May 31st, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(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. RandyB

    The love of Christ has been abandoned by the Baptist in favor of Old Testament Law. Christ brought a new standard to live to and the Holy Spirit showers the gift of love on true believers. The Baptist Convention has turned its back on its mission and provided Satan with a happy day indeed.

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

      Well said!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  2. Daniel

    If the Baptists are so loyal to the Bible, then surely none of them would ever consider working on Sundays, lest they be put to death. Exodus 35:2, "Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."

    June 2, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • goinmad2009

      Baptists aren't jews.....next time don't read things out of context.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • goinmad2009

      And....read the New Testament instruction on the Sabbath. Again...grabbing verses out of context won't help.

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

      Sabbath was made for man no man for the Sabbath look it up. Only one rule for the Temple or the Sabbath, keep it holy. Look it up

      June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Dan

      Also at the time of the exodus they were under martial not civil law

      June 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Colin

      goingmad2009- give the New Testament quote that you felel trumps Mosaic LAw on the point. Oh, and by the way, ever heard of Sunday mass?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Dan

      Not trumps, 'splains. Even in Biblical studies you have to look at context. It is called hermeneutics in context of its biblical exogesis

      June 2, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Colin

      Ok Dan, but the NT cite please

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Dan

      Exodus 31:14-18 and MARK 2:23-27 are just a few. Sabbath means rest not worship. Although worship is important. Jesus makes its clear that there is exceptions. The death inferred in the scripture you are focusing on is spiritual death.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • howardfeinski

      Sunday, the day of the sun, is the first day of the week. Any weak kneed scientists willing to dispute that?

      June 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  3. Mark

    I DO think that the name of the article should be changed to reflect that it is the SBC Baptists that are doing this as a convention-wide push, just like the Disney boycott a while back. Not all Baptist churches or conventions believe as they do. Check out the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's Daniel Vestal's remarks and you would see a more liberal view.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  4. marsally

    If the scouts had decided to allow gay leadership then that might,and please note the might, give baptists reason to leave the organization.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  5. Luciafurr

    Having grown up in the Baptist Church, experience has taught me that they and their fairy tales do more to harm young people than they will ever admit.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  6. Mark Fisher

    Syrian Arab Army Tightens Control over Damascus-Homs Highway in Harasta, Damascus Countryside

    The Syrian Arab Army announced major losses for terrorist groups in Harasta area in Damascus countryside.

    An official source tells SANA that a Syrian Arab Army unit clashed with an armed terrorist group in the neighboring farms to al-Miliha town and killed the majority of its members, whereas another army unit destroyed a concentration of terrorists to the west of al-Shifonia town.

    The source added that the Syrian Arab Army tightened its control over Damascus-Homs Highway near Harasta city after eliminating the terrorists who were attacking citizens.

    The source pointed out that two heavy machineguns were destroyed to the east of al-Zabadani city and some 20 terrorists from so-called "Ahrar al-Sham battalion" were killed.

    In Wadi Barada, clashes erupted between the Syrian Arab Army and armed terrorist groups with Syrian Arab Army officials confirming the death of several terrorists and the destruction of their equipment.

    In Jobar town, Syrian Arab Army units gained control over al-Afran and al-Masalekh neighborhoods after eliminating scores of terrorists, including 7 near the Great Mosque.

    Units of the Syrian Arab Army also battled terrorists in Barzeh and al-Nabek districts and brought their weight to bear against them and their equipment.

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

      Did you get lost? This thread is about the BSA and its stance on gays. There are threads on Syria underneath the articles about...Syria.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  7. Paul A

    Perhaps having their tax shelter removed for being a hate group might make sense... Or do we as a society condone them, and while we are at it, why not the kkk, skin heads and neo-nazis for good measure. (This last bit was tongue in cheek in case one misses my attempt at humor with other forms of stupidity.)

    June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  8. jimkon

    Religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction

    June 2, 2013 at 7:35 am |
  9. jimkon

    Faith: unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance

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

      Qu eer unhealthy mix of filth and perversion topped with incurable disease

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

      "Qu eer unhealthy mix of filth and perversion topped with incurable disease"

      Sociologists and psychologists hold that some of the emotionality in prejudice stems from subconscious attitudes that cause a person to ward off feelings of inadequacy by projecting them onto a target group. That's right folks homophobic people like this are just insecure and immature.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    If you need evidence that God Is to believe it, read the Footprints news item from Altoona, Pennsylvania.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  11. wally

    The Boy Scouts will be devastated if the cult of baptists leave...Oh No!!!!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  12. matt

    Its about time people stand against 3% of our population and their agenda. I myself am tired of being force to accept the gay way of life. What they do behind closed doors is their business but to tell me i have to teach my kids it an acceptable lifestyle is complete BS. Way to go Southern Baptist and shame on the boy scouts.

    PS i will be taking my boys out per their request ASAP

    June 2, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • mb2010a

      I'm sure you won't be missed...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Jabez Clay

      Good, the less bigots in the Boy Scouts the better.

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

      So, it's a hate thing.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Greg M

      You arent being forced to accept the gay way of life – just acceptance of other people.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  13. Dennis

    When you have to say "It's not a hate thing." then it is a "hate thing"

    June 2, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  14. Justanuthaone

    I'm sure Gods do not appreciate being used as an excuse for hate. I'm also pretty sure those voices in your head telling you to hate someone is not your God.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  15. Colin

    To any gay kids out there, whether you are a Southern Baptist or not, I say the following. THERE IS NOTHING WORNG WITH YOU. Do not let the Christians upset you and do not believe the silly things they say. You cannot see it now, but one day, the Christians and their old fashoined views will be as irrelevnat to your lives as the kids who called you "fat, fat the water rat" at Kindergarten.

    The country has moved on and you are welcome and accepted now. Please try and forgive the Christians, they aren't bad people, they just tend not to be very worldly or bright. Be the bigger person and try not to disdain them in return.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Greg M

      Amen to that!!! I am at a loss to why more people just cant see life like that.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  16. jimkon

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the religion of:
    (a) The ancient Celts;
    (b) Bronze Age Egyptians;
    (c) Pre-Colombian Aztecs; or
    (d) Modern Southern Baptists

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

      Theory is a strong word for the snake oil they peddle.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  17. shawn

    stoopid religious holier than tho freaks....what do you think a gay KID is going to do to your KID????.....THEY ARE KIDS!!!!!!!.....hate to tell you, but yur KIDS are already playing with gay KIDS at schoo and in your neighborhood....why do religions condone HATE when there are soooooo many things they should be concentrating on like homelessness, feeding people, seniors who need help AND LOVING THY NEIGHBOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • WASP

      simple answer: it's makes them feel good, they feel like they are important to god if they hate everyone not like themselves.

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

      Qu eer has an unnatural way of undermining the nation. No country that has accepted qu eers has ever long endured, the disease of ho mose xuality will destroy the Boy Scouts and America if we let it.

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

      Colin – You're drinking the koolaid.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • .

      "Qu eer has an unnatural way of undermining the nation. No country that has accepted qu eers has ever long endured, the disease of ho mose xuality will destroy the Boy Scouts and America if we let it.'

      Sociologists and psychologists hold that some of the emotionality in prejudice stems from subconscious attitudes that cause a person to ward off feelings of inadequacy by projecting them onto a target group. That's right folks homophobic people like this are just insecure and immature.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Some m0r0n is posting under colin's name.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Science

      Colin took a flight to London last night.

      I would be sleeping still maybe ?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Colin

      Hey Science. There are two Colins on line this morning. It should be easy to tell us apart by content.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:53 am |
  18. Momma

    Yes, just like the Southern Baptist's stance on slavery was not a "hate thing". Eventually they will evolve – but these are the laggers, the ones at the back of the forward push of social evoltuion, slowing the rest of us down just a little bit.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  19. BO

    Romans 1

    June 2, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – Romans 1 says that God made people gay.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  20. Gregg

    Once again religion is on the wrong side of an issue. How can you preach exclusion and hate and still look yourself in the eye every day. Lift your eyes from the book . . . life is in front of you. I just don't get it.

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

      Qu eer really isn't life and all the hate comes from the qu eers themselves

      June 2, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Gregg

      Yup, there really are haters out there.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:36 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.