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. Jeff

    "'It's not a hate thing,' pastor says"

    No, hate is what these gay loving liberals are spewing all over this forum.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • M

      Tell that to the Log Cabin Republicans and all the closeted Republicans senators and members of congress. Would you like me to start naming names?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • The real Tom

      Cry me a river.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Andrew

      Jeff: Truth = Hate. Great logic. Naw, I'll just push back on haters, thanks.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Jeff: We're not spewing hate, it's simply intolerance of intolerance.

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

      liar prefails isn't either it is sticking its nose in where it does not belong

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  2. Andrew

    Idiot monkeys using someone else's anceint laws to completely duck Jesus' teachings and commandments and turn what may have been love, at one point, into HATE. The Baptists are still the f@#!king Klan, 100 years later.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  3. JacinJax

    Growing up in Virginia in the '60's, there was a girl in my class who was Southern Baptist. She wasn't allowed to listen to music that wasn't church approved (no Rock & Roll), she couldn't dance and she couldn't play with me or my friends because we were different/mixed races. When she told us this she held her head high but tears were streaming down her face. She never looked any of us in the eye again. It still breaks my heart remembering her pain.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • jonp

      Baptists and American Evangelicals are the worst. My wife is a devout Christian from South Korea and she is actually quite disturbed by the brand of Christianity that some Americans follow.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Evervigilant

      So in a nutshell it's ok to be gay but not ok to be Baptist. This based on your own limited personal experiences.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  4. Pat in IL

    Of course it's a hate thing! These fundamentalists have forgotten that every living thing on earth was created by God.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • Jafo

      Lol yeah right. U believe in magic too right

      June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  5. Laura

    If the church continues to judge and hate, people are going to keep leaving religion.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Churches and religion has always judged and hated. There will always be sheep.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Real Plumer

      For the first time in m 62 years of life I'm going to leave the Baptist. For anyone to quote the bible and quote God's Covenant and not Jesus's are denying Christ. I want be a part of that. Jesus's Covenant is Faith, Hope, and Love, not hatred. Jesus's says love thy neighbor and treat them as you want to be treated. Hebrews 8:12 tells us that Jesus's will forgive all sins and he wants you to LOVE your neighbor. James 2:8 says if you love some over the other you are committing a sin. James 27 says there is only one judge. The church in this article has gone away from all of this. They are not recognizing Jesus Christ! I will not longer belong to Baptist. I will move my faith to a different church. I'll pray deeply for this church. They are doing the same thing as the Westboro Baptist are doing, my mother would be rolling over in her grave.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Nexus974

      So its "anything goes"? No rules. No standards. No morals.
      What is the point of having beliefs if you are going to change or ignore them when it's politically expedient?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  6. jo

    agree whole heartidly. my kid is done with scouts

    June 2, 2013 at 7:56 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 7:58 am |
    • rebecca

      And my kid is now joining! Trade-sies!

      June 2, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  7. Rick1948

    If people really want to shelter their children from anyone not exactly like them, then they probably should pull their kids out of the Boy Scouts – and the Boy Scouts will ultimately be a better organization without them. But, they also need to pull their kids out of public schools, not let them visit the mall or go to movies, or go anywhere where they might interact with other members of society. It's sad if they do and the only victims will be their children who will not be able to function around others as adults.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  8. Imagine No Religion

    "Ain't that America, hateful little baptists for you and me. Oh yeah."
    (with apologies to John Cougar Mellencamp)

    "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
    Now that I found out, I know I can cry." - John Lennon

    June 2, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  9. Rick1948

    If people really want to shelter their children from anyone exactly like them, then they probably should pull their kids out of the Boy Scouts – and the Boy Scouts will ultimately be a better organization without them. But, they also need to pull their kids out of public schools, not let them visit the mall or go to movies, or go anywhere where they might interact with other members of society. It's sad if they do and the only victims will be their children who will not be able to function around others as adults.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  10. Andrew

    Yes, it's a hate thing. And, now, it's a lie about a hate thing.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  11. Bob

    Typical. Gays force themselves where they are not wanted and ruin it. Go do your own "thing".

    June 2, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Andrew

      Yeah, no hate there, Bob.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:55 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 7:56 am |
    • Bob

      I like how people so quickly use the word "hate". A cop out for someone with no rational argument. Funny how gays want to force themselves into everyone else's business, but the reverse is non-existant.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • The real Tom

      Poor Boob, why don't you go away and do your own thing? Why not start your own nation where you can discriminate against people you hate?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • The real Tom

      Yeah, Boob, just like African Americans wanted to "force" themselves into public schools! Imagine! Just like women wanted to "force" themselves into the voting booth! What utter gall!

      You are an imbecile.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Nexus974

      @M you need some new material champ. That line is getting old.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Long Time Scout Parent

      Who ever said they're not wanted??? I'll take any Scout in my Den/Pack/Troop. If they are wanting to learn, then I'm willing to teach.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  12. M

    If the Baptist Church can do without the BSA, or any gays for that matter, than maybe they can also do without their tax exemption status, as well; given that they'll have so much money on hand by pulling their donations.

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

      I promised the churches that I pastored that tax problems would follow any opposition to the drift of pop culture's immorality. I didn't care what the IRS or politicians, or now the Three Monkey Media has to say about the ethics I strive for. 110,000,000 contemporary cases of STDs enforce the power of the Judeo Christian ethic.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • M

      So, you're saying you won't have a problem paying taxes like the rest of us.. good for you! Let's hope the taxman won't ask you to cough up retro. 😉

      June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • The real Tom

      popseal, you are a sh!tty representative of Christ.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Nexus974

      So only those with an approved politically correct agenda get tax exempt status? Sounds like thoughtcrime.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  13. Linda Antonioli

    It isn't hate, it's ignorance. Gay isn't a choice. Time for others to step up & sponsor these groups that now are welcoming, truly welcoming to boys that want to enjoy scouting.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  14. Jafo

    I live in the south. The Baptist church is ignorant. They are only punishing their kids for this

    June 2, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  15. jimkon

    Incompatible religious doctrines have balkanized our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have become a continuous source of bloodshed. Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it has been at any time in the past. Religion has been the explicit cause of literally millions of deaths in recent decades

    June 2, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  16. Hilda

    Obviously, it's hate. Quit hiding behind theology, southern hick baptists. Jim Crow was argued as just fine in the bible, too. Y'all got a special spot in hell

    June 2, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • JR

      Regardless of what you think their rationale is, just let them go and let it go. They are free to talk with their feet and leave the organization.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  17. Venkat R

    I may not be in favor of Boy Scout's decision, but I welcome this unexpected benefit – one less place for religion in public life.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  18. thefactsmatter

    So, all the non-gay scouts are without sin...

    I get it now!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  19. Sane Person

    Uh, actually it was Baden Scott Powell, a gay man, in England. He wasnt a mormon.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  20. boyamidumb

    Exactly why I don't belong to ANY religion. Once again the "holy" show their true colors. They even ignore the commands in their own books. Pathetically hilarious group of people. Now I don't believe that gay people are "sinners" or an "abomination" but YOU DO.

    Read on, from YOUR book Baptists.

    Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:51 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.