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. disanitnodicos

    Defy political correctness. Do it for the lulz.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • rebecca

      But you aren't really THAT good of a troll yet! You are not yet ready to become a teacher , you are still a student young grasshopper.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  2. m

    why stop with banning gays? perhaps they'd be happy if the scouts also banned short people? fat people? blond haired kids? muslims? jews? blacks? poor people? if the scouting experience teaches hate and prejudice then why would anyone want to take part in it?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • SD

      I attended school in Iran years ago. The language of instruction was English. Many classmates were US born, When I tried to join the scout troop with my classmates, I was told that it was for Americans only. They suggested I join a local Iranian scout troop..

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  3. observer1776

    The intelligence level of some of the "shame" posts is pathetic.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  4. Pastor Rick

    I want to apologize for BO's comments on this discussion board. He was once a student of mine and after years of "one-on-one" training, he has wondered off and joined some off the wall group of deviants.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Jim

      Hey pastor– you say nothing about being deviant when you blew me!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. mgf99

    It's a fear and ignorance thing.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  6. RG

    Of course its a hate thing. Then you have the hate group OnMyHonor which wants to start a new scouting group, with no Gays, presumably no blacks, hispanics muslims or any other non-white non christian person allowed. I believe the new group will have a uniform of a a white smock with a white mask and pointy hat. They can earn their bigot badge by beating up a gay, black or hispanic kid.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  7. Smith

    My son did NOT do scouts when he was young because of the Boy Scout anti-gay policies. There is an excellent chance that for every bigot that leaves scouts, two new boys will join!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  8. Devin

    Something to consider on a Sunday morning.

    I find this incredibly sad. Separation was something that Christ NEVER espoused. Christians are meant to be in the midst of communities working for the common good. Railing against what you disagree with and splintering an organization is absolutely the opposite of how Christians should be acting. Perhaps if people stopped running from everything they deemed "sinful" they might understand that they are truly living life with their eyes shut and their fingers in their ears. Stubborn people have no hope of advancement.

    This view of abandonment following conflict is very dangerous. It's the reason we have such a large homeless gay teen population in cities. It's the reason we have so many children without two parents, and it's the reason we have an extremely high teen suicide rate. When you read articles like this, It's no wonder people look at "Christians" and run the other direction.

    Thankfully the writer included this in the article. 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.

    Hopefully these displaced scouting troops find new homes that honor their presence. If nothing else a church should be a refuge

    14 And over all virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:14-15

    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • GetReal

      Not quite true:

      Words of Jesus:
      Mar_6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  9. Tim

    Southern Baptists still think its 1956

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

      You got the date wrong.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      1956? When did God change the moral code? When did God put Hedonists in charge of deciding morality? When did God decide that a majority vote can overrule the moral code he gave us?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  10. snowboarder

    pathetic. use your mind and stop letting a book of iron age myths make your decisions for you.

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

      That book of Iron Age myths built the strongest and best country in the world and people like you are ruining it.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      @dan, pure malarkey. that book built nothing. this country was built by men.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  11. observer1776

    Most of my replies are being block. Liberal suppression of free speech.

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

      1) CNN isn't the government; free speech laws don't apply.

      2) Keep a civil tongue in your head, and your posts won't be blocked.

      3) You're not important enough to bother with, other than through the use of dirty word filters.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • RG

      Your replies are probably being blocked because they are bigoted and racist.

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

      So are mine. And I wonder why the discuss is not working.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Science

      observer1776..................figure it out............there is no fairy in the sky !

      Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Science

      clue view source............html

      June 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  12. EdR

    Its not a "hate thing".. its just an ignorant, arrogant, shallow minded, perversion of religion thing.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Christian forgiveness

      Well stated.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • morality hawk

      thank goodness the Baptists got this right

      June 2, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  13. RillyKewl

    Banning kids who volunteer to do good works is banned from the southern 'baptist' church.
    How wholly un-American.
    Proof that this religion is bad + wrong, especially down south.

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

      Religion is the only thing that kept this country together. America's decline is matching the decline in religious practicing. We have taken god out of everything to please people who want to live out thier grotesque way of life and now everything good in this country is fleeing.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  14. Jim

    The baptist church should be stripped of its tax exempt status.
    I don't want my tax dollars support such a hate filled organization.

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

      i doubt that your tax dollars are going to the baptist church. are they going there?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • MagicPanties

      ALL churches should have to pay taxes, otherwise we all help to subsidize them (even the whackiest like westboro).

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

      Austin, yes, a portion of all of our tax dollars goes to every single tax exempt church in that our tax burden would be less if they all had to pay taxes.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      Think. Churches would not make profits, if they were taxable. All they would have to do is spend all their receipts every year just like a business can. Your hatred has made you blind to the reality that churches save the taxpayer tens of billions every year with all the volunteer work they do in the community. Have you ever paid for and done all the work to sod a public grade school playground, my church has. Have you ever run a free tutoring problem, my church does. Do you personally support helping drug addicted women get their lives straightened out, my family does. Have you ever contributed to getting homeless children off the streets, my church has. Have you ever roofed a poor person's home for free, my family has. Have you ever paid to provide education for poor children, my family does.Etc. Etc. Tens of billions in free labor, free meals, free clothes, etc. are given by churches, church people and the Christian organizations they financially support every year.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  15. BlindSquirrel

    Having moved to the South 8 years ago, I got my first exposure to southern Baptist thinking. Membership in that church is all about how much money you put in the envelope each week and staying within your social caste. My wife was chided by her Southern Baptist boss at work for associating with one of the maintenance people, who happened to be black, because he was "beneath her station". Children are not permitted to worship with parents in many churches. This is the face of Southern Baptist teaching.

    With this in mind, is anyone shocked at this news about the Scouts?

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


      June 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Doug Lynn

      Your personal experience is not at all similar to mine or anyone I know. Hypocrites and ignorant people can be found everywhere. Your generalization based your personal experience is unwise.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  16. MagicPanties

    They pick and choose certain text to support their subjective bigotry.

    Why aren't they promoting slavery [anymore]?
    "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."

    Why aren't they promoting stoning for blasphemy?
    "And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him"

    Why aren't they promoting chopping wives hands off?
    "...the wife...puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand"

    June 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • One one

      They say because the laws of the OT don't count anymore. But they point to the OT regarding ho moms3uality and keep trying to display the 10 commandments in public places. They are liers and hypocrites.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  17. Bob

    Jesus was gay.
    Why else would he hang out with 12 other men in bathrobes.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • xtr657

      ...he was definitely gay.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • BlindSquirrel

      There's no way Jesus was gay. There's no way 13 gay men would show up at a dinner party wearing the same outfit.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  18. BOb the Prairie Dog

    It never ceases to amaze me that people who claim to hold Christ in the hearts can be so full of hatred for their fellow humans.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  19. dax

    Religion is the root of all evil

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      and ignorance is the root of all religion.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  20. Eric G

    It's not a hate thing, it's just that we hate gays so much we will abandon a great organization because of it.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:28 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.