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. Paul Dick

    Jesus wore sandals, long and a beard and hung around with 12 men. Guess that was contrary to 'god's teaching'.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  2. Fraser Petrick

    A modern Edward Gibbon, planning to write "The Decline of the American Empire" might keep notes on how some churches, which questionably call themselves Christian, have focused their animus on children; that is, certain Boy Scouts.
    Not for a minute does anyone believe the grinning, sneering bromide, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." . Fear mongers and power trippers have exploited religion for centuries. Too bad children are now in their crosshairs.

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

      Children have ALWAYS been "in the crosshairs." There is no such thing as a "born" believer, (though they do like to be called "born again" since being born once isn't enough.) These people have been brainwashed as children, and so they perpetuate the cycle by trying to brainwash more children. Forcing a child into RELIGION IS CHILD ABUSE.
      Many of the children of these same people will not be able to pass a biology class, whether they are in scouting or not.
      The "creationists" telling lies to children about real science is WAY more harmful to our country that scouting or not scouting.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  3. BO

    Church haters are NAMBLA supporters by default.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • BO is a troll

      ...who has used about 25 other names because he's a lonely little loser.

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

      You don't have to keep advertising your hobbies. You love NAMBLA. We get it.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Tom

      Go back to your hand job...

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

      Awww....poor Bo.:( Try not to be so desperate. Maybe you can get someone to believe you! Change your name again and pretend to be less desperate. Maybe it will work next time.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  4. Shawn

    LOL, watch the video, Is the Pastor trying to look like a goober, or what? I'm sure he has been a real "Lady killer" his whole life and wearing a pink shirt, I think he's trying to compensate for something here. – LOL

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

      I kind of thought the same thing. You see the same thing in republicans/men fear of women. Not all men, but a good gaggle of them.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  5. cc

    Good. The link between the Scouts & religion is the biggest long-term problem the Scouts have. As long as they're seen as an arm of religion they'll be less effective in their purpose of teaching boys to 'be prepared'.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  6. Greg Hoffmann

    Pastor Reed, you're exactly right. It's not a hate thing, it's a stupidity thing. And you're leading the stupidity parade.

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

      Please let them be stupid, it benefits us all in this case. Religion is all a belief based off of story telling. It's something that has been used for thousands of years to inspire, lead, and control groups. While I will be the first to admit that there are good lessons to be learned, they are not lessons that need to be learned through religion. American's have really begun to embrace evolution and the sciences, for the most part disproving omnipotent beings, and we need to keep our youth from being indoctrinated into religion. I was as a young man and was almost completely hooked, however the word of reason came over me and I decided to take the path of logic over righteousness...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  7. kev

    Attention !!!! Gay is sinning it will go into the burn HELL. Sorry, God love you but You not the following those the bible.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • .

      "Attention !!!! Gay is sinning it will go into the burn HELL."


      The scriptures actually say nothing about homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. Our understandings of sexual orientation are distinctly modern ones that were not present in the minds of Scripture writers. A few passages of Scripture (seven at the most) object to certain types of same-sex expressions or acts. The particular acts in question, however, are sexual expressions which are exploitative, oppressive, commercialized, or offensive to ancient purity rituals. There is no Scriptural guidance for same-sex relationships which are loving and mutually respecting. Guidelines for these relationships should come from the same general Scriptural norms that apply to heterosexual relationships.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  8. Log In My Eye

    How can we all sit here and criticize the Baptist denomination for being hateful when we do so with such a hateful demeanor ourselves? And No, I am not Baptist, but if the Baptist church feels the BSA is inconsistent with their values why shouldn't they leave BSA? Would we not do the same if the BSA condoned/accepted an item we found to be immoral? And yes, Christ did teach to love all people. But he didn't engage in or condone their sins while loving them. My two cents.

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

      You are exactly right. It's sad how we've become a society where if you disagree with "my" opinion, you must be "wrong," "evil," or some other horrible thing. We used to pride ourselves on being the country where you could differ in your opinions but still coexist. I don't see much coexisting going on anymore. Just hate no matter what.

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

      Log In My Eye – You are correct. The only problem is that there are some who believe that tolerance is a one way street. They want Christians to tolerate or even accept and condone behavior that is contrary to their beliefs but turn around and won't tolerate Christians beliefs, morals, and actions. No, I am not saying that Christians never make mistakes but it is a double standard. By the way, what is the point of having a belief if you don't act on it or it does not affect how you behave. It would be called bogus. To say you believe something and then to act in defiance of that belief would result in you being called a hypocrite.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  9. tony

    Same article of a coupla days back, but new (un-evidenced) front page hyperbole headline.

    I suspect readers soon leaving CNN in droves.

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

    What a lot of small hateful people on this blog. Sad.

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

      It's one troll posting under multiple handles.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  11. talleytone

    well done all, bending to political correctness of the moment

    June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  12. steve

    Our agenda should be inclusiveness. Good for the scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Ben Johnson

      Inclusiveness? The charter of the BSA is clear. It is a private organization that one does not have to join. If you don't like what the BSA represents, don't join. Instead, create a new organization.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Jean Stapleton, who recently died, did more to benefit humanity than the Southern Baptist Convention has, and she paid taxes.

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

      Good post!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  14. Wally

    Sad commentary on the spirit of scouting.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  15. Tracy

    Reap what you sow....goodbye scouts!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Dustin Goldsen

      I agree with reap what you sow but its this psudo religious group that is trying to turn the Church of Jesus into a religion of hate and exclusion. They are the ones that will be doing the reaping.

      Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say one word about gays, gay rights, or gay activity. You would think if it was important he'd mention it at least once. Even when Paul mentions it he's talking about acts of lust, not acts of love. Neither one says gays can't be in the scouts.

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

      Goodbye religion and good riddance!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  16. ItSoNlYmE

    It's not a hate thing? What exactly is it then? What part of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and "Judge not lest ye be judged" do these so-called "Christians" (sic) not understand? This is yet another example of pseudo-religious bigotry that proves just how hypocritical "Christians" are.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Ralph Monkman

      Not all Christians are bigoted hypocrites – just the fundamentalists. C.S. Lewis said, "Beware the fundamentalists." He also said, "The worst bad man is the religious bad man". There are many such men in any religion including the SBC. They use their religion to present themselves as 'holier than thou' while behind closed doors they harm the innocent. True Christians are compassionate and non-judgemental. They don't label anyone as a sinner – that is up to God. The real sin here is the bigotry and the SBC is doing the Scouts a favor by removing this negative influence.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Dennis

      I love it when people take scripture out of context don't you?! Love your neighbor as yourself is what follows “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" and what does it mean to Love the Lord? It means that you shouldn't do anything that doesn't bring glory to God. So in our quest to avoid not bringing glory to God we avoid certain behaviors or condoning certain behaviors. You can still love the person but you don't have to condone what they do. If you do not make judgements of what is good, noble, and right in the eyes of God to guide your behavior then you are not using your mind (remember – "...with all your mind.") So if I make a judgment that a certain behavior is not good but I accept it anyway that would be hypocritical. I did not say that the person should not be loved.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  17. Grinning Libber

    Of course it's a hate thing KKKristians

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  18. mindlike.com

    Good going SBC. I wouldn't want my boys in there with other boys who've falsely identified themselves as 'gay' simply because parents/mentors told them its 'ok' to be such a way. Why would I want my 'straight' boy around boys that might want to molest, flirt, etc my son? Makes no sense Boy Scouts of America.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  19. Wayne G. Caddigan

    If I had one or two younger boys for sons I would refuse to let them join the Boy Scouts for fear of what might happen to


    June 2, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Yes, far better to send them to a nice safe church where there has never been a single case of s-exual abuse.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  20. BO

    I know not to approve of Man-boy love because the boy can't consent. That's why I never kiss boys younger than 18. My dad jumped the gun a little with me, but not by much.

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

      ...probably about 15.

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

      "I know not to approve of Man-boy love because the boy can't consent. That's why I never kiss boys younger than 18. My dad jumped the gun a little with me, but not by much."

      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 9:12 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.