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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. Mark Yelka

    The world will always have bigots.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  2. Sassy1

    Considering that it took the SBC 168 years to apologize for their stance on slavery, is anyone really surprised at this?

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

      Well, at least they had biblical support for slavery

      “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

      June 2, 2013 at 7:23 am |
  3. AbbyM

    While you're at it Baptists, maybe you can leave the country too 'en masse'.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:20 am |
  4. sammy3372

    there they go again....showing the rest of us some of the basic pillars of Christianity ...... tolerance, acceptance, love....to name a few......unless of course the other are something they don't agree with. This type of behavior towards other humans is deplorable......and makes me glad that I am choosing to surf this morning v. putting money into an offering plate......amen to you Hate Mongers......your version of love is somerthing this world can most certainly do WITHOUT.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  5. Rev. Linda

    Not my Baptist church. Once again, the media lumps all Baptists together. There are more than 50 kinds of Baptists in this country. My American Baptist church welcomes the Boy Scouts and still does. My Baptist church welcomes the gay community. No condemnation but acceptance and love for all. And no, for us, it isn't about loving the sinner and hating the sin. We actually agree that "born this way" is true. What a shame that so many of us continue to be labeled and judged by what the Southern Baptists and more conservative Baptists do. Not us. No way. All are welcomed, all are worthy.

    Now I have to go preach another sermon this Sunday morning. . . .

    June 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • M

      This I applaude – unconditional love.

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

      Thank you for pointing that out. I'm not that familiar with the traditions of the Baptists and I would not have known there are so many differences. I will be mindful of that in the future and not think of all Baptists as adhering to the same views.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • midwest rail
      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • saggyroy

      Do all Baptist congregations belong to the SBC? What power does the SBC have over all of them? Can it ostracize, censure them or cut off funding?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Nate

      One Jesus, hundreds of interpretations. Crummy communicator that Jesus...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  6. Trevor

    Good, get religion out of the scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • BO

      I agree. Let the heathens pay for it.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  7. woodsmoke2

    "If you cut the world up into little pieces, you will kill it." - Lao Tse

    June 2, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  8. One one

    They must figure this will help get them into heaven.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  9. Downbytheriver

    As a Christian, I'm appalled at the hateful, unloving actions of this group. Even if you disagree with the policy, to dissassociate and pull funding from an organization that does so much good over a decision to be inclusive is simply tragic on a lot of levels. So misguided, so unlike Christ. Please come to your senses.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • M

      You are watching them being born again. Watch closely.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • BubblesB

      I wonder what they plan to tell God when he asks why they didn't do what Jesus did and love everyone. Guess who's NOT getting into heaven now?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Anon

      I believe they would reply "How can you call yourself a Chrsitian and not support our position?" and round and round you go quoting Bible verses to each other.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Nate

      It is very like Christ. Go read your bible.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  10. M

    I think they just need to form their own group – the Camping Crusaders for Christ, or CCC.

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

      Their symbol could be the swastika.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • saggyroy

      I think that was done except it was spelled Kamping Krusaders for Krist.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Nate

      They already have a para-scouts outfit called Awana.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  11. Reality

    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

    June 2, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  12. Mark

    I left the SBC years ago when I actually started a house church and a SBC church offered to "help" fund my salary. Big mistake. I was made promises of non-interference, allowing the members to be free to choose their leaders, and to be "autonomous" as all "SBC churches are autonomous churches free to create their own by laws, etc". Within a year after having their funding, I was given a paper from the Missions Board of the SBC which stated questions like "Do you engage in using illicit drugs", "do you speak in tongues", "Have you committed a felony" and "Do you smoke or drink alcohol". So, smoking or drinking ONE BEER was equated with doing cocaine and committing felonies. I was aghast. Even worse was the equation with speaking in tongues to the sinful list that followed. I was told by the guy giving me the paper "Just sign off on this so we can continue to get funds from NAMB." It was all about money. I couldn't sign it because as a good German I do enjoy a nice cold glass of Sam Adam's Summer Ale now and then when I mow the lawn. So, my "full time" salary of $700 per MONTH was then cut in half, and chaos ensued with the "mother church" enraged that I would not bow down to NAMB OR their own church. I was told by their pastor as well, "if you don't straighten up, we'll be forced to replace you"–so I was going to be FIRED from my own church(!!??) that I started in MY HOME. Now I WILL SAY that not all SBC churches are like that one, thank God, but a lot of them are. The people from NAMB, however, that I dealt with–as far as I am concerned, followed a bait-and-switch type of mentality where you are promised aid to field, started off on a mission, and THEN you are given the "rules" after you are dependent on them. THAT is how people control you, and it was a good lesson to learn. Today we are a community of faith, if you are gay/lesbian you are WELCOME here, and I still preach the love of Christ and the accountability we all need as well before God as followers of him–especially when it comes to calling someone on the carpet for blatant hypocrisy. The pastor who tried to fire me? A couple years later he was GONE to which I can only say was not surprising. I actually went to a pastoral counselor and asked him why/how this man would tell me ONE thing one week and then the EXACT OPPOSITE a week later–the counselor's reply was "this is how ______ keeps you 'off-balance' and that is how HE CONTROLS YOU." Know what? if the SBC does not want Boy Scouts in their buildings, so be it. That is their decision. But if I hear of the Convention taking away AID to churches that do not follow their little suggestion–you can be certain that at least I will know that this is just more of the same song, second verse.

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

      Too long.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  13. Nate

    Boycotting things is a large part of the baptist experience. From movies and dances to restaurants that serve beer, it gives them a sense of power, which is central to their religious experience. Good riddance.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • saggyroy

      Yeah, they pretty much ruined Disney with a boycott eh?

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

      AMEN!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  14. Judy Wood

    Saying it isn't hate doesn't mean it actually isn't.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Skeeve

      Of cause it isn't. Just plain stupidity – to be expected from an organization that has word "church" in its name

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Jay

      so true...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  15. Patrick

    You have a much greater chance of being molested by a Baptist than by someone in the Boy Scouts.

    'http://stopbaptistpredators.Org/index.htm

    June 2, 2013 at 7:14 am |
  16. clarke

    Run, Run as fast as you can, I am the ginger bread man! Being a Christian I was never taught to run and hide, Jesus never ran away and demanded everyone think like him.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Nate

      Putting Jesus and the Ginger Bread Man in the same sentence is certainly appropriate.

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

      ...except the gingerbread man tastes much better.....

      June 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yea, thats crazy talk. The Gingerbread man actually exists.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • BubblesB

      They preach that God gives everyone free will. Why do they think they are above God and don't have to do the same?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  17. John Brown

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

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

      I wonder how many of them work on the Sabbath or don't sell their daughters into slavery or are divorced. All are breaking bible verses.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  18. One one

    What do SB parents do when they discover one of their children is gay ?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • mb2010a

      Suicide, hopefully...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Sassy1

      The same thing they've always done...throw the kid out on the street and disown him/her.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  19. yabbut

    The Scouts won't miss the sanctimonious & judgemental. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  20. tbob

    who gone clean that mess up?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:13 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.