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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. eliptic2

    Do are you saying there are no gay baptists that go to church on Sunday? I bet there are, you better not go and worship with them. Or gays at restaurants, theme parks, grocery stores, shopping malls. Better not mingle with the gays as to be faithful to scripture. Have fun hiding in your houses.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  2. CNN-where being gay is news!
    June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  3. gremlinus

    Nothing like teaching the youth of America that excluding people you don't agree with is more important than doing good works. Nice to know the SBC doesn't disappoint. SMH

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

      Excluding people IS their good work. Instead of digging for some biblical passages that exclude, they should be looking for the ones that include. Why always the negative?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • just a man

      there is such an anger,arrogance and ugliness of characters in many americans.these kkk sons shouldn't have the opportunity to enjoy publicly paid organization.kick the haters out!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  4. Greg Morgan

    It's a "moral stance" that the Baptists are taking. Just like it was a moral stance when they supported slavery 200 years ago, and they opposed civil rights for blacks just a couple of generations ago. Jesus would be so pleased–if Jesus was into hate.

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

      Don't be so quick to judge. God has a plan. He obviously wanted to get the Baptists out of the Boy Scouts to prevent the scout kids from being taught bad morals.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Bubk

      Americans still LOVE slavery-who makes your clothes?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  5. Mark

    If baptists hate gays, do gays hate baptists????

    June 2, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • DC Observer

      Baptists and other Christians do not hate gays; they just do not believe in that pracice as many CHristian religions consider sodomy a sin. Those gays and lebians that would bash the Baptists or others for quietly leaving the Scouts are the worst sort of bigots.

      If gays wish to push for their equal rights in society – fine. But do not condemn Christians who tolerate gays but choose not to associate with them in fraternal organizations like the Scouts - sodomy is a sin in most Christian religions – they are free to choose not to belong to such groups – this is afterall a country borne on religious tolerance AND religioud freedom Those gays that would try to FORCE Christians to belong to the Boy Scouts are BIGOTS and worse than gay bashers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • .

      Qu eers hate everyone including themselves

      June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  6. mark

    Lets get the remaining scouts together for a religious book burning

    June 2, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • DC Observer

      Spoken like a true Democratic liberal -- demonize all that do not agree with you

      June 2, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Sane Person

      Once again, the fundies have it backwards. You guys really should read a book other than your holy comic.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  7. mb2010a

    Boy Scouts = Hitler Youth and future Storm-Troopers. Baptists = Nazis. Simple as that...

    June 2, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • DC Observer

      And we thank the DNC for weighing in on this topic. This is typical democratic-liberal response --

      June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Jesus loves little children who bash gays.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • .

      there are no gays only filthy qu eers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • DC Observer

      YOU are a disgrace to humanity and a bigot

      If gays wish to push for their equal rights in society – fine. But do not condemn Christians who tolerate gays but choose not to associate with them in fraternal organizations like the Scouts -- sodomy is a sin in most Christian religions - they are free to choose not to belong to such groups - this is afterall a country borne on religious tolerance AND religioud freedom Those gays that would try to FORCE Christians to belong to the Boy Scouts are BIGOTS and worse than gay bashers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Sane Person

      Psst... you do realize that "sodomy" is not going to be a merit badge right? You guys really need to stop obsessing about gay se x. You think about it more than gay adults do.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  9. nanners

    Not a hate thing? I guess it's more like ignorance, as the baptists have been taught hate from birth. They don't see anything wrong with hate anymore. It's O.K. to hate if you are Baptists, because you are doing it in the name of your religion...

    June 2, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • DC Observer

      Nanners you are the hater and the bigot here – SHAME

      If gays wish to push for their equal rights in society – fine. But do not condemn Christians who tolerate gays but choose not to associate with them in fraternal organizations like the Scouts - sodomy is a sin in most Christian religions – they are free to choose not to belong to such groups – this is afterall a country borne on religious tolerance AND religioud freedom Those gays that would try to FORCE Christians to belong to the Boy Scouts are BIGOTS and worse than gay bashers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • nanners

      Christianity is about loving and accepting your neighbor and your enemy. loving other human beings. Religion hasn't practiced Christianity in a long time. No one says you have to engage in sodomy because young gay men have joined the group. That is ignorance of the highest magnitude.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  10. damheathern

    Looks like a win-win situation. Let the bigots flee. The Scouts have never been about that anyway. The church is so full of itself. Boy Scouts will live on far longer than the god-filled elitist church. Their dirty, pedophile stained money is not needed to keep the BSA alive. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  11. tbob

    the whole camp gone smell like poo!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  12. Greg Morgan

    Suggested name for the new alternative scouting groups: the Bigot Scouts of America.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • DC Observer

      GReg you are the typical Democratic liberal – demonize all that disagree with you. You are the true bigot here - SHAME

      If gays wish to push for their equal rights in society – fine. But do not condemn Christians who tolerate gays but choose not to associate with them in fraternal organizations like the Scouts - sodomy is a sin in most Christian religions – they are free to choose not to belong to such groups – this is afterall a country borne on religious tolerance AND religioud freedom Those gays that would try to FORCE Christians to belong to the Boy Scouts are BIGOTS and worse than gay bashers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  13. UpsetVoter

    The change in the Boy Scout policy does not go against the true basic meaning of Christianity. If people actually read the new testament they would see that the only people Jesus openly criticized were those who felt they were above the rest because the followed all the temple rules. His basic rule was always to love and accept the sinner and hate the sin which is good because we are all sinners. He would not understand a lot of modern Christians condemning everyone who is not like them. He was about forgiveness and mot condemnation.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  14. Mxh

    Great. The Boy Scouts will be better without them.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • DC Observer

      THat is a very bigotted thing to say - very bigotted. The Baptists are NOT bashing gays or denyin gthem anything – they are following their religious beliefe - If you and other bigots on this thread have an issue with that, shame on you

      June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Hfxwst

      Jesus taught love, tolerance and acceptance. It appears the Baptists have lost their way.

      The next story should be about the exodus of members from organized religions who wish to follow the teachings of Christ.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    While being raised Southern Baptist in Mississippi, I learned how society maintains gay-free towns and schools: a group of big boys ambushes a suspected gay man or boy, bashes him, and then reports that the gay male "jumped out of the bushes" to attack them.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • mb2010a

      The Southern Baptists think George Zimmermann is a Saint...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • DC Observer

      YOU were NEVER a Christian, let alone a Baptist - your hateful remarks suggest you are likely (1) a member of the KKK; (2) a bifgot (3) a Democratic spokesman for the DNC; (4) have in IQ under 45; 5) gay; (6) and extremely immature.

      This is the typical Democratic response to religion - demonize / lie / distort attack. Our President Obama has attanded over 1,000 fund raisers since taking office while he has gone to churgh 7 times in that time span. There is a reason why there is so much hate in this country and its roots are DEMOCRATS and OBAMA
      If gays wish to push for their equal rights in society – fine. But do not condemn Christians who tolerate gays but choose not to associate with them in fraternal organizations like the Scouts - sodomy is a sin in most Christian religions – they are free to choose not to belong to such groups – this is afterall a country borne on religious tolerance AND religioud freedom Those gays that would try to FORCE Christians to belong to the Boy Scouts are BIGOTS and worse than gay bashers

      June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  16. Etc. 3

    Shame, shame, shame! Whatever happened to "suffer all the little children" "all God's children" and so forth? What damage is this doing to the gay youth? I am not a religious person nor am I gay. Things like this just strengthen my belief that I can be a better person, live a better life without a church telling me how to do it. God didn't write the words of the Bible. Uneducated, unwordly-wise (no such word but it fits here) bigots.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • Etc. 3

      Why don't the Boy Scouts split and the ones who truly support the organizations beliefs start their own groups. Churches should not have the power to bring down a basically well-intentioned organization. Prejudice is based on ignorance. This is certainly a good example of that!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  17. Sane Person

    I wonder if anyone mentioned to the Baptists that thier 'Chief Scout of the World' and originator of the Boy Scouts, Baden Scott Powell, was gay.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  18. Doug

    Maybe you idiot Baptists don't understand. We don't WANT your bigoted children in the scouts. Keep them isolated at home, outside of society. That's fine with us.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • .

      you qu eers don't understand no body wants your dirty disgusting disease ridden selves

      June 2, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      These are the same bigots who don't clue in to the fact that if there are gay children in the Boy Scouts then there are gay children in the schools. Time for them to go back to their caves.
      I wonder if they realize that one of the major influences in the creation of the computer was also gay. They might want to look up who Alan Turing is.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  19. Jenn

    Everything I expect from a Christian.

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

      A Baptist/Born Again Christian... Notice how many other Christian Denominations accepted it. I was actually delightfully surprised to read from an article from the liberal San Francisco Gate that if it wasn't for Mormon Church it would not have passed as they are the largest religious group supporter of the Scouting program. They fully supported open gay youth in boy scouts and were the major contributor to pushed it through.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Sheryl

      http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Mormon-church-to-continue-Boy-Scouts-association-4544224.php

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  20. Mark

    Wonder if the scouts will allow those called to polygamy? At least it's a step in the right direction.

    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.