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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. FloydZepp

    It is clear to me that Baptists aren't Christians. They certainly don't follow Christ's teachings.

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

      As if you have any clue what he actually teaches????

      June 2, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Rick

      Yes they are. Since when do the "politically correct" people have to win every time. Politics and religion do not mix. It's about time the Christian stood up for the Bible. Christians everywhere should start fighting back against these people who hide behind politics to pass a law protecting their so called rights. Don't Christians have rights too? Being "gay" is not a right, it's a choice. Just like being a christian is a choice, not a right.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Being "gay" is not a right, it's a choice.

      It's not a choice. It's what one is.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  2. Neil

    Quick to judge,
    Quick to anger,
    Slow to understand
    Ignorance and prejudice
    And fear walk hand in hand.

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

      Great tune that could be the theme song for way too many unfortunate things going on.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • ChitownStever

      As a former Scout i agree that these churches have every right to leave the BSA.It sucks when the minority wins out over the majority.Gays should have started thier own scouts instead of pushing thier way into this one.I have nothing against gay people but i'm sure i'm not the only one that's sick and tired of hearing about gay rights this and gay rights that.Start your own clubs instead of demanding to be let into tradional ones such as the BSA.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  3. John Sharp

    Good Riddance
    The Boy Scouts definitely don't need some jerks using their religion as an excuse to discriminate. Replace the word "gay" with the word "black" and you probably will recognize these same people from the opposite side of the civil rights movement. They used god as an excuse than too.
    Hell these same jerks actually used god as an excuse to maintain slavery during the 1800's. Defenders of slavery noted that in the Bible, Abraham had slaves. They point to the Ten Commandments, noting that "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, ... nor his manservant, nor his maidservant." If you read into the fairy tale book you can find excuses to discriminate against anyone you want.
    Same dumb part of the country. Doing the same dumb thing, again...

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

    Am I the only one getting sick and tired of the LGBTers in my face all the time?
    ____________
    Front page of CNN: LGBT
    Local Boy Scouts: LGBT
    Click on the TV: LGBT
    Open the newspaper: LGBT
    I can't eat, drink, or use the john without some in my face LGBT

    June 2, 2013 at 8:32 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 8:33 am |
    • TommyTT

      Oh, it's so unfair. When you kick a minority over and over again, they insist on asking you to stop.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Pete

      "Am I the only one getting sick and tired of the LGBTers in my face all the time?"

      They are fighting for their civil rights.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You might want to stay out of the public square then Tom. Somewhere there is a cave with your name on it, locate it and stay stuck in the ignorant dark ages.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Grams

      An LGBT in your face when you are going to the bathroom? Are you fantasizing?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Patrick

      Yeah you poor victim. Like the LGBT has tried to outlaw your marriage. Mo r0n.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • BaptistsTouchThemselves

      Go touch yourself and you'll feel better, Tom.

      June 3, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • @M

      You will find those who crusade for Christ Truthfully are not who you presume them to be. One out of a hundred posts actually speaks the truth about Jesus on this blog.

      June 3, 2013 at 12:17 am |
  5. Rich

    What you are seeing is another indication of the destruction of our society with fewer marriages, unsupported births by fathers, gay scouts/marriages, illegal immigration and soon the Muslins will be in control and we will revert to slavery as they practice it.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • hkemp99

      Hurry, get back in your bunker, Rich.

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

      What you are seeing is the rejection of fundamentalist cult religion, which is and has always been an abomination to both God and man. What you are seeing is the repudiation of the 400-year history of Baptists running away from any dialogue they either fear or do not have the social intelligence to traverse. Good riddance!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  6. ericmpaul

    Good riddance. Religions such as these are a bad influence on young minds.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  7. FloydZepp

    t is clear tp me that Baptists are Christians. They certainly don't follow Christ's teachings.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  8. Jag

    Good ridance for bad rubbish!! Religion for Brain washed people!!!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  9. Chicago Dan

    I noticed that CNN did not publish a SINGLE story on the Illinois House having to withdraw the Gay Marriage bill (already passed by Senate) because it did not have enough votes because of opposition from African-American churches and Catholics (mainly Hispanics). Why is that? In that case "conservatives" and "Republicans" had nothing to do with failure. How about a more balanced approach to the issues?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:31 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 8:32 am |
  10. Stephen

    Wow, all these years we've been trying to separate Church from State and all it takes is an open declaration of being Gay. Do you think this would work for Congress?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  11. MarlboroMan

    Baptists – LOL.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  12. ll

    "It's not a hate thing.." = "It is a hate thing, but we'd like to make ourselves out to be more pious than that."

    June 2, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  13. nythern

    I just talked to God. He said Baptists were going to Hell for being narrow-minded morons. Someone want to let them know?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  14. Farooq The Great

    They have every right to leave.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:29 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 8:30 am |
  15. BaptistsTouchThemselves

    Baptists should move to Islamic countries.

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

      Not much difference, is there.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  16. Friar Truck

    Its about time the Boy Scouts organization was cleaned up by being rid of these narrow-minded medieval-thinking knuckle-draggers.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  17. Loretta

    Hope your churches lose a ton of income...WWJD??????????? Practice what you preach!!!!!

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

      We do. And Baptist don't make any money off the Boy Scouts, it's the other way around. They meet in OUR churches. This will be the end of the Boy Scouts.

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

      Agreed WWJD? I thought Jesus accepts everyone for who they are? Church lost its power and is irrelevant in todays society anyway

      June 2, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  18. Eric

    They must all be headed to buy some more red solo cups, biggest hypocrites in religion today.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  19. hkemp99

    And that is yet another reason why people are dumping religion. Don't let the door hit you in your thinker on your way out, Southern Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  20. roike

    When the Exodus is over there will be no Boy Scouts. Most Boy Scouts meetings are in churches. The Boy Scouts had every right to make this decision and the churches have every right to kick them out, it's their building. Oh, and people have every right to leave the Boy Scouts. Leadership may vote with ballots but members will vote with their feet. So you may think the members have no say, but you would be wrong.

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

      Wow, we think a lot of ourselves, don't we? Plenty of churches and other facilities at which to meet. Hell, they can meet at my house. At least there won't be any crazy religious nuts here.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No it won't be, there are Community Center's and numerous other places that will be happy to host them; places where bigotry and hate won't be taught.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:41 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.