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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. Bleh

    Hail Satan!

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

    The sooner we get religion out of the Boy Scouts (and everything else) the better.

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

      I think that's how communism started...................Judy.

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

      Oh...........and by the way........... I'm an atheist but NOT for telling other people or organizations what they must DO or BELIEVE!!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Colin

      How will that work for God and country judith?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Andrew

      You are so right Judy!

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

      I didn't know they had Boy Scouts in Russia, Rand!

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

      KMDAB
      There are several scouting groups in Russia...now you know.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  3. cindy

    gays are gross.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' 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 8:13 am |
    • .

      "gays are gross."

      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 8:13 am |
    • Daddo

      Wrong. Bigots are gross.

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

      Your beaver is gross

      June 2, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Non believer

      Thanks for proving that it's about what you perceive as "gross". Cornell University researchers have a large body of research that demonstrates that "conservative" values are based on the "oral/gross" reflex. Thanks for proving them again to be right.

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

      Hey, brilliant period. It dorsn't take a psycho psychiatrist or psychologist to understand why someone would find sodomy to be gross. Are you really that dense?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • gary

      you fear what you don't understand ... that is ignorance

      June 2, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Bob Mattiko

      Don't be gay then...end of story.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Warbler

      Why are activists so blamed stupid? Thinking something is gross does not equate to fear, and it is just one facet of a multifaceted issue. Duh...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Ronzo

      Your bigotry is gross...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Warbler

      Ronzo, so is yours. I despise bigotry toward religious folk.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  4. raul howell

    I'm not surprised at the Baptists, and others, are leaving the Boy Scouts because being gay is a "sin." Has anyone that has been a Boy Scout ever been to an overnight, camping meeting? Have a nice day !!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • .

      " being gay is a "sin."

      James

      The scriptures actually say nothing about homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. Our understandings of sexual orientation are distinctly modern ones that were not present in the minds of Scripture writers. A few passages of Scripture (seven at the most) object to certain types of same-sex expressions or acts. The particular acts in question, however, are sexual expressions which are exploitative, oppressive, commercialized, or offensive to ancient purity rituals. There is no Scriptural guidance for same-sex relationships which are loving and mutually respecting. Guidelines for these relationships should come from the same general Scriptural norms that apply to heterosexual relationships.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • .

      No.
      You should just dump the whole set of ancient texts that were non-unanimously VOTED by humkans into a set of scrolls that eventually came to be called "ta biblia". ... the books. There is not one reason modern humans need to follow the ancient cultural norms of ancient ignorant humans.
      Grow up.

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

      Hey, period, you aren't a Bible scholar, so don't pretend to interpret scripture.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Bible scholar. Isn't that like being a fairy scholar?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Warbler

      Come back and let me know when you've studied Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, and other languages, read all the Greek and Roman classics, and learned the science behind archaeology.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  5. Ed

    The exodus of those witless enough to blindly follow the church's edict should improve the Boy Scouts.

    Thinkers will quit the church.

    Hopefully (and almost inevitably) , the Scouts will eventually accept openly gay Scout Masters.

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

      Don't worry. The Scouts will soon be all gay, with gay boys, gay girls, and gay scout masters. You'll get what you want, but they just won't be as big as you would like them to be.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  6. morerightwingblather

    You know what else the Bible considers to be a sin? Greed. So at what point does the Baptist church tell it's members to leave the business world "en masse" because they might be seen as condoning greed by participating in business? That's the fundamental problem with these kinds of guilt-by-association ideas. They're hopelessly hypocritical when the larger picture is considered.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  7. Don

    wonder how many Boyfriends Pastor Tim has had ?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  8. Kevin

    They can choose to leave this organization they disagree and sponsor ones they do agree with just like the organization can change it's rules, that's the beauty of our 1st Amendment.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  9. Billy

    I don't get it. One group is allowed to have a problem with the Scouts because they won't let gays in and then when they do allow gays in, another group isn't allowed to have a problem because they are letting gays in. Only you are right? People are allowed to have their feelings and beliefs, this is America.

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

      Not where gays are concerned. They seem to think that the only opinion that counts comes from their radical gay mouths, and also seem to think that their choice to blow and bang makes them SO special. What hate mongers!.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      billf: Last night we determined that you were an uneducated fucktard bigot, that opinion remains today. Gays have been around as long as humanity has been and they're not going away, so you can get used to it or find a cave. Maybe disconnect your computer considering one of the inventors was gay. Oh and don't use facebook...the founder is an Atheist. In fact don't use electricity, that is science based; don't get medical attention-that too is science based. Home-school your children and never take them in public-you wouldn't want them exposed to other gay children now would you?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • billfitt

      Some of those are excellent ideas Lies Prevail! You bigoted radical gays are a tad smarter than I thought! Make sure you get that Scout application in ASAP, because there will soon be a flood of your peers applying for that newly created position of "Head Master". You're just gonna LOVE it!!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  10. JustMyOpinion

    I have no issue with gays marrying and think it should be legal. I also have no issue with openly gay children enrolling in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. I'm also a Baptist. BUT I also believe the Baptists have a right to withdraw their support of an organization that doesn't support their beliefs. Why is it "hate" to continue to believe the way they have believed forEVER? If anyone is shocked by this news, then they've been hiding under a rock since Biblical times.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' 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 8:09 am |
    • unclefcr

      Slavery was practiced "fovever" in this country. By your reasoning it should still be

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • GMAN

      Just because Baptists don't spew their hatred out loud like Westboro doesn't mean they aren't thinking it. And if you are against somebody else having the same rights and dignity as you (based on words written thousands of years before modern science showed that gayness is something most people are born with and exhibited by nearly every animal species that has been studied closely) that's a dangerous, repulsive combination of ignorance and hatred. You'd think people would have learned by now by reflecting on the end of slavery, women's suffrage, segregation, etc. how this will look not too long in the future. You do realize that slavery, effective imprisonment of women are justified by the bible too, don't you? It's much easier to be a moral citizen and good steward of the planet by listening to your conscience and completely ignoring your little book.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  11. Rob

    Why do Liberals have to infiltrate a child's organization and make it political? Leave the kids alone! Go and infiltrate the Muslims and try to teach them tolerance towards other races...if you have so much time on your hands.

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

      Where does "liberal infiltration" come from?

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

      They want as many on their team as possible, and obviously think it's best to start with the children. Pink uniforms next?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  12. Pastor Rick

    I'm going to miss all those young boys meeting at our church.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Father Frank

      Me too...oh wait I'm Catholic, yay Me!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  13. NoMuzzieAllowed

    Since Islam subjugates women, Girl Scouts should ban Muzzies! 🙂

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

      You are so right. And there is a crusade for someone!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  14. bill davis

    Lower your standards, Lower your pants.

    They all lookbetterdrunk

    June 2, 2013 at 8:08 am |
  15. Jason

    Its sad that the Baptist Church would harm children's futures just to make a political point. The Boy Scouts does wonderful things for kids, teaches them great skills and builds their character. For the Baptist Church to attempt to deny that to hundreds of thousands of kids across the country just because they want to score points by making a political statement should upset the rank-and-file members of the Baptist Church.

    If the Baptist Church is willing to penalize children just to make a political point about how they disapprove of gays, then the Baptist Church needs some new leadership.

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

      Why is the Church making this political?? How about...why is the gay community making this political?? The Baptists have a right to withdraw support from a group they do not share ideas with, WHY IS THIS CONSIDERED HATE??

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

      It is called values. There is nothing political about it. Read the book of Romans. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. We are not robbing our children of anything. We are instilling values that we feel are Christ like and we have a right to do so.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Minu13

      So essentially what you are saying is:

      Baptists should be non discerning and follow the liberal agenda, negating to live up to their beliefs, do away with their church and marriage (which is a religious thing btw), accept champion atheistic mindset and sacrifice their children to the government. Right.

      And let me not forget following the principle of being ok with having many partners, since the sacredness of marriage should no longer matters.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • BK

      This decision by the church does not hurt the boys. They are exercising their right to act based on their belief system.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  16. Quincy

    If you ask me (and even if you don't), the Scouts would be much better off without a bunch of bigoted hatemongers and morons.

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

      Yes, now maybe the children will be able to blow before breakfast unfettered, since they will soon be changing their name to the Gay Scouts. I'm sure a certain type of scout master will be flocking to join this new suddenly very attractive organization. Wonder how long until they change Eagle Scout to Spread Eagle Scout?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • T. Lee

      They aren't "hate mongering" or "bigots" because they choose scripture over the "new" Boy Scouts "Quincy".

      Seems more like with that comment YOU are "hate mongering" and "bigoted" towards those of faith than the ones you accuse!

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

    Seriously, I want the Federal Government to start policing the tax evasion going on in these "churches" in this new Klan Era. They are taking billions of exemptions and putting the burden on other taxpayers, while using public roads and utilities.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  18. RC

    Time will tell. JC Penny made Ellen their spokesperson and she claimed very aggressively on her show how this "progressive" stance was going to be so great. Now, she's gone, the CEO was fired, and they're headed towards bankruptcy. They're marketing department is trying to totally rebrand themselves.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' 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 8:06 am |
    • Wow

      "Time will tell. JC Penny made Ellen their spokesperson and she claimed very aggressively on her show how this "progressive" stance was going to be so great. Now, she's gone, the CEO was fired, and they're headed towards bankruptcy. They're marketing department is trying to totally rebrand themselves."

      Wow the idiots out in the world are scary. This has got to be the stupidest comment yet.

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

      They have been headed for bankruptcy for decades. Remember Montgomery Ward?

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

      Most seventh graders know when to use "their" and "they're".

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

      And you're a moron who doesn't know the difference between "they're" and "their".

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

      Probably had more to do with getting rid of sales than hiring a lesbian spokesperson but whatever.

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

      You are correct. The scouts will change in a few years from a conservative group into a much smaller liberal group. It will lose the respect it once had and become s social organization.

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

      Only those with small minds try to correct grammar and spelling in the forums.....

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

      poseidon, almost every fundie on here sucks at writing and some are barely literate. That you defend ignorance and stupidity says more about you than it does about those who point out the mistakes.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • poseidon

      Get Real Tom: My pointing out the small minds of the forum police who pick at mis-spellings in these comments has nothing to do with defending either side. Quit being such a pompous twerp. But then again, you're right. There are no mis-spellings or grammatical errors on the side of the gay-rights supporters here – LOL. You epitomize the small minded.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  19. Quincy

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  20. Larry

    I grew up Baptist and this is just another example of why I left and choose to keep my faith directly between myself and God. This is selective Christianity and not Christianity that I believe in. My God believes in all that believe in him and he, and he alone, will judge the decisions I've made in my life. This is sad.

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

      How did feathers evolve? – Carl Zimmer................we evolved Larry

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLgfGX1I5Y&w=640&h=360]

      June 2, 2013 at 8:07 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.