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. nigella4u

    Good ol' religion, always creating hell on earth with it's sick, close minded and twisted beliefs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

    June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Gary

      Any Church has a right to choose what they support . As soon as they stand for what they believe people call them every name ther is . It's their choice .

      June 2, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  2. JDW

    The Southern Baptists always have to have some group to marginalize. Its almost part of its very foundation. Also, the current "outrage" at the BSA sounds similar to the "outrage" of integration of BSA troops in the 1960s.


    June 2, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  3. Tracy

    Thanks Obama!

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

      Thanks Tracy! ... for being a part of the problem.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  4. morality hawk

    Great to see that there is still people taking a stand against perversion

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


      June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • .

      "Great to see that there is still people taking a stand against perversion"

      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 9:44 am |
    • .

      "a stand against perversion"


      The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Like their heterosexual counterparts, many gay and lesbian people want to form stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Indeed, many of them do and that large proportions are currently involved in such a relationship and that a substantial number of those couples have been together 10 or more years.

      Research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Research examining the quality of intimate relationships also shows that gay and lesbian couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.

      A large number of gay and lesbian couples raise children. Children and teenagers whose parents provide loving guidance in the context of secure home environments are more likely to flourish – and this is just as true for children of same-sex parents as it is for children of opposite-sex parents. Based on research findings, mental health professionals have also reached a consensus that the quality of relationships among significant adults in a child’s or adolescent’s life is associated with adjustment. When relationships between parents are characterized by love, warmth, cooperation, security, and mutual support, children and adolescents are more likely to show positive adjustment. In contrast, when relationships between parents are conflict-ridden and acrimonious, the adjustment of children and adolescents is likely to be less favorable. These correlations are just as true for children of same-sex parents as for children of opposite-sex parents.

      Assertions that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, have no support in the scientific research literature. On the contrary, the scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Jen L

      I know! Who thought the Boy Scouts had it in them?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Pastor Rick

      In all sincerity, morality hawk, explain to us how one child in a family of five will exhibit signs of being "different" from an early age and grow up to finally admit being gay? All the family knew this was probably going to happen and never treated that child any differently from the siblings. We noticed his acting effiminite since about age 5 and we made no issues about it but just loved him as much as the other kids. He is now openly gay and in a happy relationship. Are you going to say we should have intervened and sought counseling for him to contradict an obvious trick of nature!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  5. Austin

    Ho.mose.xuality is a sin, and does not need medical attention. Therefore, it needs to remain spoken of as a sin, nothing more, nothing less.

    no one is a ho.mo-s.ex.ual. h-omo s-exual is an adjective. you are still just a human. I am straight, and i am not a he.teros.exual. I'm a man. Im human.

    If i say, I am a he.tero s.exual, or label myself as such, i move to the sin if idolatry. giving unduly attention to s.ex, is s.exual idolatry. im guilty. s.ex is out of proportion in my life. se.xual immorality is a serious error.

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

      That is according to your hateful religion. According to science everything you said is false.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  6. John

    Awesome that the Baptist aren't allowing themselves to be bullied by the media and the whim of the minority.

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

      Awesome that free thinkers, scientists, atheists, and agnostics no longer feel bullied by the religious right and can openly stand up against them when they attempt to infringe upon their rights.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  7. Dennis

    Ralph Monkman – I would disagree. True Christians do label people as sinners. Ourselves! We all fall short of the Glory of God. What we forget is that we are no better than others but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to be better. The problem is when religion replaces the personal relationship with Christ.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  8. allah

    the man-made bronze age cult is pure evil. Evangelical hubris is a disease that needs to be wiped from the face of the earth.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  9. biobraine

    This is a great thing. The Boy Scouts will be better off without them and any other hateful group that ignores human rights to follow whatever fairy tale they believe in.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  10. N2it

    Amen pastor!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  11. Danram

    Eff the Baptists. Lousy hypocrites.

    The Boy Scouts will find new sponsors for those troops and at the end of the day they'll be better off.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  12. Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

    Why do these so called Preachers of Love and honor of Christ violate their primary instruction from Christ?
    Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

    Why would they ignore their charge to be a positive influence upon youth that are at the age of defining themselves. Must they push them out to the wolves?

    I would say that I'm surprised. But Baptist have been notorious for their sense of supremacy. Their preachers have a history persecuting and maligning others. Even to the point of Tar and Feathering and murder.

    I expect an exodus from the Baptist Church.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Poor Example of Christianity

      To Help, to love, to encourage, to teach, bring the children unto christ (all of them), ye without sin cast the first stone. All of these are meant to help others, None of them Support a (unapproved Lifestyle) so by leaving the boyscouts the baptists will also leave behind the blessing and responsibility of following christs teachings. its a bad choice.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  13. RillyKewl

    Hey, if you southerners all ever do decide to secede, please take this creep + his church with you.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  14. Jim

    What's the difference between the baptist church and the Taliban?
    The Taliban are not a tax exempt organization.

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

      The Tealiban.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  15. Justin

    There will come a time when these bigots will be seen as being tantamount to George Wallace. And that time is coming quickly.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  16. Pete

    At least the Baptist church is holding fast to their beliefs and not caving in to anyone or anything that disagrees. The Baptist church should consider starting their own scout group. I will be the first to sign my children up. Why have rules and standards at all if you change them every time the "social wind" blows?

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

      " Why have rules and standards at all if you change them every time the "social wind" blows?"

      Get an education, this is about civil rights and NOT religion.

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

      "At least the Baptist church is holding fast to their beliefs and not caving in to anyone or anything that disagrees."

      So did Hitler

      June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • biobraine

      The religion you follow was invented in a time where things such as slavery were considered acceptable and moral. It might have made sense to the followers at the time to believe in talking snakes and Noah saving all of the world's creatures on an ark because they knew nothing about genetics or evolution. They might have thought a loving and just god would actually send some of them to suffer for eternity for not believing in the right thing but in today's day and age, it just sounds ignorant and childish. So do the actions of the baptist church.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. Jim

    Why are baptists picking on gay children and not non-baptist children.
    Gays are not telling baptists they picked the wrong god and are going to hell for it, other religions are.

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

      If you have a rational comment or a point to make, we're waiting to hear it. Feel free, whenever you're ready.

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

      Not my fault that you lack the reasoning skills to follow the argument.
      Go back to torturing small animals.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Libsrtyrants

      That's what I expected. Your "charge" isn't even a fully formed thought, and you're too lazy to form it. You're content with just lashing out at anyone who displays any honor. As you were.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  18. maximusvad

    Christianity turning its back on children yet again.

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

      And for GOOD REASON–they have MONEY, scout-masters DO NOT respect Christianity; therefore, they're GONE. Your point?

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

      Gays have turned their backs on our children...oh wait! Gays want our children!

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

      Truly and sincerely, only a mind that has been completely corrupted by the thought virus of liberalism could come up with a perverted statement like that.

      You think good is evil. You think evil is good.
      You hate honor and integrity.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • RillyKewl

      They're always attacking children, one way, or the other.
      Kids are better off without them.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  19. George

    This is great for scouting and society in general. Now there will be fewer religious groups using the boy scouts to try to provide legitimacy to bizarre structures of belief that do much more harm than good.

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

      You are the guy intentionally driving his car full of children over the cliff, as you celebrate the fact that you won't have to deal with those pesky lanes and road signs anymore.

      Self destructive fool, destroying our kids future.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Bob, NY

      If gays can force their way into an exclusive male club, then guys should be allowed into the girls locker room. Why can't they just start their own club where they would be welcome? Nope...today, we must force everyone to OUR standards! If you want to be religious...do so without bothering others – If you want to be gay...do so without bothering others!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • GreenClogs

      Bob, how is their being gay "bothering others?" Do you think they are going to force "gay" activities on people? Come on, that's just knee-jerking anything to do with gays because a small % might be lobbyists or radical. Just like any other group.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  20. Tracy

    So when are the girl scouts going to let boys in?

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

      What are you, about 12?

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

      I don't know....it could be a sad adult who cannot yet write well. 🙁 Poor child/sad adult.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Dustin

      Where that dunce hat proudly, Tracy.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Libsrtyrants


      You got it wrong. You tried to use logic and reason. These liberals hate those things. All they know is hate and their prejudiced imaginations.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • want2believe

      The girl scouts actually let in a young transgender girl a few years back because they were intelligent enough to realize there is no reason to punish children for the way they were born. And guess what, the world didn't end.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • GreenClogs

      Maybe we should have just "Scouts" and not separate boys from girls. That is actually a great idea, Tracy!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:57 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.