Set up separate, anti-gay, 'Christian' Scouts if you want, gays couldn't care less and you'll still be the attractive to pedophiles. Problem solved.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  10. Chris Bonjour

    Not about hate and just following the bible to the letter? So when does he want to stone he divorced women of hos church? Hope nobody has a tattoo, mixed blend clothing, or eats shellfish. If those are allowed then this is all about his flock's choice to be bigots. The Klan was a southern faith based organization too.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:44 am |
  11. dbart

    Sending a donation to the Boy Scouts today! Hate is still hate – cloaking it in terms of religion doesn't change that. These churches that are leaving can take their hate with them and the Scouts will still thrive, supported by those who believe in diversity, tolerance, and love.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Mr Tolerant Liberal

      It's really interesting when we talk about liberals and tolerance. They are tolerant ONLY IF you agree with them. Otherwise you are bigoted.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  12. bunkerhiller

    How sad to see so much fear and bigotry among the "followers" of Christ.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • .

      Truth is neither fear or bigotry fear bigotry and hate are character traits of qu eers

      June 2, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  13. john vance

    This is certainly their option to exercise, but America and the entire world is moving in a different direction on this issue. Self-imposed separation and intransigent insularity by any individual, organization or nation is, in the long term, counterproductive for those who choose that path. It foretells of a downhill slide to isolation and ostracization.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  14. M

    Or the could replace the Boy Scouts with their own organization – the Camping Crusaders for Christ, or CCC.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Taylor

      If you read the article you should already know they have a similar organization called, "Royal Ambassadors." So enough with your ridiculousness. Move on.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • M

      But I like Camping Crusaders for Christ better. CCC sounds a lot like KKK, too.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • Taylor

      So you would prefer to make up names for an organization, rather than accept the reality of the situation? Their RA program is similar to the scouts and not at all similar to the KKK. Again, be rational.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • M

      You're right, the KKK has no connection to religion, does it?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Taylor

      Because thats exactly what i said right? No, of course the KKK is affiliated with a religion and it is very true that many original members and probably members now are apart of the SBC. However, the SBC does not condone the actions of the KKK. That is where your irrationality lies.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Istennno

      i wonder how many other religious organizations have a strong kkk membership. catholic church? nah. methodists? nah. Baha'i? nah. universalist unitarians? nah.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • M

      I think you mean, the KKK is just a tad more extreme...just a tad, mind you. That's quite a pretty history – I wonder what Jesus would have said about that, or did Southern Baptist get "saved" again and forgiven. I guess there's more Catholic about Southern Baptists than I suspected, and being a former Catholic, I would know that.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • Taylor

      You making that up too?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • M

      Yes, it wasn't long ago that the Catholics issued their list of apologies for their many un-Christian like acts. The Southern Baptists merely save themselves – no need for an apology. It's kind of like being resurrected, right? Coming back from the dead for a hateful act.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • Taylor

      My previous comment was to the, I-person, not you M. Yeah teh SBC was founded during the mid 19th century because it used the bible to validate Slavery. Pretty gross history for sure. Now it has begun to make amends to the african-american community and currently is directed by an African American president (I don't mean POTUS either). So they for sure have been extreme and in the end very bigoted. The problem with your comments is that you are reflecting much of your bias on past history of the denomination. Only history can tell whether this possible decision will be poor. As for myself I truly believe that this decision will be very regrettable.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • M

      Well, we do agree on one thing – they are going to regret this bit, because I'm not convince the rest of the Southern Baptists will be willing to go along with this. They may end up expelling even more members who decide not to go along, making themselves more extreme in the process. I'll apologize for you – love is simple and doesn't require the support of any religious group that loves to reshape it's message every time it's real message slips out.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  15. Joe

    "It's not a hate thing..."

    We;;, it sure isn't a love thing.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Porky Rottenham

      It's a "We Reject Liberalism" thing.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • Patty

      Exactly! And, they'll have to kick out the fat people because gluttony is a sin, too. Oh, and adulterers, and gossips, and women who speak up in church...dang, the Baptist pews are going to be empty!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • havetocomment

      Your right Joe. They don't want to be involved with that kind of love.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  16. MightyMoo

    Matthew 19:14 'Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."'

    Now that's following script.... well crap. Ah well, it's their choice to kick that one to the curb.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Porky Rottenham

      Jesus didn't sleep with them.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Americandirt

      Amen!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • mb2010a

      And you know this how? All the disciples had "companions" (hint: and they weren't women). Jesus slept with 12 men on a regular basis... Sounds pretty gay to me...

      June 2, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  17. M

    I think they'll reconsider their exodus – this sounds like an knee-jerk reaction. There's just too much to lose.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • Taylor

      I completely agree.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  18. Woody HILLIARD

    Is anyone surprised at this intolerant. bunch of.fools? Servants of God ????

    June 2, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  19. amir

    Perfectly acceptable for Baptists to do as they wish. It is their church. The Boy Scouts are there by privilege, not right.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Dr. Z

      You're right, it's perfectly fine for the Baptists to leave. They have a different belief system, simple as that. But, they have once again exposed themselves as people who use the bible and Jesus selectively to promote their view of the world. In my opinion it's so obviously hypocritical that they've become laughable people to me. You can deny science, you can claim to have special knowledge based on magic, you can throw snakes, you can speak in tongues, and you can quote scripture. But when you try to make the U.S. over as a vision of your backward, isolationist, denial of reality ways I'm going to fight you on it.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  20. susielyn

    It is imperative that the Baptist community withdraw it's connection with the Scouts. To not do so, would be hypocritical.
    Others call it hate. What it really is, is a group of people that are not afraid to stand by their convictions and beliefs even though it isn't the "bandwagon of the day". Whether it is a choice or not, will be argued until the end of time.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Chris

      Religion has always, always been a part of Scouting. The Scout Law states that one will be Reverent. Every camping trip I ever went on as a kid or adult had a Sunday morning worship service to God.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Istennno

      why are baptists always on the wrong side of social justice? their current behavior is surely reminiscent of the way they handled slavery and desegregation. you have to ask yourself if these folks know anything about Christ at all. what god are they actually worshiping?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Erick

      While I agree its their choice I disagree with your comment that its a choice debated. Science and medicine have made it clear that it is not. The only ones still arguing it are the ones that are losing the debate since they're only debating themselves.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:57 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.