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. Walter

    Interestingly, I'll be few if any people who wouldn't join Boy Scouts because of their anti-gay policy now will. Oh those sanctimonious libs!!

    May 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  2. Jack Brent Lawless

    Sad day for the Boy Scouts and a sad day for the USA We are losing our religious beliefs but no fear, the LORD WILL get us lined out someday.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Katie

      Sorry, but because of my religious beliefs and the fact that I actually read the Bible, it's a wonderful day. Because I believe in Jesus who was called a sinner by the Pharisees for eating with the sinners and drinking fermented wine. The same Jesus who compared God to a woman in the parable of the lost coin, came to women first after resurrecting, and was one of the first advocates for women as you can see. Pharisees were not allowed to look at a woman, and Jesus taught them. One day you Pharisees will be judged by God. The REAL God. The God who was angry at Job's friends for comparing him to a vengeful God just like you did.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • manhandler1

      How does this supposed "lord' get us lined out? Does that mean "lined up" to persecute people for who they are? People who use the bible and religion to persecute other people are evil incarnate and id there were a hell, they'd be burnin' in it.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Andy

      I was in RA's and Boy Scouts, and, wouldn't you know, some of those kids grew-up to be gay. I assure you, they were *always* gay. When one of them told me he was gay when we were 27, my reply was, "No kidding, Dave. I've known that for at least the last 12 years." He was relieved that I didn't care, and I loved the guy, like I always did. Fortunately, he had other people in his life who loved him for who he was. The only ones aiming to "line us out" are those who are afraid. There isn't a being or essence or other deity out there who is going to "damn" us. Please learn to love yourself and the wonderful world (including the people) we live in, and enjoy the heaven that exists all around us today.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Beloved4ever

      Where Sin Abounds Grace does much More Abound !!! But One of these Days we all will stand before the Throne and give a Reason for everything we've Done and every Word we've Spoken.....And I will Say, ' I TRUST IN JESUS My great Deliverer
      My strong Defender
      The Son of God
      I trust in Jesus
      Blessed Redeemer
      My Lord forever........The Holy One !!!

      May 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  3. Allang

    Maybe at sometime there will be a few Southern Baptist leaders who will bring their congregations into the next century... in their case, the thirteenth.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • cute

      hey, that's cute... until you realize it's true...

      June 2, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  4. Steve

    How about the Boy Scouts leaving the baptist church? I was raised in Texas in the baptist church and there isn't a larger group of hypocritical, closed minded bible thumpers on the planet. Luckily for me I escaped both the church and Texas after graduating high school. The best move I ever made.
    What I learned in the Boy Scouts had some value, but the teachings in the nutty organization that is the southern baptists NEVER made any sense and I knew it even at a young age.
    So go. LEAVE. Religions have the world in a turmoil, and this one is at the front of the pack but ever so humbly. NOT.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Trust me, you won't feel that way once you're in hell...

      May 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Robert

      "Just the facts"- Those types of threats only work on children, whom we only wish to protect from the likes of you.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Robert... It's not a threat. It's a fact. And your disbelief in it does not change it...

      May 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Robert

      Well, I guess I must repeat myself. I don't believe in fairytales or the threatening of children, and that's a fact.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Robert… And must I repeat myself as well? I stated, "And your disbelief in it does not change it." So what part of that did you not understand?…

      May 31, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Fearless Freep


      Robert... It's not a threat. It's a fact. And your disbelief in it does not change it...

      If it is a fact, as you say..............Prove it, or STFU !

      May 31, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  5. Penny

    Best news I've heard all day!

    May 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  6. Robert

    Allright! Good for the scouts, and good progress for this country.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • john

      not a sign of progression of society, but perversion of society. When society becomes perverse, society creates perverts, just like you

      May 31, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Robert

      Perverted! Why I have never!

      May 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  7. Draeggo

    And to think these goons have non-profit status. Time to look at that isn't it?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  8. Jim

    the reason the conservatives are losing influence: they won't get out of the dark ages

    May 31, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • chris

      christians CAN'T "get out of the dark ages" on this one...unless they rewrite the bible. or pick a new religion.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • CJ

      Don't wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19). Seems as if that one could be unlearned.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  9. Spinner49

    So basically they're telling kids, "You have to hate who we hate, or we'll hate you, too."

    May 31, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • sam

      It's not a great way to get people to join up and hear their message. Or raise kids. Or be a decent human.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Katie

      YES. Exactly. My parents grew me up telling me to hate, and I became liberal anyways. It doesn't work, and it causes bitterness. It's all of the problems of the adults being forced on the kids.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • chris

      the bible doesn't "hate" gays, its just says its a sin. christians aren't supposed to "hate" anyone...but they're not supposed to condone sin either.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      You have to hate whoever God hates. If you do not hate who God hates, then he considers you a friend of his enemy. And all friends of his enemy shall be cast into the lake…

      James 4:5 …know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  10. bob

    Good riddance! The less contact our kids have with organized bigotry through religion, the better!

    May 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  11. jamessavik

    probably a good idea to keep the kids away from the Baptists so that they don't catch evangelical CRaZy

    May 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Quasi


      May 31, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  12. MagicPanties

    All these cults just cherry-pick the ancient tomes to try and justify their bigotry.
    Why aren't they stoning sinners and chopping off hands?
    At least the barbaric middle east is truer to their book.

    Oh wait, the southern baptists really _would_ like a christian taliban in power here.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Phazon

      Because Jesus made a new covenant.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  13. SaltAndLight

    So, they want to eliminate a channel for reaching the lost. Christ always went where the sinners were. The church of his day castigated him for it. Sounds like the Baptists really needs to do some soul searching. WWJD? Minister, not ostracize.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • chris

      christian organizations arent willing to FUND organizations that dont teach/embrace christianity...its THEIR money after all, you want their money..you follow their doctrines.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  14. Eagle Scout

    As an Eagle Scout and a Christian I am disappointed in how a Christian organization which purports to follow Christ can be so mean and hateful to children. We live in the world of humans and not the world of Christ. Christ understood this and with the metaphor of the Good Samaritan he showed how we as humans can make the physical world a better place. Scouts builds character, teaches boys how to become men, and teaches skills for life. I pray for the Baptist church that they can realize the errors of their ways and reconsiders their spiteful actions.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • JudyB

      They'll never realize the error of their ways because their way is nothing but errors. They contort the beautiful message of Christ to suit their own hatred. In their world, if there is no "Them" to hate, then there is nothing binding "Us" together. The good news is that their hatred has become so transparent that the entire country is noticing and it is the beginning of the end for the truely anti-Christian evangelicals. Good riddance to them because they have stained the name of Christ long enough.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  15. JT

    Well, good riddance. The only people you are hurting, though, are your own kids.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  16. Colin

    Did you know that approximately 80% of Southern Baptists think the World is less than 10,000 years old. It's true, I'm not making that up !

    May 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Quasi

      [sarcasm] They expanded their horizon. They used to think it was only 6,000 years old. [/sarcasm]

      You can't fix stupid, either!

      May 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • unskilled worker heaven

      The cult has always been an important training ground for unskilled blue-collar workers in the south. In return, local businesses broker power-sharing deals to ensure their little conservative communities don't change. It's a cycle of dependence that only benefits the blabtist cult and the local business community. A sick synergy of sociopaths.

      June 2, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  17. Rick

    No great loss to the scouts. I'm sure many true christian churches, you know the ones that truly follow judge not lest ye be judged, love thy fellow man, etc will be happy to sponsor scout troops. Let the judgemental, my way or the highway crowd pitch their hissy fit. The scouts are far better off without them.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  18. CatSh

    Memorizing Bible verses... Yeah, that sounds like LOADS og fun! 😉

    May 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  19. svann

    There has always been gays in the scouts. Everyone knew but scout rules required them to hide it. Is it christian of you to ask them to lie?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  20. Iron Ghost

    There are other scouting organizations already, THE BPSA (Badden Powell Service association) and such. BTW girl scouts and boy scouts of america where created by an act of congress, but nobody remembers that nowadays

    May 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
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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.