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. Reload

    wow why is it that Gay people want to be able to do whatever they want, yet when some other group decides not to join them there's a problem. What if there were only gay people in the world?? Mankind would be extinct in 100yrs. Think about it...

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 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 8:29 am |
    • Pete

      "What if there were only gay people in the world?? Mankind would be extinct in 100yrs. Think about it..."

      Hey idiot, gay people have their own children and it's straight people who create gays.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • hkemp99

      That's so deep, Reload.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • roike

      Gay people can't reproduce therefore no "gay" genes are passed on. Therefore science dictates Gays are not "born this way". Science 101.

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

      "Gay people can't reproduce therefore no "gay" genes are passed on. Therefore science dictates Gays are not "born this way". Science 101."


      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 8:35 am |
    • Tim

      Hmm let's see, we want to be able to do everything that ANY other social group can do. Not anything we want' we want to be able to do the same things others can, and when we are refused this equality we most certainly have an issue with it. If things were reversed you would feel the same way, but instead you're remaining close-minded.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  2. Micheal

    It baffles me that a church can be okay with admitting other sinners into an organization that they support but they draw the line here. Masturbation is a sin. I am sure that a vast majority of Scouts do that. Adultery is a sin. With the percentage of married men who cheat, I am sure there are Scout leaders who do that. I think this will do more to push people out of the Baptist church.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  3. Penel9

    The Boy Scouts of America provide wonderful guidance and experiences to young men. I am Methodist and we too proudly provide facilities for meetings, etc., to the BSofA locally. I will continue to support these fine young men, their families and their leaders. The SBC's decision to abandon them is reprehensible. When we lose the true spirit of the Scriptures then we are truly doomed.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • hkemp99

      Thank you!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • MarlboroMan

      Fundamentalism of all forms is not about developing young men or young women. It is a cult of mind control.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  4. bob

    "Clean" and "Reveren"t are part of the Boy Scout Law. If gays are now allowed in Scouts, then these words have no meaning.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Friar Truck

      You poor sick man.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • hkemp99

      Bob, I'll let you in on a little secret: The gays are already in Scouts! How will you ever deal with such news? Poor guy.

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

      I have no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don't try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Penel9


      June 2, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  5. Davids1007

    Mormons are big supporters of the BSA. It's okay to have 4-5 wives when you're a Mormon. Polygamy is encouraged even though it's against the law. How many liberals on this board believe in Polygamy?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • mrlewish

      You are right. As soon as straight people are allowed to legally have polygamous marriages gay people should also.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Repubs suck

      Nice jump from one subject to another. I believe if you look at Mormon doctrine it is openly against bigomy. But who needs facts when you spout ignorance.

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

      Actually, Mormons don't practice polygamy. The Mormon Church stopped polygamous marriages in 1890. A few groups of people who wanted to continue polygamy broke off from the main Mormon Church and continue to practice plural marriage.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  6. Rich

    Political correctness is destroying this country. Go away "everything goes" spineless creatures who can't say no to anything. ANYTHING!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:27 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 8:28 am |
    • Pete

      "Go away "everything goes" spineless creatures who can't say no to anything. ANYTHING!"

      We are saying to NO to prejudice bigots like you.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Davids1007

      And quite honestly, the BSA decision has EVERYTHING to do with politics!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Jon O

      Equality for those who you can't find any reason to discriminate against other than "they're icky" is what America is about.

      It isn't "political correctness" to treat people who do society no harm fairly.

      Now, ignorant hate-mongers like you on the other hand do a lot of harm to this country.

      See, people like you use your magical little book to validate all kinds of horrible things. Denying women the right to vote, blacks, slavery, segregation... now gay oppression.

      And on every one of those hate-driven topics you are losing or have lost.

      Now run along, bigot.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  7. GeorgeOH

    What do you expect? The Baptists are the sick, mentally ill ones!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  8. William Baminsky

    Finally, the Baptists are getting out. It's hard to believe that the Boys Scouts have had to put up with them for all these years!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  9. Colin

    Dear Southern Baptists:

    Any chance you could back off and leave these gay kids alone? Growing up in a religious environment, knowing deep down you are different and widely despised by the religious majority must be very difficult as it is. When you do something like this, you cement in these poor kid’s minds the idea that they are somehow vile and disgusting. You also teach your own kids it is ok to disdain gay children.

    Look, imagine how you would have felt if, when you first started to notice girls, a group of adults began telling you that you were a deviant. Please find it somewhere in your hearts to cut these kids some slack. They’re just little children for the love of God.

    If this is too much to ask and you must hate them for who they are, please at least have the human decency to do so silently. I don’t believe it is too much to ask that you subordinate your desire to punish and inflict pain on those you do not like to a little compassion and understanding. I am sure most of you are generally good people who would not blink at doing so in most other walks of life.

    Many and varied are the victims of this continuing social evil we call “religion.”

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  10. doug

    As I said before- and will say again – GOOD RIDDANCE to this hate mongering group – and it IS a hate mongering group – they SAY they are "Christians" – they have no idea of what it truly does mean to be "Christ like" – they are an insult to all people who truly are Christians.....

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  11. FloydZepp

    "Its not a hate thing,we just hate Gays because that's the way we interpret the Bible, even though we don't interpret the Bible until we want to hate!" says the pastor.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  12. Nameless

    Who cares what the church thinks? Are they still relevant? Believe in whatever you want it's not my business but I thought Jesus accepted everyone for who they are? The churches better stop being prejudice because last I checked their belief numbers are going down fast....atheism is on the rise and its reasons like these that people stop believing.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  13. lkjhgfd

    Sounds like a few more branches of the Westboro Baptist Church in the making here..... Gotta love the closed minds of some people...

    June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  14. NJPilot

    I wonder if Pastor Tim Reed would like to lend me some money. Matthew 5:42 says " do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. " OK, Tim, how about a few bucks? No? I didn't think so.
    By the way, so you approve of slavery? The Bible does.
    These folks are great at cherry-picking the "rules" they like and ignoring the ones that they don't care for.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Jag

      Well said.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  15. BaptistsTouchThemselves

    Good! Now, we know the next neanderthal species destined for extinction!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  16. Jeremiah Diehl

    People have to stand for what they believe in.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • BaptistsTouchThemselves

      For sure, Baptists believe in touching themselves! 🙂

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

      "People have to stand for what they believe in."

      Oh, you mean like the Taliban and K K K huh?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Pete

      "People have to stand for what they believe in."

      Then you should tell our gov't to let all those prisoners in Cuba go.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Ridnhigh

      The NEW Testiment teaches TOLERANCE. It is not their place to judge. Read your bible people.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  17. Siestasis

    And it is these same Southern Baptists that elected the adulterer Sanford recently. I guess you can support someone who goes against the word of the Lord in one instance but not if it is a child. Hypocrites each and every one of them.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Ridnhigh

      Even the atheist in me has to say AMEN brother to that. Hipocracy(?) rules religion.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  18. Michael

    Well so much for don't "cast the first stone". Next the baptists will be running concentration camps for "types" they don't like. Someone should let them know Hitler died and he isn't coming back. This is wrong and as a Baptist I do not agree with their decision. I may understand being Gay but making these kid the object of hate like this is not the way to handle this.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  19. jrsyjorg

    So now if 'QUEENIE, marches in a gay parade in fishnets, heels, panties and feathers, he legally must stay on as my son's pack leader???....
    .Congradulations LGBT!.....you have just turned me from tolerance to discust!!!
    You must be so proud of yourselves,... what an accomplishment!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:24 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 8:25 am |
    • lkjhgfd

      Dont worry, people like you are a dieing breed...umm inbreed.....whatever.... 🙂

      June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • livingston

      Considering you used the word "QUEENIE" in your first sentence I dare to say you never were "tolerant' of anything but you own bigoted view. What a sad broken person you are.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • mike

      Read the article sir. It is talking about scouts not scout leaders. I feel very sorry for you and your ignorance. Repent now before it is too late

      June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Jon O

      No, you ignorant twit.

      First of all, learn to read. Secondly, to spell.

      The vote only allows for openly gay members, not leaders. You illiterate, moronic loser. You don't even bother to even learn about the topics you spout off about – you're what is wrong with this country.

      Big mouthed bigots who run off at the mouth without knowing a freakin thing about what they're talking about.

      And here's a hint, champ:


      Learn to spell, stupid.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Repubs suck

      You are so very sad. Sad sad sad....sounds like a perfect match for the Tea party, But I bet you already have your lifetime membership. Sad sad sad

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • RMS1585

      Just crawled out from under your rock, did ya?! If you actually, oh – I don't know – read up on the situation, you would have come across a few sentences noting that the scouts have only voted to allow openly gay scouts – and that does not extend to leadership. Don't worry, your child won't have to practice tolerance for his scout leader anytime soon – sleep easy tonight. And thank you for throwing PC to the side and completely outing yourself as a bigot!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Mike

      Actually, the Scouts will not allow gay leaders. They are banned from Scouting. Gay boys/adolescence are permitted to be in scouts. To make an informed decision one should really know the facts. Ignorance is bliss?..NOT!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  20. Patrick

    The Southern Baptists maintain that all the other Baptists are going to he11 for all eternity. How can anyone take them seriously?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:24 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.