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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. Jim

    Science flies you to the moon,
    Religion flies you into buildings.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • counter

      Science creates a atom bomb that kills millions. Christ saves all of humanity.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Jim

      Counter – did you really say that? Are you REALLY THAT stupid?
      Science also cured small pox, and treats cancer.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Christian forgiveness

      counter. You live your life with eyes wide shut. You're religion has killed millions through the centuries. Stay out of asult conversations as you clearly show difficulty in keeping up.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      Counter is right. Atheist dictators have killed more in the 20th century than all religious wars in history, which really quite amazing since the vast majority believe in some kind of supreme creator god. Besides, blaming religion for wars started by power lusting politicians and dictators is stupid. Everyone knows these men are followed by people that have been indoctrinated with wicked ideas just like Hitler, Mao and Stalin. They all had plenty of ignorant, wicked and foolish sycophants willing to murder for them. The problem is people that are willing to follow wicked men instead of thinking for themselves. Non-religious and religious makes little difference if you are willing to be a dumb sheep.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Pete

      " Hitler,"

      Get an education idiot. Hitler was a Christian and the Nazi believe he was a gift from God. The actions of Mao and Stalin were totalitarian. They sought total authority, which means getting rid of religions which would compete with that authority. The pursuit of atheism was not the cause for the bloodshed; it was the pursuit of control over a people.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. Tony A.

    Let the baptist do their thing of hate and no equality between humans. Glad im a firm modern Carholic.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • MagicPanties

      I would agree the baptists are even more deluded than catholics, but still...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  3. GetReal

    And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Jim

      So Jesus loved it from behind.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Pastor Rick

      And the demon replied, say, Jesus, have you noticed there is nobody else here but you and I? So, who is recording this confrontation for history? Surely, you, nor I will ever speak of it!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • GreenClogs

      And which version of the Bible – written by many different people 2 generations after Jesus died – are you quoting? Ever play a game of telephone?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  4. Christian forgiveness

    Where is Chrisian love shining here? Baptists should be practicing their religion rather than spoting their hypocracy.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • observer1776

      Religion aside, are you considering the common sense aspects?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Jim

      Observer – what "commons sense" aspects?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  5. Nietodarwin

    "Instead of merit badges for archery and bird study, young Ambassadors earn patches for memorizing Bible verses and mission work. " HA HA HA HA
    Wouldn't want those Small Brained Baptists studying any BIRDS would we now?
    That kind of work might lead to reading what Darwin wrote about the finches in the Galapagos!!!!!

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

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out...

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  7. mama k

    A recent poster wrote that God hates the sin of homosexuality.

    Religions that agree with the poster's statement claim such a notion as an absolute moral truth. We know such notions are founded in ancient writings from millennia past. For many things we have learned about through science, beliefs have had to adapt to keep from looking silly and being out of date with current knowledge. This is simply another time where fundamental religions are struggling to keep up with current knowledge and throwing a hissy fit about the discomforting situation they find themselves in.

    We know that homosexuality has always been a naturally occurring feature across many species including mankind, and science is now getting closer and closer to answers on how it survives across generations. Now that the scientific research shows that homosexuality is not a choice, but formed very early via epigenetic factors (resistant to change), religions that abhor homosexuality look sillier than ever on the issue. For Christians in particular, I would also say their wildly conflicting Biblical interpretations regarding a wide array of topics including this one is just another indicator that their objective truths are anything but objective.

    For issues such as this, with the knowledge we have today, Christians need to come to the table without "scripture", and ready to discuss such issues rationally. Otherwise they will continue to face an ever increasing tide of distrust and an ultimate indictment of irrelevancy.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |

    • =================================================

      Psychology

      The American Psychological Association states "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people", and says most people's sexual orientation is determined at an early age. Research into how sexual orientation in males may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises concerns about genetic profiling and prenatal testing."

      Professor Michael King states: "The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice."

      The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

      "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."

      Biology

      The following is from the article:

      Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find (12/11/2012 – LiveScience)

      [ The search for a "gay gene" may be off-target, new research finds. Another process called epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality runs in families.

      Epigenetics are heritable changes caused by factors other than DNA. Instead of traits getting passed down through the genes, epigenetic change happens because of the way genes are regulated, or turned on and off.

      These genetic regulators may be the reason homosexuality persists in nature despite the fact that gay people are less likely to reproduce, suggests the new study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

      "These things have evolved because they're good for the parents, but they sometimes, not [with] high frequency, but sometimes carry over" into offspring, study researcher William Rice, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told LiveScience. In a male fetus, Rice and his colleagues write, an epigenetic change that benefited the mother may lead to "feminization" of sexual preference — homo- or bisexuality. The same may be true for epigenetic changes passed down by dad to a female fetus. (The terms feminization and masculinization of sexual preference refer to sexual orientation only — not to physical or personality traits of the offspring.)

      The findings add to past research suggesting gay men haven't died out, because female relatives of gay men tend to have more children on average than other females. The study researchers specifically found that two genes passed on through the maternal line could produce this effect.

      Hormones, epigenetics and orientation

      Rice and his colleagues focused on epi-marks, which are molecular changes that act like temporary "switches" to turn genes on and off. If a gene is a blueprint, the epi-mark is the construction foreman who makes sure the product gets built. An epi-mark also determines when, where and how much a gene is expressed, according to the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

      These molecular switches are usually erased very early in the developmental process, but they can be passed down from generation to generation, too, Rice said.

      Some epi-marks are particularly important during fetal development, when they promote normal physical development in the sexes despite natural variations in testosterone during pregnancy. Researchers know that fetal exposure to too much testosterone can masculinize the genitals, brain or behavior of a genetically female fetus. Likewise, too little testosterone can make a genetically male fetus more feminized.

      But here's the catch: There's lots of overlap between the levels of testosterone male and female fetuses get exposed to. That means there must be another side to the story, Rice and his colleagues wrote.

      That side appears to be epigenetics, Rice said.

      "Early in development, we think these epi-marks are laid down so that girl fetuses will be relatively insensitive to testosterone and male fetuses will be relatively sensitive to testosterone," Rice said.

      Biological behavior

      Thus, if an epi-mark that kept a mother from getting exposed to high testosterone in development gets passed on to her son — the opposite sex — it could desensitize him to testosterone, contributing to his sexual preference for men. Similarly, if a male-specific epi-mark from dad gets passed to a daughter, it could "masculinize" her sexual preference, making her more interested in women.

      These findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no "gay gene" can be found, Rice said. In identical twins, there's about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you'd expect a much higher match, Rice said. Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.

      The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in parents of kids with gay versus straight offspring, Rice said. There are, of course, concerns that this knowledge could be used by parents who want to avoid gay offspring, Rice said, but that concern already exists around certain hormonal conditions in utero, which are known to contribute to an increased chance of offspring being lesbians.

      "That cat's already out of the bag," Rice said. He added that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not "unnatural."

      "In fact, it's a major part of the natural world," Rice said. Fourteen percent of Western gulls raise chicks in female-female pairs, he pointed out. And 8 percent of male sheep show zero interest in fertile ewes, but get sexually excited by other rams. ]

      June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  8. oneSTARman

    Its NOT You Its Me

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  9. adamscooking

    Anyone who doesn't want to be associated with scouting now or any other life event that has "gay people" involved unit might as well keep their kids living in a bubble. They probably should not watch ANY TV because you know, "there are some gay actors" that can convert them. They should not go to ANY RESTAURANT EVER AGAIN, because you know, there are a lot of "gay waiters". They better never wear any nice clothes again because its all designed by "gay fashion designers". They can never work again because their company may offer "gay partner benefits" and we all know, that supports the "gay agenda". My goodness, what will these poor righteous people do to protect their kids???? How unbelievably sad and truly ignorant some people are.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  10. danielrodriguezrivera

    Bye. That's how I see it. They have the right to walk away and let's be happy that they are. I'd prefer the BSA have an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance than dealing with a struggle between church and society.

    When I think about my time growing up in the church, I was taught to love and accept others. It didn't mean I had to condone their behavior, just simply be a friend and if I did believe against their behavior I was called to pray for them. Never was I told to run from others, neglect them, or turn my head instead of extending love. Luckily I grew up to understand that the church is a hoax and God loves more people than the church has ever accepted.

    I just hope that the community of people who fought for this equality will help support the BSA financially because they are going to take a hit. Best of luck to the BSA!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  11. OldManDave

    In my mind, the organizations who threaten to or actually do desert the BSA were not in it to earnestly support scouting. They were involved to perpetuate their own agendas – recruitment & inculcation of their own religious agenda. Further, the veiled assertion is that supportership is a zero-sum game. It is not. For every conservative, intolerant church that makes the cowardly choice to bail on the BSA, there can & will be other civic minded organizations who now have the opportunity to engage. The BSA is not about church recruitment – it stands for much more, but certain religious cadres have usurped the BSA concept to flesh out their rosters.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Tappy McWidestance

      So I guess this church only supports groups and has members who never sin. It must be a very small congregation.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  12. BM

    It;s like saying that maggots should be accepted and eaten for breakfast every day. Yum yum. Ever wondered why maggots rhyme with ....?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Tom

      Look BO get help you need it.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • OldManDave

      Your comment is pathetic. The world is filled with strife today because of intolerance, hatred and bigotry...overwhelmingly fueled by fundamentalist perspectives.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • .

      "It;s like saying that maggots should be accepted and eaten for breakfast every day. Yum yum. Ever wondered why maggots rhyme with ....?"

      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 9:29 am |
    • adamscooking

      I can't believe somebody would write something so stupid. My God, you are an ignorant soul.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Huebert

      Christian love right here. ^

      June 2, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Shinytoys

      BM = Bowel Movement, Thanks for the dump

      June 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Shinytoys

      BM=Bowel Movement....

      June 2, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Regnad Kcin

      Given the content of your post, your handle, "BM", is most appropriate.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  13. emme

    Lots of hate on here. Very sad. Good News is that in 20-30 years most of this bigots will be dead or too old to do anything about it.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  14. donna

    I came here because the headline read that Baptists are leaving Boy Scouts.

    Now that I've read the article, I realize that the headline is actually not true.

    .

    June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  15. Mark Smalling

    Ah religion at it's finest once again. Narrow minded, prejudicial beliefs dictated by self serving biblical interpretations resulting in anything but feelings of peace and kindness toward their fellow man.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  16. ozziex

    And the kids suffer because they can't be adults.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  17. J. D. Hunter

    The Boy Scout troops will breathe a sigh of relief to be out from under the Baptist Scout Masters. Good riddance!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Scott f.

      Amen to that.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  18. RichardWad

    I think the Boy Scouts finally realized that the only boys that wanted to put on that uniform, scarves, ribbons and shiny shoes, sequester themselves from girls and just go off camping together, well... You see where I'm going with this...

    June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Scott f.

      That's only you, see where I'm going with that.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  19. Michael

    Good! LEAVE! DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT! I don't want my child to be around ANYONE who is willing to discriminate another human being for any reason other than explicit criminal activity.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  20. Jim

    Education is the cure to religion.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Damnyankee

      Don't be knave, Jim – and statements like yours is ignorant & foolish. If it wasn't for Religion and its morals (which Society in turn creates its laws based on those morals), someone would've killed you and took all your stuff a long time ago.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:35 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.