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. mark

    Hey the Babtist faith can have their own BSA "Babtist Scouts of America". Then they can have the freedom to teach their children the true meaning of hate. Maybe even resurrect the good ol Swastika as their logo. Then someone can call Westboro freak Fred Phelps to run the whole circus. May god have mercy on the Babist Church and it's followers. Your all idiots....

    June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Tracy

      Thanks....right back at cha!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • billfitt

      Wow, there's someone whose advances on Baptist men were spurned big-time. Don't worry, you'll find yourself a nice atheist boy one of these days.

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

      Hey look! It's another liberal armed only with his prejudices and his hate, attacking logic, reason and love.
      What a surprise.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  2. disanitnodicos

    Why do girls not want boys in their dressing rooms? Isn't that irrational?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • The real Tom

      Do you not grasp the difference between orientation and action? Do you not grasp that opposite genders have a right to privacy?

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

      Ooooh! Look at you using big words and everything! No "lulz" or "fudge packer " or anything! Good job on this one. This looks like what a real poster would say. First A for the day.

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

      the real tom is a real loon

      June 2, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • disanitnodicos

      So you can't really answer the question without implying that gays should be separate from straights.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      A Caliphate by any other name is still a Caliphate.
      Which is why the U.S.A was founded as a Republic; to have 'Equal Representation and Justice Under the Rule of Law' no matter how large a group.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • One one

      Some girls do.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • The real Tom

      I did answer, dumbazz. You're just too idiotic to figure out what I said.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  3. Americas Dead

    eqaulity give me a break if it was about that then they would just call it scouts and allow girls this is just another atemp at destroying another all boys club by the feminest agenda well done well done you people are blind and stupid

    June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • BOb the Prairie Dog

      You used misspelled words and garbled syntax without punctuation in a clumsy attempt to articulate a specious argument, but we are the ones who are stupid. I'm going to speculate that you have less than eight teeth and are married to a banjo.

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

      Bobthedog is a perfectly accurate example of liberals.

      No reason or logic. Not even an attempt at them. Just hate, prejudice and elitism.

      As with all liberals, he completely ignores the sound logic and reason of the opposition (dismissing it without deigning to respond). He just tells us how much smarter he is than us, as he leads us to our obvious demise.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • want2believe

      Bob, no need to insult his banjo. It was born that way.

      It's still a boys' club. There were already gay members in the scouts. Now they can just be honest about it. Rationalize discrimination however you want, it still doesn't make it right. Don't blame the "feminist agenda", the scouts made this decision. The made the right decision if they actually wanted scouting to stay relevant based on how society's views have been continuously growing to dismiss discrimination. I hope you felt better after calling others blind and stupid...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • GreenClogs

      I think they should do that. A co-ed org called Scouts would be awesome!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • BOb the Prairie Dog

      @Libsrtyrants – If you think Americas Dead (sic) is exhibiting "sound logic and reason", then you must be married to the banjo's sister. Is her name Mandolin?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • want2believe

      @Green They do, it's called Adventure Scouts USA – "Adventure Scouts USA are nationwide, modern, co-ed, fully nondiscriminatory Scout Programs with teams forming in your area."

      Thankfully it's catching on

      June 2, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • GreenClogs

      No. YOUR idea of America is dead.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  4. Aaron

    If only we could get them all to leave the planet earth en masse we might be on to something.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Libsrtyrants

      You'll get your wish, soon enough.
      The joke (which is you and your kind) well be on you.
      Perfect justice from the LORD.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • GreenClogs

      LIKE 🙂

      June 2, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • want2believe

      @Libsrtyrants I've found your rants about liberals being hateful, ignorant, and dismissive of others view points comically hypocritical. Thanks for the laughs.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • GreenClogs

      Libs claims to use logic and reason but displays neither.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  5. Drake

    "It's not a moral thing" Jim Reed dogmatically and mindlessly acts out of ignorance and fear. How does this differ from the hatred exuded by people of his ilk. who paraded in favor of racial hatred during the fifties and sixties. Prejudice lies within those ignorant cowards who fear an out-group, invading their in-group. I am neither gay nor Christian, and I consider this particular brand of Baptist beneath contempt.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  6. Mark

    Fundalmentalists is a mental disorder.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  7. disanitnodicos

    I'm a 50-year-old man, and I would like to take a group of 10-year-old girls into the woods for the weekend. Problem?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • The real Tom

      Only if you're a fvcking pedophile. Are you?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Evervigilant

      Tom who knows if he is or not. We do know for a fact he prefers women. Do you want to risk the rest? Why not just say no and let a Woman take them instead, that was his point.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • The real Tom

      No, that wasn't his "point." His "point" was to imply that an adult male chaperoning girls is going to abuse them, and therefore, an adult GAY male chaperoning boys is going to abuse them. He's an idiot.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  8. donbts

    It says "judge not, lest ye be judged", but that doesn't stop the churches from doing it either. I left the Baptist church – I was tired of watching them molest kids and brainwash everyone.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  9. njnagler

    I believe Mark Twain said that Christianity is a great idea. Someone should put it into practice some time." Or something to that effect.
    Good thing the Baptists are not THE religion, the TRUE way, but one of many ways.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  10. Grumpster

    Don't let the door hit your a$s on the way out. Now I may just start donating to them since they are starting (STARTING) to make some sense. I"d otherwise never give them a penny.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Jeff

      And I will stop donating money, see how that works?

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

    My common sense statement with details is being blocked (so far) here.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • mama k

      There is a word filter. Certain words must be separated with another character or html. The likely offenders are:
      hom-ose-xuality and const-itution, but there are others.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • mama k

      (So any occurrence of ho-mo or se-x or ti-t needs a break between the word.)

      June 2, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  12. SM

    I guess there is nothing more terrifying to some "good Christian people" than the sight of a little gay boy. GET A LIFE PEOPLE.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  13. SD

    I am glad to see the anti-gay forces leave. With their departure, the scouts will grow into a more tolerant organization
    Their next challenge will be how to deal with gays in the new organizations formed by the Baptists. Send them back to the scouts, maybe?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  14. God

    Dear Christians:

    In the time it takes to become a sad, pitiful bigot, you could actually be doing something kind and productive for your community. The way you live speaks much more loudly than the hateful circular flim-flam you try to justify spewing by blaming the Bible for your ignorance. Beware your day of judgement as you cast your judgements on others.

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

      They've had 2000 years to practice their craft. Hard to budge that good-old stone-age thinking.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  15. RillyKewl

    But white-hooded cross-burners are always welcome!
    cue: Dueling Banjoes

    June 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  16. Rich

    Almost 5,000 comments so I don't expect anyone to see this. But, this entire debate is ridiculous. Scouting starts at 6. How many boys know they are gay at 6. Yes, when they look back, they will say they always knew. But at 6, you don't know much. By 11, when they bridge to Boy Scouts, they will know more, but still won't be sure. Maybe by 13 or 14 they will know. So how many 14 year olds who are gay, know they are gay, want to be Scouts, are in a bigoted troop, etc. Scouts teaches so much, scouting is about the boys. Lets just move on. I am sure other organizations will sponsor the troops that loose their charter at a few close minded churches.

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

      Rich – Your comment is not completely lost. I agree.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  17. Expat daily life in Taiwan

    To all intellectual, well educated, logic thinking religious idiots (oxymoron) ... I, God ... do not exist! FYI, the 'bible', my book, was written by a bunch of egocentric nut jobs trying to convince most of you that I, God, exist, that you have to fear me ... whatever they tell you ... don't believe ... I'm not real.

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


      June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • observer1776

      Is this supposed to be an intelligent, thoughtful secular reply?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  18. Scott

    These are religious people?
    They need to look in the mirror

    June 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  19. David

    And yet they still wonder about my Exodus from them, lol. Because of discrimination like this, no matter whose head you THINK it comes out of. I am not Gay, I have a wife, I have no gay kids. However, if GOD has a problem with it, tell him to get his scardy cat a$$ down here and say something about it. YOU ARE NOT GOD.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  20. Steve

    Since they believe this then they should cut ties with all their members also. They are sinners. So many good things taught in church but so little followed by the teacher.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:34 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.