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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. EastCoastMike

    Why would it be a hate thing? You're just telling a very small group of kids that you don't want to be around them because they're different and you feel you're better than they are.
    I'm sure the Taliban does the same thing....only they try to cripple the person who is different. You Baptists are much more civilized with your exclusions.....

    June 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  2. Willie

    These churches are the definition of evil

    June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  3. Satros

    Pft. Girl Scouts have been doing Scouting and doing -just fine- for 101 years without needing ties and church sponsorship. The Boy Scouts will turn out better off for it all.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Muhammad

      Bismillah, when they adopt the lesbian agenda they will fail also

      June 2, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • rebecca

      I know! I wasn't going to allow my son into boy scouts because of this creepiness but my daughter joined Girl Scouts and I know she is being empowered and taught to love herself. Now they can both be Scouts.

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

      Muhammed, what's it like knowing you were named after a pedophile?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  4. Colin

    I guess I will consider gays on the same moral footing as Southern Baptists the day I hear of a gay organization pulling its children out of something they love because it has Soutthern Baptists in it, trying to deny Southern Baptists the right to marry or serve in the millitary, or generally telling little Southern Baptist kids they are "sinners" and "dirty".

    Until then, the gays have the moral high ground on this one. It's not even close.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Name*guss

      Fool

      June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Peter Vogel, Learning Tree

      Yes!

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

      Fantastic point, Colin.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • Moral

      the gays have the moral high ground on this one....lol.... Oh yes the gays moral high ground is sticking your junk up a hershey highway. Lance just loves to shoot his AIDS infected juice up
      Bruce's "Hershey Highway". nice moral for sure

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  5. poseidon

    I have nothing against the BSA decision. As a moderate, my life mantra is live and let live. But the irony here is that the "win" for the gay-rights crowd will likely result in the demise and eventual end of scouting – period. BSA will lack the support and interest needed to survive and all the boys, gay or non, will no longer have access to this opportunity. A "loss" for all.

    Or was that the master plan al along??

    June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Yes it was the master plan all along.

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

      I doubt it is the demise. I spoke to an executive with the scouts and they pointed out the baptist church is a small percentage of sponsoring orginazations. Even more, it is rare that an entire pack or troop is made up of only church members. Many times the local schools feed kids to the pack or troop that happens to meet at a church. The packs and troops that are booted will find new sponsors (pick one of the many churches that are not anti-gay) and the members that want to keep going will. I was at a function yesterday discussing the issue with a leader from a baptist sponsored unit, he wasn't phased by it and planned to find a new home for his troop.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      poseidon

      False. In Canada, Germany, Australia, Sweden, UK, gay people are allowed in the scouts and they are doing just fine.

      America is just catching up now...it will likely make the scouts stronger as they will again, as they always have teach more tolerance and acceptance of people different from ourselves. It is our differences that make us a stronger country.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  6. Pale Horseman

    You have the serpent in you Baptists...
    Jesus said what were the 2 most important commandments?
    Think about your reasons for the exodus, and think about whether or not you are being faithful to Jesus or John who repeatedly said repent!

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

      I agree with you, Pale. It is "Jesus Christ", and anyone considering themselves as Christians would follow the doctrines of Jesus, not the doctrines of the Old Testament and the similar mores that persisted into the New Testament. Since this is an article about the holier-than-Thou Baptists, I would note that Jesus (Christ = Christians) was an inclusive moralist. To not honor that is anything but Christian.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  7. Iceaxdave

    Yeah...it's a hate thing...I hate it when my son gets hit on by a gay Boy Scout! I also hate it when a gay scout asks him if he's ever done a "French S'more"! And most of all, I hate when a gay scoutmaster tries to play "hide the baloney" with him at 2am!

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

      Sounds like u have experience in this

      June 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Considering there are no gay scoutmaster's, you just sounded like an idiot!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Iceaxdave

      Sorry, Jafo....I'm already taken!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • poseidon

      Truth: What makes you think there are no gay scout masters? That statement is ludicrous. There were already gay boy and gay men in scouting. They just couldn't be open and honest about it without fear of dismissal.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • SixDegrees

      You have an active fantasy life.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Colin

      liar prefails has no knowledge as to whether there are qu eers as scoutmasters in America or not. it is not one of us.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • stardust

      an elderly bigot attempts humor on a message board. result: failure.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  8. Vader

    While I think this is unfortunate and the result of the literal acceptance of something that is an allegory, it is the right of each church to make the decision to charter/sponsor Boy Scout troops. If they choose to end their ties based on BSA's latest moves, so be it.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:00 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 8:01 am |
  9. Ahappyfarmer

    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.”

    June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  10. Danny

    Way to go S Baptist church. Way to discourage members from exposing children from a great learning opportunity.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • jo

      to learn what .....being gay??? and now we're terrible coz of our views??? we're not trying to change you to our view of normal so stop trying to change us to yours

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

      Actually, Jo, yes you are trying to change others to your view of "normal'. Perhaps you should keep in mind that Jesus – the true Christian and who all Christians would strive to emulate – included everyone.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Evervigilant

      See STU if someone who is Gay shouts it from the rooftops and says it's OK to be Gay there's no problem in your eyes. Now turn that around and you have someone saying I"m straight and it's great to be that way and you suddenly call them a hater. Not all Christians try to turn Gay's straight. Just because I disagree with the choice doesn't mean I judge or hate those that don't think the same way I do. It's God's job to do the judging.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Danny

      Wow Jo, taking things out of context much? BSA isn't going to teach "gay." I doubt there will be a badge for that. And as for your second comment, although I never attempted to change your way of thinking (I just pointed out that parents will be discouraged from letting their children learn from from the BSA experience), by looking at your other comments, I say pot-kettle-black.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  11. John

    As I write this there are 66 pages of comments. While groups that are threatening to leave Scouting are getting the press right now, we need to understand that this may nor really represent the max exodus the media seem to think. The SBC does not represent all churches with the word Baptist in their name. I believe the vast majority of the Troops and Scouts will find other chartering organizations and Troops to be a part of. Hopefully the media will come back in a year and report where we stand.

    This story has been up for four days now and has now gotten promoted to the top. CNN, it's time to move on. Maybe you can do some stories about those of us who have chosen to stay and be part of the organization instead of concentrating on those who appear intent on damaging the Scout name.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Evervigilant

      CNN is out to make money and reporting the news is secondary to that. Whatever generates page hits means more revenue.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  12. alexis

    Good for them. Christians boldly taking a stand.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Sane Person

      Lets hope they have a mass exodus from the internet, schools, grocery stores, malls, government, public spaces, military, girl scouts and everywhere else. There are gays in all of those places.

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

      Yup a stand on hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      alexis: Way to go on the bigotry and hate! If you have children, you might wish to home-school them to keep them away from gays. If you don't have children, then please educate yourself on the updated facts before having them or simply be sterilized so the world has one less bigot breeding.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • jo

      i support your view and agree..... funny though how the gays want to bash you coz your not on their side

      June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Bob Mattiko

      The bold thing would be to move past your fear and hate and begin to love a little more like the god you profess to believe in.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • PapaCacaLatte

      Yup, let's just hope they can take an even bolder stance and leave the planet! We'll all be better off without these nuts.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  13. Katie

    That is really sad, that a church feels so strongly that they must publicly deny sponsorship of an organizing whose members hold true to themselves. They would much, much rather have young people lie, as they did all these years previous.

    Gays are all around us. They are fathers, sons, brothers. They live everywhere, they work in all walks of life. Every day of your life you interact with someone who is gay, and guess what? Nobody was hurt.

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

      They shouldn't have to sponsor something they don't believe in either. Why is it that if I"m a Christian I'm not allowed to speak about it in school or other places but if I were Gay then it's ok?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Timmy

      You realize women can be gay too right?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Evervigilant: Without your book to tell you it is wrong, you have no reason to hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Can't answer my question can you? Instead you just go off on a tangent and start talking about hate. I don't hate gays, I don't agree with their lifestyle but it's their lives and choices and they should be allowed to make them just as I should be allowed to make my own choices and live my life as well.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Everv.
      You can speak about your religion in schools. Any school that does not allow it is in violation of the first amendment, though there are some who try it from time to time.
      It is school sanctioned or school supported prayer that is dis-allowed (like a school chorus singing religious songs). Individuals are still free to express themselves.

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

      Sorry Richard I disagree with your assessment. I understand separation of church and state. Yet you have stories of high school QB being suspended for Tebowing or the cheer leading team that was stopped writing religious messages on banners for games. Yet if the gay kids want a support group at a school or gay pride day or such they get it. I think it should be equal for all sides and I don't believe it is. Heck this month is Gay and Lesbian month apparently. Where's the month for Christians? Oh that's right if we tried to have one the other groups would shout it down as encouraging hate or something else.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • TriscuitQueen

      Evervig...wait just a second...where's the month for Christians? You have got to be kidding me. For YEARS every day of every month of every year was about Christians in this country. God says interracial marriage is wrong. God says gay marriage is wrong. God says this, God says that. Christianity was used over and over to hold people back from being treated equally. There's been a push in the Kansas Senate to separate out Judeo-Christian religion in our armed forces as "they have the right to practice religion"...as if that's ever been denied. Not that they want to make sure anyone of any religion can practice and speak out their beliefs...just Christians should be specifically protected and everyone else...meh...who cares? No sane person who believes in equality for everyone is telling Christians they can't worship, just that they can't assume that everyone worships the way they do and push that agenda on to others. I find it goofy that an atheist would be offended by cheerleaders writing on posterboard "we're praying for you", but just because I (as an atheist) am not offended doesn't mean that others won't be. Know why LGBT get a "month" of recognition? Same reason February is Black History month. Because they are a group being persecuted by religious (hatred, doctrine, whatever) bigots who see their God's rules as the only way to behave morally correct and try to push their religion into law to govern others that don't fit their idea of "normal". If religion would stop shoving god down the throats of those that don't believe, there'd be a lot less need for an awareness campaign to help those being targeted by religion. Once upon a time, Christianity was on the wrong side of the slavery argument and used their bible as proof that it was against the will of god for blacks to marry whites. Now, they're on the wrong side of the LGBT argument and still use the bible as proof it is against the will of god for gays to marry. It seems to me that if your god wants to condemn someone, he can handle that himself when that person dies and doesn't need the help of anyone on this earth to do that for him. Might be why he added that "do not judge others" rule...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Tris the problem is everybody is pushing an agenda and trying to silence those who do not agree with theirs including the oppressed groups you mentioned. The result intentional or not is the oppressed groups in turn become the oppressors. If you read any of my other posts you would see I"m on board for that whole judge not thing. Am I perfect at following it? No but neither is anyone else.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  14. TriscuitQueen

    There was an article about Westboro Baptist protesting at funerals of children who had died in the Moore, OK., tornado a little over a week ago. Hundreds of those that proclaimed themselves Southern Baptist commented that those from Westboro were not "true" Baptists because they were blaming the push for the gay rights agenda as the reason why God was sending these natural disasters. It seems, however, that this would be the same thing, however, wouldn't it? Westboro doesn't see themselves as messengers of hate, but as messengers of God.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Hitler believed he was doing god's work too. So did the Catholic church with the crusades and spanish inquisition.
      If religion is so corruptable, is it really the reflection of any gods? Or is it simply the corrupt creation of mens imaginations?
      I know it is the latter.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  15. Evervigilant

    So why even have Boy and Girl Scouts anymore? Why don't we just have "Scouts". There's no issues putting a boy and girl of teenage years in the same tent right? So no problem mixing gay and straight boys or girls together. Heck allow men to be in charge of Girl Scout troops as there's no problem right? Some are so focused on shoving their agenda down other's throats they don't even consider there's very real concerns that have nothing to do with hate for any particular group involved.

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

      Why, do you think the straight boys are going to turn gay and get busy with it in their tents because a gay kid was allowed into boy scouts?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Bob Mattiko

      First comes fear. Then comes hate. Then comes interaction. Then comes communication. Then comes understanding. Then comes acceptance. I have faith that you'll get there eventually. God speed.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Samantha

      Oh no, we will have to make adjustments. How we will ever survive. Gosh, golly, gee I hope we don't ever have to grow as people and nothing ever changes.

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

      I never implied that putting a gay and straight child might turn one gay. There is a reason we don't allow coed camping of teens as a practice though. I'm sure many fathers of daughters wouldn't want a straight man in charge of their kid's Girl Scout troop.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  16. Andrew

    Also, since they aren't providing public service to any and all, they have become houses of hate and I want their sick, twisted tax loopholes revoked, because it's a farce.

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

      Who says they aren't providing public services? Just because they aren't providing what you want doesn't mean they aren't doing anything. Many churches provide food banks, shelters during disasters, and many other services.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  17. Jafo

    This is good cause I do not want my kids around baptists

    June 2, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Name*guss

      Fool

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • PapaCacaLatte

      Same here. We might actually consider the boyscouts for our kids now that the babtists are leaving.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Papa doesn't your kids have any say? I'm assuming you would be ok if your kid said they wanted to be gay but not if they wanted to be Baptist. How sad you don't see the irony of that.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  18. jo

    aint it typical... all the gays start bashing everyone not like them... not critical of you for your views and lifestyle just stop trying to force it on all the rest of us

    June 2, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Wow

      You are one stupid person this is about civil rights.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Katie

      Gays are the ones bashing here? Gays are the ones critical of other people's lifestyles??? I thought this article was about Baptists being critical and bashing...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      jo: Oh clueless one, being gay is no more a lifestyle than being hetero is.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • Colin

      You even attract qu eer bait from foreign nations that have absolutely no voice in our country

      June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Davids1007

      And the Baptists have a "right" to pull their support to the BSA. There are many liberal organizations willing to take over and support them....right?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  19. Mark

    Doesn't seem like many gays "tolerate" the baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Pete

      "Doesn't seem like many gays "tolerate" the baptists."

      No one should tolerate those that discriminate based on tradition.

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

      Tolerate Hate in the guise of Love, hmmm. I suppose you want them to openly love Naziism, too.

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

      Why would anyone tolerate being called a sinner for being gay? Would you tolerate being called a sinner simply because you had brown hair?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Tom we are all sinners so get over it.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Fortune holds more for the bold

      read "wonder" by palacio ( secular author) and tell me that you have no empathy for humanity......

      June 2, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  20. Davids1007

    You hypocrites just love bashing the Baptist religion. Saying that this and that is outdated, how women must submit to man...blah, blah blah. Yet the fastest growing religion, Muslim, totally degrades the woman. They must ask permission for everything, cannot participate in politics, cannot even inherit their husbands assets after his death. You want to call Baptist the ones living in the dark ages??

    June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • Bob Mattiko

      yes. dark ages. both of them...

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

      You would think a religion from that region would lead to something better.

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

      So now we're defending Baptists because they are like Muslims?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Davids1007

      Not defending it at all.......just explain the surge in people joining Islam....and yes even American people.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 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.