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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. Kona

    Baptists have a difficult time understanding that genetics, which in their philosophy are a God-breathed product of conception, have a strong influence on human behavior. They don't even want to consider that their deity would ever make anyone behave in a way that is contrary to their beliefs. That is fine. Baptist just need to disavow that science has proven anything ever and that the sun revolves around the earth once a day.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  2. Gaunt

    For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, it was Scripture versus the Scouts.

    “God’s word explicitly says Jews killed our saviour” 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 Jewish 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.”

    June 2, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • John Brown

      I certainly hope these Baptists are consistent with their beliefs, and disavow *everything* that the scripture explicitly forbids.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  3. 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 7:03 am |
  4. faith

    none of these morons has the guts 2 surrender her will 2 him. if any one of them was sincerely desirous 2 no god, she would seek his face with all her heart.

    their questions r diversions. they r demon possessed. they live here 24/7 4 1 reason only, to try to ruin others

    June 2, 2013 at 7:03 am |
  5. tbob

    I bet it be stankin in them tents

    June 2, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  6. larry

    So why is the media making a big deal about Baptists ? Do you think Muslims would join the Gay boy scouts ? Muslims would probably do physical harm to the Gay boys but the media is silent on that.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  7. Brad

    Well its good that the losers are leaving now maybe the children can learn and grow and be surrounded by people that don't teach hate. Its not a hate thing but I'm sure people are glad your leaving.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  8. Kris

    Ultimately, America needs the Boy Scouts. We don't need Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • NClaw441

      I think we need everyone.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Jonquil

      ...and isn't it interesting that they never got flustered over Girl Scouts never having this issue? I guess girls are a second thought, since Southern Baptists don't expect them to be leaders, anyway.

      Scouts are and should never be, about s-ex. It's a shame that these Southern Baptists can't quiet their overactive imaginations for long enough to be good citizens and compassionate people.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  9. BostonBob

    This is pretty sad. The Baptists will destroy their youth rather than have them sit by a gay kid.

    That IS hate and it IS intolerance.

    Great Christian lesson.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  10. Sane Person

    Yea, its a hate thing.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  11. Steve Johnson

    History will look on this move by the Baptists the same way we now hang our heads when we talk about how our grandparents opposed interracial marriage.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  12. Tom

    They should might as well change the name to Pedophile Scouts. Nuff said! 😦

    June 2, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Chris

      Kind of like the pedophile Vatican. Or pedophile church. Stones, glass houses, yadda, yadda, yadda

      June 2, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • newsrell

      If they did that, then the church would have accepted them with open arms as colleagues in spirits.Unfortunately for them they are not as wise as you, and the church rejected them.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Cal

      Truly your Church has proven far worse than any Boy Scout Group! The Church has proven that it loves to be Pedophiles over and over and over again..... and continues... on and on. So now the kids may actually be safer far from the hands of your GODS!
      God was created by man... DOH!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Tom: You obviously know nothing about gays or pedophiles. Peds are not children first off and adult gays are still being discriminated against. The following contains facts that prove how wrong you really are: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

      June 2, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  13. Common Sense

    Boys should be allowed to participate without being judged if some dont want to be a part of it then i guess thats to bad but i bet its mostly just the parents and now how many kids lose friends and then get set aside because their parents say they cant be around the "gay" boys.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  14. Laura

    Just don't your kids join the boy scouts, Simple as that.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      And what exactly are you teaching your children by this? Are you going to pull your children out of school because they might be exposed to a gay child?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    The Southern Baptist Convention is now free to sponsor its own exclusive program for boys, who can then be taught to tie square knots and to pitch tents without relating to gay boys. Then the SBC boys will be prepared to work, network, and live in a gay-free society.

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

      Guess we should take little scouters camping with drug dealers too. Let them spend a weekend seeing first hand how drug dealers work and push their product and see the effects of drugs by experimenting with them. Just say no is the better alternative to this wouldn't you think! You are such a moron. Do I want to send my 10 year old son on a weekend outing with a couple of gay kids. Hell no. They had better set their tent up down the creek away from our group!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Shayna

      If you think banning openly gay kids means that the new Baptist groups will be "Gay-free", you already are almost too stupid to live.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • F. Lee Hall III

      In other words, they are being prepared to live in lala land with the unicorns and fairies. No pun intended.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  16. Robert

    Stop retreating CHURCH! And take Jesus out of the closet! Fight the good fight! Demand and take back the ground lost! Insist force and sue the council for making a pact a treaty with these influences. Love them reprove them! Reconcile them back to Christ!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • swipedcard

      Too bad, Robert, you're too blind to see that it is YOU whom God hopes recognizes the reproval. Step out from your own hate / hostility and prejudice and try love for a change.

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

      Hey why doesn't everyone stop trying to force their lifestyles on everyone else. Gay people preach tolerance of their lifestyle, but if you disagree with their lifestyle they say your bigot. Where is the tolerance for my beliefs. Just a bunch hypocritical people getting mad at you because you don't agree with them. If you want tolerance give tolerance.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Smitty

      Dave, you said exactly what I was thinking!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • mlg4035

      Funny how the only "reconciliation to Christ" I hear isn't coming from Christ.
      All I hear are the voices of mentally decrepit and morally corrupt men and women blinded by fear and ignorance.
      Truly, you (SBC and its sympathizers) are a pathetic bunch of human beings...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Take Jesus out of the closet? Oh I don't think he's in the closet – after all, he hangs around with 12 dudes in dresses, right? Yeah, I'd say he's right out there.

      June 4, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  17. Cal

    The whole truth is... the Church was created to Keep People in Tow or kept under the thumb. Gave people a place to focus their moral thoughts. Now a days there is so much BS and Scandal in the church that everyone is leaving it... and so should the Muslims... leave their religion behind... the world would be a Better Place.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  18. Common Sense

    The Bible is a book just like any other book, it was written by man for man. Sure there are things that supposedly were said or revealed to the few. I just wish people would look at the history of how the bible came to be, now thats the real joke. Man put in the bible what man wanted to be put in the bible and yes that is fact.

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

      The Bible is the "word" of man...not the "word" of God...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • G-d

      Amen!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:14 am |
  19. Jonquil

    I guess the Baptists will just have to go fixate on their se-xual obsessions outside of a youth organization. Boy Scouts should have nothing to do with s-ex. That's the point that was being made by not purposefully excluding gay scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  20. Reality

    And once again:

    Dear Southern Baptists,

    o "Abrahamics" like yourselves believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"
    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/evolution/Gay-gene-deconstructed.html

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Old Scout

      In fact there is scientific literature that shows that during a certain period of time, I believe it is the 5th week, that the presence of the stress hormone cortisol within the women's body has a direct effect on creating female children who later are born with male features/tendencies. There are also studies that show that in families with many boys (ie 4 or more children), that the probability of a gay male goes way up the further down in the birth order you go. This casually (not scientific) makes one wonder if the stress hormone is also at work here.

      Lastly, I don't recall the Baptists leaving their religion or throwing their brethren under the bus when all the Priest scandals broke out all over the world. Is it possible that they protest too much?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:04 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.