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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. BO

    The scouts left the church, not the other way around.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • midwest rail

      Really ? The SBC created scouting ? Who knew ?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • theoldfool1950

      Just like the Jews left Germany in the late forties. These are the same folks that fought for segregation. Just because they think you shouldnt exist doesnt mean they hate you.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Jon O

      That'd be the church that, so far in its history, has defended slavery, racism, segregation... and whose holy book condones slavery and the murder of children?

      The best thing that could happen to the world is for that hate-filled bunch of barbarians to vanish from this planet entirely. Every day science saves lives.

      Every day religion does absolutely nothing.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • JiminNM

      Yes. You are correct. They have altered the scouting foundation and it will crumble.

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

      "Yes. You are correct. They have altered the scouting foundation and it will crumble."

      No it won't and when it doesn't then you'll have to admit you're an idiot.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Reasonable Descent

      Love thy neighbor, unless you don't like them.

      Keep yourself far away from those that religious officials deemed unclean. That's what Jesus did. You never read about him spending time around the blind, leppers, etc.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • David Thompson

      Well then it's good that they left the church, because the church sucks!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  2. MoreGoodNews

    C'mon, kids! Let's all gather around the campfire for a weenie roast! Last one there is straight!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Jarhead

      Lol, now that's funny, last one there is straight. I don't know why groups of people like the Scouts let someone come in and change their organization. If you want to be included follow their beliefs, if not start your own, and make your own rules. I hate seeing them give in because these idiots pressured them into this. I for one am against gays in Scouts. They already have a club for gay scouts, it's called campfire girls.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  3. JustTheFax

    You know, if wasn't happy until everyone accepted who I am, then I would be left with no choice than to believe I suffer from flawed thinking.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Bruce

      huh? this makes little to no sense

      June 2, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  4. Bruce

    i don't know why so many people are upset about this. baptists don't like what the boy scouts stand for now, so they have decided not to be part of it. that is their own decision to make. i'm sure many people don't join clubs or organization they don't believe or agree with also, so this is not a big deal.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:42 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 8:43 am |
  5. GetReal

    Give us clear vision, that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.
    ~ Peter Marshall, US Senate Chaplain 1947

    June 2, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  6. ffortnightly

    Why do gays feel a need to work their way into this sort of organization? What's the real agenda? To spoil every sort of traditional American family value remaining? The hate is certainly alive, but it's coming from those who hate "breeders". Why didn't gays form their own scouting organization? Why was dismantling the BSA so freakin important to them? Why are there so many gays at Disney World? Why are the athletic directors in so many middle schools lesbians? It's pretty obvious that attacking traditional morals and values is job one for gays these days. Can you imagine the fury that would result if straight people attempted the same? Who is really being intolerant here?
    Grobbbbbbbbbbb

    June 2, 2013 at 8:40 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 8:42 am |
    • peridot2

      Male children want to be Boy Scouts. Some are them are gay, genius. Baptist churches evidently fear the gay will spread in spite of scientific discoveries that gay is inborn.

      You can't fix stupid.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Pete

      "Can you imagine the fury that would result if straight people attempted the same? Who is really being intolerant here?"

      They did do the same thing when they fought for the civil rights of African American and women. What an idiot.

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

      To "M": Stop copying and pasting your same ridiculous troll-bag comments everywhere on this page. Go die...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • taildragon

      Tell me about it. First women get the vote. Then brown folk get the vote. Now we can't even kick the gays out. Why's everyone desecrating all our traditional American family values?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • rkdres

      Nice try Taildragon...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  7. Rev.Christie Bliss Ley

    Obviously Baptists would rather follow like sheep than have an open, loving and compassionate heart towards those who do not fit into their mold. In the end they are the losers, making their world so small.

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

      1 Cor 6:0-11 ... assuming you hold Gods word as a source of authority.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • rkdres

      Tell me Rev. would you say it is ok for Girl Scouts AND Boy Scouts to tent together? Just curious what you think about that...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  8. What the Hu

    Tell your kids to play Soccer or Hockey. Why do you need to dress them like dorks and send them to some camps anyways.

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

      I guess all folks in uniform dress like dorks, huh? Tell that to the Army, Marines, Navy, etc. Heck, tell that to any professional sports team. Think about the comment before you make it!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • rkdres

      spoken like a true ignoramous

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • peridot2

      Many of our astronauts, generals, admirals and presidents were former eagle scouts. It's an accomplishment that can assist in college entry and scholarship attainment. Scouting is good for building character in young men and women.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  9. bmonteith

    Former Eagle Scout and USNA grad. (category: exploiting your kids for political purposes). It's a really excellent idea to deprive your 12-17 year old kids of the scouting experience because you think the same 12-17 year old gay kids they will be sitting next to in school the next day have planned some nefarious invasion of Boy Scout troops.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • TiredODaCrap

      It's called sticking up for what they believe in. Might want to look into it, if you ever were a Scout.
      The hard part for those forcing the change to understand is that to the religious groups gays are just as wrong as those groups think religious people are. Funny that it's OK to force others to accept you and respect how you want to live, but not the other way around.
      And before you jump on the religion = hate bandwagon, actually take a few moments and read the post of the "loving and accepting" people who demand gays be let in. They argue practice what you (or God) preaches, but then don't do it themselves....

      June 2, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • peridot2

      The real stupidity here is that gay kids have been scouting since the organisation was founded. It's as though these churches fear there will be a sudden influx of 'The Gay' and have acted to stem the tide. What a ridiculous group act. *shakes head in disbelief*

      June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  10. TiredODaCrap

    So funny to hear all the cries of good riddance or how great things will be now that the neanderthal Baptists will be leaving (and how you hope the other Christians will follow). When they do go – and since churches house most of the BSA troops in this country – where are all the "enlightened" kids going to go to join scouts? Let's not pretend that any of you on this message board are going to put the money to sponsor and run a BSA troop – much less enough to replace those that will be lost.
    Say good-bye to scouting as a whole – it's done and over once churches leave the fold. Too bad, because it was such a great organization that people are actually suing and spewing hate about the organization just for a chance to get in to it!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  11. Distant Voice

    If American society says that it's okay to allow boys who are attracted to other boys to now tent with them, then why retain a restriction in the Girl Scouts that prohibits boys from tenting with girls. Somewhere we've turned the corner to say that being gay is acceptable, but being straight is not.

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

      Very good point. It is the double standards like the one you mentioned that reduce the gay agenda to a laughing stock

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

      To "M": Your stupid comment had nothing to do with the original comment. Go back under your rock

      June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Yeah, make the Kamping Krusaders for Khrist .

      June 2, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Oops. Make that "Make that ..."

      June 2, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • had2sayit

      excellent, excellent point.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Oh my

      Take comfort in knowing that over 80 pct of ppl under 24 support gay marriage..you are so screwed...see this month what happens with the Supreme Court ruling, The country is changing and you should too because your kids think differently than you...or move to an island somewhere far from us and use your hate to keep you warm at night. Being gay is not only acceptable but will very soon get the same legal, ethical rights that you have...how's that feel?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  12. Michael Bryce Winnick

    If the Baptists want to abandon supporting this organization they can and they owe nobody an explanation, They are doing something and telling you why they are doing it so that there is no doubt. The Scouts have their stance, the Baptists have theirs. Nobody has to answer to anyone. Scouting would be better off and the kids would be better off if any religious component was removed from scouting. The Baptists can form their own version of the scouts and make the memebership and stated agenda a matter between the church, the parents, and the kid. If you do not like the Scouts or the Baptist version, do not join either. For crying out loud, this is the Boy Scouts, not a branch of the military.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  13. Patrick

    How can you take these people seriously when Jesus said so much about helping the poor yet they have no problem with the rich paying a smaller percentage in taxes than people who actually work for a living and they're outraged when a blind or deaf person gets $2,000 a year in food stamps.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  14. Mark Yelka

    If you exclude those who have ever lied, stole, adultered, etc., you would have a very small group. So, cherry-picking "sins" is necessary. And, you can't pick the most common sins or else you'd have nobody in the organization. So, you've got to pick some minor sin, preferably attached to a minority so that you can keep your majority members happy.

    That's the formula for choosing gays to hate.

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

      It's obvious from which orofice you speak. American morality is on the decline.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  15. GetReal

    HooRay....If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

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

      "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

      Yup that's the motto for the Taliban and the K K K.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  16. TommyTT

    Baptists have for years denied that gay rights is a civil rights issue. This is nothing new. They seem to think that if they're imposing their religious beliefs to discriminate, then that makes it okey dokey. To an outsider, however, it looks like a classic case of double-think.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  17. ll

    They've already made an exodus, albeit quietly, from blacks. Next up, Baptists exodus from women's groups, Hispanic groups, groups that care for the poor & sick.

    When will people learn to question religion...religion, which are sets of man made rules..

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

      That is fiction. But seems to suit your purposes......hm......

      June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • rkdres

      I don't admire or follow any organized religion, but they have their right to do what they want. Also, the gay agenda has plenty of double standards...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  18. Science

    The University of Sydney.............geology..............the dirt guys. and another link to Mars.......Star dust and evolution !

    Precious opal veinlets in a sandstone from central Australia.

    News

    Answer to opal mystery shows Red Centre's links to Red Planet

    31 May 2013

    The dramatic geological events that created opal, Australia's national gemstone, have been described for the first time by a University of Sydney researcher.

    http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=11678

    June 2, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  19. CHARLES

    I already took my kids out.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:34 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 8:35 am |
    • Colin

      Sad that you will deprive them of something they enjoy, pass on your own prejudice to them and hurt any gay kids who were friends of theirs. Another view might have been to think for yourself and not follow what religious leaders or a 2,000 year old book of mythology tells you to do.

      But, then again, we can't all think independently now, can we.

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

    Sounds about right to me, I'd sure as H _ _l leave.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • hannah1

      WHO WOULD WANT A BIGOT LIKE YOU ANYWAY? I prefer the gay people, thank you!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:46 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.