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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. Roy

    Will the Baptist Church excommunicate gays? Aren't we here to help each other?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  2. Thomas

    Over the past decade the Membership of the SBC has been in a slow but steady decline. Driving away their next generation of followers will only add to this trend.

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

      Yup, no doubt. The younger generations in this country just have no tolerance for this kind of crap.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • M

      Yes, they will ultimately eat themselves – quite pagan like I might add.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  3. BO

    Why do atheists insist on shoving their beliefs down everyone else's throat?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yea! so annoying! Handing out little flyers everywhere they go! Knocking on my door to share thier love of thier beliefs! Leaving crap stuck to my windshield! Standing in the doorway of the grocery espousing thier beliefs! Wandering through the airport in thier comfortable robes explaining jesus! Oh wait... I guess those were all christians.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Lulu

      Ummmm . . . perhaps the same reason rightwing evangelical nutcases try to ram their beliefs down people's throats? Ya think?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      What beliefs would those be exactly? That everyone, regardless of sexual orientation; belief; race; etc, deserve equal rights?? When will christards start to stay out of the public forum and stop shoving their beliefs down everyone's throats? When will christards realize that not everyone follows their book and that they reside in a secular society?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Baptists certainly are fixated on that whole throat-shoving thing, aren't they?

      Jealous, much?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  4. samiam

    Worry about God's law, not God's love.......calling them bigots makes you idiots....

    June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Not if the shoe fits. Your imaginary friends laws don't apply anywhere but in your church.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Sane Person

      Worrying about "gods" anythign makes you a sad, stone age sheeple.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • mb2010a

      Which God's laws are you talking about? There seem to be so many these days...all of them are BS.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  5. Dave

    It is a hate thing. unlike Jesus Christ, Baptist don't want to 'set with sinners'.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  6. inextremis

    Conservative evangelical organizations don't offer unconditional support to anyone–this is about control. Their hope was to wield influence on others through their support to scouting, and now when the BSA exerts it's independence, the Baptists overturn the game board and leave in a huff. It was similar in the Army, where the conservative evangelical groups were over represented in the Chaplain's Corps by a factor of more than 50%. They all threatened to leave upon the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, but most are still hanging around. I'm a straight Eagle Scout, currently proud of the BSA, though they eventually must allow gay leaders to remain true to their own values of respect for others.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • SixDegrees

      All quite true. Their long-term agenda is the establishment of a rigid theocracy that imposes their views on the populace through force of law and the power of the state. Look up the "We dge Doc ument" (which, oddly, is a trigger phrase on this forum) for an outline of their plans.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Actually, the two of you have it all backwards. You atheists are trying to do away with all morality in America, and seem surprised when people are killing each other over nothing, or are breaking into fights at kindergarten graduation, or are drinking themselves to death. You won't like this nation if we stray too far from our moral background. I assure you of that.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  7. Alex

    Goodbye, bigots.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  8. BO

    The boy scouts left the church, not the other way around.

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

    they wonder why atheists think these folks are crazy, it's because they say things like this. "God’s word explicitly says h0m0s.e.xuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

    now if we were to ask him for the exact scripture that saids "god don't like gays" he would start stuttering and saying we're the devil.
    XD

    June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • WASP

      yeah prayer changes the survival rate of sick children......................to zero.

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

      And so can the Camping Crusaders for Christ – the SBC's new replacement for the scouts.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • RandyB

      Maybe not...but religious bull is worse.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Yes. It makes people hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • One one

      The folks in Oklahoma prayed a lot for god's help after the tornado 2weeks ago. Now they get another tornado, that, like the first one, killed innocent children. Did their prayers help ?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  11. SixDegrees

    The BSA will be a much better organization without the baptists. Good riddance.

    And just in case they're thinking about coming back: the Boy Scouts accept evolution as the fact that it is.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  12. jimmer

    explain gravity......no I mean really explain it......sure is convenient isn't it?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • jimmer

      That was meant for Colin.

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

    Sounds like the laws of the USA also conflict with their beliefs, I guess they'll be emigrating soon, then?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  14. atheistintraining

    Narrow minded individuals afraid of gays. Lol

    June 2, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  15. Patrick

    I have a hard time believing heaven is going to be one big Southern Baptist convention.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • One one

      That would be hell

      June 2, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • SixDegrees

      The baptist god has wings that make a distinctive, leathery rustling sound.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  16. Jerry C

    "Jesus, we're not going to have anything to do with you anymore. It's not a hate thing. It's those sinners you insist on bringing along and allowing to be part of your disciple group!"

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

    The westboro babtist church endorses this move whole-heartedly. So, babtists.... you try to seperate yourselves from the wbc, but your bigotry betrays you. The reverand phelps is proud of the southern babtist convention today! Take a bow ye religious leaders . The world is watching...and seeing.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Really?

      Perhaps your user name fits. This is not bigotry. It is not like you, who wants to spew bad upon those with principles. This is about standing behind those principles. For you, and people like you, what is the cost? If I die and am wrong, I have simply led a life that contributes to the betterment of the world. If YOU are wrong and die, then I am sorry for not getting through to you, to save you from the result. This is not about being gay, I don't hate anyone, but worry when any organization with principles gives them up under duress.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  18. Colin

    To All Southern Baptists:

    God here.

    I have no problem with gays in the Boy Scouts. I fact, I don’t have a problem with anything, because, you see, I do not exist.

    The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is utterly ludicrous.

    Scondly, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • .

      bull sh it

      June 2, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • One one

      @ . , your simple profane contribution to the discussion reveals a weak position.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  19. ep tor

    Bigots usually hide behind religion and so called moral stances. In fact, they are immoral bigots and good riddance. There are plenty of real Christian organizations that will step in. I suspect that many Baptists that actually are moral will find a real Christian church to attend. Funny how "Christians" can preach hate from the pulpit – you'd think that's a one way street to hell. But then I never thought Baptists were real Christians anyways.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • el dono

      Good point. A dying belief system is trying to hold onto its dogma, fears, and dislike of anyone who is legitimately different than they are. They have the right to do this, as I have the right to watch Jurassic Park on TV.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  20. Thompson

    It is a hate thing. Whether these pastor's get it from scripture or just inherited the belief, they hate the gay.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:21 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.