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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

    Leave it to the gays to mess up everything decent in America.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • .

      "Leave it to the gays to mess up everything decent in America."

      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 9:11 am |
    • BO is a troll

      ...who is most likely gay himself. He's a poser and is only here to get a reaction. Ignore the idiot.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • tony

      Finishing off Reagan and Bush's work by the look of it. I think the Scouts must be hiding WMD's. Attack!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  2. BO is a troll

    Probably gay and posting hate messages to get a reaction.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • BO

      Are you a member of that wholesome group NAMBLA. Right up your alley most likely.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • BO is a troll

      ...and dumber than dirt.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  3. bmonteith

    Honestly the soul of the organization is under much greater threat from apathy and obesity than from a few kids that might figure out they are gay when teenage hormones sort themselves out.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  4. BO

    Man-Boy love is now part of being an Eagle Scout.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • midwest rail

      Trolling should never be this boring.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Pete

      "Man-Boy love is now part of being an Eagle Scout."

      All you are doing is showing you're an idiot and don't know the basic definitions of a homosexual, bisexual or a pedophile. What a moron.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • .

      "Man-Boy love is now part of being an Eagle Scout."

      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 9:10 am |
    • BO is a troll

      ...who probably wears his mom's underwear.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  5. Sad

    The bible clearly states love the sinner, not the sin. The SBC has always been too good fro itself....a hypocritical bunch of thumpers...let them leave...they will NOT be misses

    June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Ben Johnson

      They may not be missed by you, but the BSA will certainly miss their sponsorship. I don't think you really know anything about the BSA, if you think otherwise.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Treyman

      Yes Ben because gays have no economic clout.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  6. GetReal

    Wouldn't this gay agenda be a hate group for the straight agenda that was already in place with the majority of the planet? Must it be allowed to permeate every aspect of of everyone's lives?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Grinning Libber

      Phony victimization to justify bigotry...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • GetReal

      Grinning....The majority of the planet are phony victims?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  7. Jim

    It's not often a group actually chooses to display its ignorance and bigotry in such a public way.
    The last time the Baptist Church did it was to oppose racial integration.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • BM

      It's not ignorance and bigotry. It's just a refusal to bend to conditioning by gays. They've been at it for over 70 years, and still no results! However, most of the population laps it up like chocolate chip ice cream.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Jim

      Your screen name aptly characterizes your beliefs.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Alta

      BM – like the Baptist Church opposed the "sin" of allowing "colored" people in their church.
      Just own your bigotry.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • BM

      Alta, the gays are the bigots. They are pushing their opinion that nobody really wants to know.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • BM stands for Bowel Movement

      ...aptly named.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Grinning Libber

      Exactly...along with the whole GOP

      June 2, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  8. BM

    Well, I guess if you are born screwed up there will be a consequence of some kind.

    I f you have no legs, you won't be able to jump like the other kids. Why pretend that you can?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Jim

      So you solve the legless child's problems by abandoning him.
      You're a heck of a guy.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • BM

      Nope, but lets face it, you have to deal with reality, not illusions.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • RichardWad

      How many times are you gonna post that? Remember how you felt in school being in the slow classes and fatter than the other kids? Are you saying that you did the right thing by dropping out of high school because you were less worthy of an education?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  9. George

    The First Baptist portion of the Southern Baptist didn't even allow black folks to worship in their churches until the early 1970's. Does this really surprise anyone?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  10. Turht is..

    The Boy Scouts are done. I have seen too many people fleeing the Scouts over various issues, not just this one. This issue will be the one that beaks them. This article underplayed one major point. There are many alternatives popping up around the country, and they are going to be more exclusive than just keeping gays out. I have nieces and nephews that are already in some of these organizations, and they are thriving. People should watch what they ask for. You might get it, and then find yourself STILL standing there by yourself.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Did you mean "Truth is" you moron?

      i think you did.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  11. dom

    Boy scouts needs to merge with the girl scouts now.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  12. ed

    Hey GL(what ever). It is obvious that not everyone is bowing to your propaganda and threats.....

    June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  13. anne

    Thank God for people who still have the courage to openly stand up for what is right!!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Wow

      "Thank God for people who still have the courage to openly stand up for what is right!!"

      Yup the Taliban and the K K K say the same thing.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      You're 100% right, Anne. People are standing up for what is right, and are calling the Southern Baptists what they are – hate-filled bigots.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Jim

      I agree Anne,
      It takes real courage to display your hate, bigotry and ignorance so publicly, AND to punish innocent children while doing, AND somehow being proud of it.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  14. Brian K

    Both the Scouts an the Baptists showed their true characters. These are the same groups that protested against the inclusion of african americans in the early 1900's.Protests over the inclusion of African Americans arose early in the program. When Boyce departed, he turned the Boy Scout corporation over to the members of the Executive Board with the stipulation that the Boy Scouts would not discriminate on the basis of race or creed.[10] The BSA established the position that African Americans should be included, but that local communities should follow the same policies that they followed in the school systems. Thus, much of the American South as well as many major northern communities had segregated programs with "colored troops" until the late 1940s. Some troops in the South threatened to leave BSA and burn their uniforms if African American Scouts were permitted, but West was key in overcoming those obstacles.[4]

    June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • ed

      WOW!!! Another attempted to make good guys look like the Bad guys. Bet you voted for Obama , agree with AG Holder for selling guns to the Mexican cartels was OK and want ILLEGALS to be paid to stay in America...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • anne

      How can you possibly compare the very real humanitarian issue of the African Americans and their past history to the "gay agenda". You surely cant be insulting the African American people this way?!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  15. G. Brandess

    Goodbye Baptist and good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in your arrogant and pious as*e* on the way out!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  16. Vincent

    Oh no, please come Baptists! What will the scouts do with a bunch of hate mongers like you? Please don't leave the country as well! That would really give gay people the what for!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  17. Russ

    Gays are pushing their agenda more and more. They have jumped on a word.... Hate. Just like the blacks have jumped on a word.... racism. If you take away these words what have you got? NOTHING! You should have stayed in the closet, why do you have to bring attention to yourself? It's the whole... look at me, look at me.... I need attention... look at me, look at me!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Russ. Okay – I'm looking at you. i see an ignorant t-wat.

      Happy?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Maria

      What of the Christians pushing their agenda? Prayer in schools. Harboring organizations like the BSA until they realize they can't persuade nor control them.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Pete

      "They have jumped on a word.... Hate. Just like the blacks have jumped on a word.... racism. If you take away these words what have you got? NOTHING!"

      All you did was show you don't understand the basics about civil rights.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      And women should shut up and stay in the kitchen. Oh yeah, why didn't I think of that?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Delaware

      Beautifully said!, Right from my month. thank you

      June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Tim

      Russ, I feel so sorry for you and your family members that have to put up with your narrow minded views on humanity.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Sanity

      The Baptists don't belong in the BSA with their agenda of exclusion.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Jeremy

      People like need to go back to the past with that way of thinking. You have to be open and accept it that gay rights are here to stay and dude you are racist and a bigot. You have no right to say what you did with African Americans.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Russ

      I have no problem with everyone having their say on what they believe in. Look at you people who can't handle my right to say what I believe in. Case closed! A few of you have gone outside the box as to my point. If you are going to attack me personally, at least keep with the conversation.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • ed

      Sorry Russ! The weirdo's are really frightened when somebody or group tells them to leave them alone and stop the BS.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • rick

      Yes they are taking it and running it into the ground. All this is over a church that doesnt want to support a program that doesnt align with there beliefs. Why do they have to support something that opposes them?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • mabear87

      Russ, You need help! I can reccommend some good psychiatrists. This is America, or so I thought. You have aright to demented opinion. Most gay people I have met are better people than you and me. So get a life and be tolerant other people NOW!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  18. mabear87

    The Baptists have not gone far enough. THEY ARE NOT CHRISTIANS, NOR DO THEY PRACTICE THE TEACHINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. They should leave the USA so they can practice their beliefs on some island in the Pacific.
    B morningstar
    Redlands, CA

    June 2, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Bill

      I live in California. Having these degenerates in the Pacific would still be too close.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • The Pacific Islands

      No thanks! We don't want those bigoted mofos!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  19. Treyman

    How does that saying go again "kiiling two birds with one stone?"

    June 2, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  20. Oh my

    I am going to love later this month when the Supreme Court rules/approves of gay marriage and the cries from these people are going to sound like when the Death Star blew up a planet...

    80 pct of people under 24 approve of gay marriage and equal rights.

    You're screwed! Hahaha

    June 2, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Treyman

      I can imagine the wailing from the cultists right now.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Jeremy

      They will rule for gay marriage in the states it is already in and in California, but they still will leave it for states to decide for themselves.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:14 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.