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. Marc

    Pharisees, the whole lot of them.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  2. Kris

    Apparently Jesus was a bigot.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Greg Ohio

      Not at all. His so-called followers, however...

      May 31, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  3. Beloved4ever

    " Truth Is The New Hate Speech"
    "In a Time of Universal Deceit telling the Truth has become Revolutionary Act"

    May 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Patroy

      Truth about what?

      May 31, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  4. Jo Black

    The Bible is a tool like a fork. You can employ it to put food in your mouth or stab a neighbor. I see fork tine scars on both Baptist's cheeks.

    May 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  5. Joe

    Cant they just "Exodus" the country?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  6. DAISY

    Well said Allang – Southern Baptists might possibly join a new century – 13th century is a good guess.
    Sincerely, a childhood Southern Baptist who is still recovering from the fire, brimstone, guilt and damnation. And I sure do like to dance and have a beer once in awhile!

    May 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • David

      What is really frustrating is the hypocrisy of it all. Do they pull their kids out of the public school systems? Because I am pretty sure that our public schools allow gay students. Saying it is not a "hate thing" but rather a "moral stance" is just spin.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  7. huh

    Good riddence

    May 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  8. angela

    I wouldn't want my young son in boy scouts if his den leader was gay. Period. Religious or not.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Veronica

      I've got news for you, Angela. There's a really good chance that your son is around lots of gay men, but they are not advertising the fact that they are gay. Pedophile and gay are not synonymous.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • John

      Like you, I too used to be a bigot. Then my son came out of the closet. I find that I still love him the same as I did before, and have a lot of respect for him. He is what he is, it was never a choice, and he is a good person. That's all that matters.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • james

      why? are you afraid he "catch" gay?

      May 31, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Toad the poet

      You can't catch gay, they tell me they were born that way

      May 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • John

      @Toad the poet Funny. You can't catch gay but you can catch religion. No one is born brainwashed to be Christian or any other religion at birth.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Doug

      Afraid that he might "catch the gay disease"?

      Seriously though, the odds that an openly gay scout leader was a pedophile are statistically lower than the odds that your upstanding neighborhood priest is one!

      I pray that your son finds a way to learn his moral values from someone that isn't a bigot. In terms of moral character, I'd pit an openly gay Scout master against a bigoted mother any day.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Glen

      Because Angela is speaking to her own experience. SHE likes men, and she also likes little boy's wangs, and knows that if she were around those wangs she simply would not be able to contain herself.

      Isn't that right Angela? And so you assume that gay men who are attracted to other men are JUST like you!!

      But of course they're not. You Angela are just a sick freak.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Ed

      Joining the Baptists in their own version of the Deutsches Jungvolk or Hitlerjugend?

      June 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  9. MagicPanties

    Tim Reed and Marcus Bachmann are BFF's

    May 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  10. Douglas

    Celibate gay Boy Scouts should be allowed to stay in the organization.
    Celibate scouts are consistent with Biblical and Scout law.
    It is only the hard line proponents of the Gay Agenda who are encouraging the boys to engage in
    fornication to "prove" their are gay worthy.

    Baptists do the right thing...permit pledged self-declarations of celibacy from gay scouts and allow them to stay in.

    Fight back againjst the purveyors of HIV/AIDs and rampant STDs who want to make a chickenhawk meal out of these
    young boys. We can't let that happen.

    Gay celibacy is consistent with Biblical law as directed byJesus himself in Matthew 19:12.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn is praying that you get a clue.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • boo

      Douglas – as big a troll queen as there ever was

      May 31, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  11. don

    bye, bye, don't let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  12. SWcience

    Hey Chad you from the south ?

    Hey creationists............chadie too.............fossil records work better than the bible.

    New study restores famed fossil to "bird" branch

    Wednesday May 29, 2013 | Alicia Chang for The Associated Press


    May 31, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  13. Quasi

    There is no god, no heaven or no hell. It is all a fantasy made up by uneducated shepherds to control their properties, farms, cattle, children and wives. There is absolutely no proof that anything supernatural exists in this Multiverse. The sheeple will not use their brains, ever. Such a wast of good nerve cells.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  14. Chris

    Good riddance, haters.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  15. Bubba71

    Bunch of hypocrites choosing which sections of the Bible they WISH to follow.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Doug

      I agree completely – those churches want to close their doors to people for no other reason than they admit to being human.

      Next thing you know, AA will not allow people who drink to join up. Weight watchers will have limits on how overweight you can be before you join their program...

      All based on logic that would have had Jesus denying repentence from his fellow prisoners, when he said "you have sinned and will burn in..." wait, that's not what he said... he said "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise"! Seems like Jesus doesn't mind having a sinner or two around to speak with. So this must be a Church thing I suppose, maybe they should put signs up saying, "enter only if you are a good Christian, one that follows our doctrine rather than the way Christ himself lived."

      So, let's recap:
      – Adulterers are okay in the Church
      – Pedophiles are okay (and largely protected) as priests
      – Murderers can enter the Church and participate in worships and outreach programs
      – But if you even ALLOW gays in your organization... STAY OUT.

      Southern Babtist Church, thy name is hypocrit.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Anna1755

    So, can we expect them to also run (and hide under a rock) from the general population? Boggles the mind!

    May 31, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  17. Larry L

    I quit buying the over-priced popcorn last year after I saw the Scouts taking a hateful position against gay people. I may start buying it again now that the Baptists have pulled out.

    That "Ambassadors" alternative sounds like a dry-heave. I can only imagine the population of tight-a$$ed Jesus freaks that will emerge from that brainwashing.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  18. Marilyn Wounded Head

    Where were these churches when the KKK were hanging people?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Jo Black

      Members in good standing.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  19. manhandler1

    What will the name be of the new groups formed by these bigoted churches? The Boy HATERS of America?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  20. adibese

    Didn't Jesus tell everyone to love each other and not to judge? The bible is so confusing.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Katie

      Yes. Due to the Freudian theory of compensation, men with tiny penises feel as if this makes them bigger and badder than everyone else, since they don't have anything else going for them.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Beloved4ever

      But this kind of judging-the act of discernment-is not what Jesus is forbidding. In fact throughout the Bible we are commanded to discern. In the same chapter of Luke 6 and in the very same discourse as the famous “judge not” statement, Jesus talks about having the discernment to see the difference between good people and evil people (Luke 6:43-45). He compares them to trees. Good trees, he says, produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. The call to differentiate good from evil is to judge, to discern, correctly.

      May 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • SDFrankie

      Yep. That's the wonderfully concise word of god for ya. It's up and only up except for when it's down. Left is the blessed direction although right is also blessed. Sort out the evil from the good without judging one from the other. Like jump up and stay there.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
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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.