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. Long Time Scout Parent

    I feel for the boys who will miss out because of these adults. But we'll be sure to give a friendly wave from our canoe as they stand on the river bank missing out.
    As one of our leaders put it: "We don't have gay scouts. Just like we don't have straight scouts. We don't have black scouts. We don't have white scouts. We don't have Catholic scouts. We don't even have Protestant scouts. We simply have Scouts! And we'll welcome them into the fun no matter what, restricting no one."

    June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Chris

      Yours if the greatest comment I have seen on this matter!!! xD

      June 2, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • worktolive

      I take it you would be ok with a girl scout and a boy scout sharing a tent too, right? Friends do influence you when you are growing up-I do not want my grandsons influenced (and I say influenced because I do not believe gays are born gay) into thinking the gay lifestyle is ok. It is a sin.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Long Time Scout Parent

      Well WorktoLive: I hope you keep your grandson locked up in a closed up bubble room to avoid all influence. No school, no TV, no clubs, no friends what-so-ever or they will be influenced by others. Perhaps even those others different from you (What a scary thought!). One of the objectives of Scouts is to not necessarily "influence" young men (and women in Venture Scouts btw) but to teach them how to grow into their own self and make decisions for themselves. And I can't think of a better program to do just that. It teaches them to explore and make their own decisions. If you limit their environment from options they won't learn how to make decisions.
      Oh and on a side note: girls do camp with the Venture Scouts, which is co-ed and run by the BSA, and I've never heard of any issues going on. So just FYI there's already a co-ed program and yes, my daughter participates but like others has a one person tent or a hammock.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • .

      " Friends do influence you when you are growing up-I do not want my grandsons influenced (and I say influenced because I do not believe gays are born gay) into thinking the gay lifestyle is ok. It is a sin."


      All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

      The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

      On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

      Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

      The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

      Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

      There are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Highlight

      Excellent post. Couldn't agree more. Unfortunately the media, by drawing undue attention to the organization's decision, is now destroying it. My Cub pack and Webelos who for four years worked hard on their achievements, are now being called "gay" by the rest of their peers, simply because they're scouts. Way to go.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Long Time Scout Parent

      Highlight: I'm so sad to hear that. Sounds like those outside peers could use some Scout influence! Tell them to take a hike! 🙂 Good luck to your scouts!! I know we'll still be having fun at camp this summer.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  2. Walt

    Why are the Baptists so afraid?

    Pastor Tim said "Oh, please save us from these sinners"

    Satan replied "Tim, lock the doors to your church. Lock them hard and barricade them. This way, thou shall be protected from their sins".

    And so Pastor Tim, of the Baptist church, expelled the sinners and locked the doors of his church.

    And Satan smiled. Satan knew that Pastor Tim, and all those who follow him, have just taken the first steps to the dark side.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • worktolive

      You have no idea, do you? Churches do not say to any sinner "you cannot attend our church". If you are there to accept Christ and ask forgiveness for your sins and begin living for Jesus. That is the purpose-to bring the unsaved to Christ. If you are there to bring unrest and hardship and promote a sin-you should stay home. An example: there are people who come to churches for money over and over, different churches. Christians help them, give them money, food, try to bring them to Christ-just won't happen because they are only there to take advantage of Christians. When the church stops the money-they move on to another church.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  3. M

    The SBC's replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Boy that has a nice KKK ring to it. Onward my Christian soldiers.....

    June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  4. Venkat R

    It about time.....good for Boy Scouts....and good for America.

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

      I agree.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  5. RidnHigh

    Here is another short tidbit. Its not the GOOD people that make it to Heaven... Its the FORGIVEN.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Forgiven for what?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  6. Snowdog

    Way to go Baptist church. Way to stick up for what is right and moral. Amen.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Non believer

      Way to be a bigot. Amen.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  7. Brenda Z

    How about the LBGT start their OWN scout organization instead of stealing the work/finances/setup of an existing organization?

    They can require all leaders to be L/B/G/T – and have the scout handbook stripped of all references to God, and other "traditional" values removed that they feel is "outdated"

    That seems like the best situation to me – better than demanding through lawsuits the ownership of an organization they did absolutely NOTHING to form, run, or finance since its inception.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Hmm

      Ah yes, separate but equal. That's worked well in the past.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  8. Mike from Seattle

    Good point. The Southern Baptist are next severing ties with the U.S. military. We'll show them.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  9. Colin

    I'm a flaming fairy
    Short and stout
    Turn me down
    And I will pout
    Show my sin
    Or fear my fate
    I'll get in your face
    With ungodly hate
    Let me in
    So i don't feel spurned
    And I'll corrupt your children
    With what shouldn't be learned

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

      Just for the record, there are two people posting under Colin this morning. Me and the reprobate 16 year-old who posted above and a few other comments looking for a response.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Colin would not say that. You must be an idiot to think anyone would fall for that.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Colin

      Wow two qu eer colins amazing

      June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Colin

      and an ohio pansy

      June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • .

      "Wow two qu eer colins amazing"

      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 7:54 am |
  10. ml vann

    wow, i never realized how many baptists were haters. how very sad for all of the children involved.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • M

      The SBC's replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Boy that has a nice KKK ring to it. Onward my Christian soldiers.....

      June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  11. Mark

    Why have separate restrooms for male and female? Why not just have one common one? Aren't we beyond gender?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Sane Person

      Lots of places already do, sparky. Welcome to 2013. Also, in case you are not aware, 'gay' is not a gender.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  12. Korba

    It's fine if people choose to leave an organization for whatever reason. Why this is shocking and big news is ridiculous. Baptists are very conservative. I don't agree with their stance but it is what it is. Besides, when I was growing up, Boy Scouts were full of the outcasts and nerds. There is one organization that boys should participate in and that is called SPORTS. I'd hate it if my son were in boy scouts. Ugh! And there are plenty of way cooler gays that would never be in Boy Scouts!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  13. Paul

    An churches wonder why people are leaving them. Once again the "church" is dictating to of all people the Boy Scouts for allowing gays in their organization.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  14. ron

    Whenever someone has to say "it's not a hate thing" it means it really is a hate thing. The sad part is that if their faith is true then someday soon they will have to answer for their hate while standing before Jesus on Judgment Day.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  15. RidnHigh

    What do you expect from them. Most of them haven'e bothered reading the bible.. They just halfway listen to the highlights on sunday. They clearly forget that it is not their job to judge. That is GODS according to scripture. Christians believe in the NEW testiment which teaches TOLERANCE not HATE. If they had bothered reading it and understanding it they would know that Jesus surrounded himself with sinners (not that gay people are bad) so that he could teach them. He didn't run away. And for all those gay bashers. What are you scared of? That being gay is contagious and they might catch it? I personally think that Religion is the root of all evil...

    Why is it that its usually the athiest that have to get on these forums and teach you christians your religion?

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

      Dont forget its not the GOOD people that make it to Heaven... Its the FORGIVEN.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  16. goinmad2009

    Well done, Baptists. Only the brave stand up what they believe in. All your anti-religious bigots please move on.

    I don't hate gays....but I don't condone them either.
    I don't hate pro-choicers....but I don't condone them either

    If you want to live your life the way you want to...that's fine with me. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

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

      I don't hate southern Baptists....

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Sane Person

      I'm sure your entire trailer park is proud of you.

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

      "If you want to live your life the way you want to...that's fine with me. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."

      The most beautiful word in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is "whosoever." All of God's promises are intended for every human being. This includes gay men and lesbians. How tragic it is that the Christian Church has excluded and persecuted people who are homosexual! We are all created with powerful needs for personal relationships. Our quality of life depends upon the love we share with others; whether family or friends, partners or peers. Yet, lesbians and gay men facing hostile attitudes in society often are denied access to healthy relationships. Jesus Christ calls us to find ultimate meaning in life through a personal relationship with our Creator. This important spiritual union can bring healing and strength to all of our human relationships

      Biblical Interpretation and Theology also change from time to time. Approximately 150 years ago in the United States, some Christian teaching held that there was a two-fold moral order: black and white. Whites were thought to be superior to blacks, therefore blacks were to be subservient and slavery was an institution ordained by God. Clergy who supported such an abhorrent idea claimed the authority of the Bible. The conflict over slavery led to divisions which gave birth to some major Christian denominations. These same denominations, of course, do not support slavery today. Did the Bible change? No, their interpretation of the Bible did!

      Genesis 19:1-25

      Some "televangelists" carelessly proclaim that God destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of "homosexuality." Although some theologians have equated the sin of Sodom with homosexuality, a careful look at Scripture corrects such ignorance. Announcing judgment on these cities in Genesis 18, God sends two angels to Sodom, where Abraham's nephew, Lot, persuades them to stay in his home. Genesis 19 records that "all the people from every quarter" surround Lot's house demanding the release of his visitors so "we might know them." The Hebrew word for "know" in this case, yadha, usually means "have thorough knowledge of." It could also express intent to examine the visitors' credentials, or on rare occasions the term implies sexual intercourse. If the latter was the author's intended meaning, it would have been a clear case of attempted gang rape. Several observations are important.

      First, the judgment on these cities for their wickedness had been announced prior to the alleged homosexual incident. Second, all of Sodom's people participated in the assault on Lot's house; in no culture has more than a small minority of the population been homosexual. Third, Lot's offer to release his daughters suggests he knew his neighbors to have heterosexual interests. Fourth, if the issue was sexual, why did God spare Lot, who immediately commits incest with his daughters? Most importantly, why do all the other passages of Scripture referring to this account fail to raise the issue of homosexuality?

      Romans 1:24-27

      Most New Testament books, including the four Gospels, are silent on same-sex acts, and Paul is the only author who makes any reference to the subject. The most negative statement by Paul regarding same-sex acts occurs in Romans 1:24-27 where, in the context of a larger argument on the need of all people for the gospel of Jesus Christ, certain homosexual behavior is given as an example of the "uncleanness" of idolatrous Gentiles.

      This raises the question: Does this passage refer to all homosexual acts, or to certain homosexual behavior known to Paul's readers? The book of Romans was written to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome, who would have been familiar with the infamous sexual excesses of their contemporaries, especially Roman emperors. They would also have been aware of tensions in the early Church regarding Gentiles and observance of the Jewish laws, as noted in Acts 15 and Paul's letter to the Galatians. Jewish laws in Leviticus mentioned male same-sex acts in the context of idolatry.

      The homosexual practices cited in Romans 1:24-27 were believed to result from idolatry and are associated with some very serious offenses as noted in Romans 1. Taken in this larger context, it should be obvious that such acts are significantly different from loving, responsible lesbian and gay relationships seen today.

      What is "Natural"?

      Significant to Paul's discussion is the fact that these "unclean" Gentiles exchanged that which was "natural" for them, physin, in the Greek text, for something "unnatural," para physin. In Romans 11:24, God acts in an "unnatural" way, para physin, to accept the Gentiles. "Unnatural" in these passages does not refer to violation of so-called laws of nature, but rather implies action contradicting one's own nature. In view of this, we should observe that it is "unnatural," para physin, for a person today with a lesbian or gay sexual orientation to attempt living a heterosexual lifestyle.

      I Corinthians 6:9

      Any consideration of New Testament statements on same-sex acts must carefully view the social context of the Greco-Roman culture in which Paul ministered. Prostitution and pederasty (sexual relationships of adult men with boys) were the most commonly known male same-sex acts. In I Corinthians 6:9, Paul condemns those who are "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with mankind," as translated in the King James version. Unfortunately, some new translations are worse, rendering these words "homosexuals." Recent scholarship unmasks the homophobia behind such mistranslations.

      The first word – malakos, in the Greek text-which has been translated "effeminate" or "soft," most likely refers to someone who lacks discipline or moral control. The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament but never with reference to sexuality.

      The second word, Arsenokoitai, occurs once each in I Corinthians and I Timothy (1:10), but nowhere else in other literature of the period. It is derived from two Greek words, one meaning, "males" and the other "beds", a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Other Greek words were commonly used to describe homosexual behavior but do not appear here. The larger context of I Corinthians 6 shows Paul extremely concerned with prostitution, so it is very possible he was referring to male prostitutes. But many experts now attempting to translate these words have reached a simple conclusion: their precise meaning is uncertain. Scripture Study Conclusion…No Law Against Love

      The rarity with which Paul discusses any form of same-sex behavior and the ambiguity in references attributed to him make it extremely unsound to conclude any sure position in the New Testament on homosexuality, especially in the context of loving, responsible relationships. Since any arguments must be made from silence, it is much more reliable to turn to great principles of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do not judge others, lest you be judged. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love . . . against such there is no law. One thing is abundantly clear, as Paul stated in Galatians 5:14: "...the whole Law is fulfilled in one statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself".

      June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Don, do you think you can twist and contort this scripture while you are at changing Jesus' truth?. Staying in denial prevents healing.

      Genesis 1:22
      And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.


      June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  17. Marty

    At the end of the day, the biggest risk BSA is taking in this decision is a financial one.
    I have withheld my donation this year until this matter of basic human dignity was resolved.
    Vote your support with your wallets folks. Let your vote for equality outweigh the financial losses that will be felt as the SBC, and likely others, exit this program that helps so many youngsters:


    June 2, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  18. lewtwo

    Good news for Boy Scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  19. M

    The SBC's replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Has a KKK ring about it. Onward my Christian soldiers.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  20. NautiBoy

    Just as well. Now these little boys won't be exposed to the delusional bigotry of Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:44 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.