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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
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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. EdR

    So let me see if I understand this. They don't hate gays.. they just don't want gays going to their church because they are "sinners". So the only logical conclusion is that all other members of the church don't sin. Therefore they don't need to be saved from sin. So.. why have the church at all? I'd say it "mission accomplished" So why not make the world a better place and close it down.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • David Levin

      Outstanding logic EdR! Thanks.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Edweird69

      EdR – fantastic post! We will accept acceptable sinners, not just sinners.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Larry Moniz

      Interesting logic. The answer to your hypothetical question is: Religion is FAR too profitable. Oh, and let's not forget the sinners who aren't scouts. Let's see, Pastors Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Rick Warren have all been caught facing their personal or family demons.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  2. Thaddeus McCheese

    The religious right is becoming politically marginalized and is now withdrawing from society. They are well on their way to becoming the Christian Taliban. Their first order of business is to create a new exclusionary scouting group, which they could descriptively call The Hate Monkey Crusaders of America, to serve as their version of a madrasa. Sooner or later, they are going to start blowing people up in the name of Jesus.

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

      You are in denial. While, I enjoy salty Christians that remind the rest of us of sins that will keep us out of Heaven residing with Jesus.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Kenoscope

      Sadly the Souther Baptists have had The Royal Ambassadors since at least the '60s. Doesn't seem to have done very well as they limit their members to 'God fearing true believers of THIS church.'

      Been in it, it was nothing more than Sunday school over and over, oh and pledging allegiance to their church. Say what?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  3. disanitnodicos

    Any fudge packers in here?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • .

      "Any fudge packers in here?"

      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 10:01 am |
    • disanitnodicos

      I know, I'm a little upset cuz my sister denied me agin last night.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Edweird69

      I packed some fudge last night. Sent the package to my bf overseas who's fighting for your freedom.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  4. Jesus Freak!

    Our Church votes tomorrow night on whether we are laving too. I'd make it a 90% likelihood that we will not be staying with the BSA. So sad. So sad.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Robert Dora

      I think it is best for you to leave. The boy scouts should not harbor prejudice. The Baptist Church has always been comfortable with prejudice.

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

      Robert Dora, call the Baptists what they are. Salty Christians. Thank you Jesus.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • The real Tom

      I'll call you what you are, HS. An old, decrepit, dying, irrelevant twit.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  5. tony

    Thinking people have problems with unhealthy religious beliefs.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  6. terri

    Hurray to the Baptists for standing up for God's truth!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • .

      "Baptists for standing up for God's truth!"

      James

      The scriptures actually say nothing about homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. Our understandings of sexual orientation are distinctly modern ones that were not present in the minds of Scripture writers. A few passages of Scripture (seven at the most) object to certain types of same-sex expressions or acts. The particular acts in question, however, are sexual expressions which are exploitative, oppressive, commercialized, or offensive to ancient purity rituals. There is no Scriptural guidance for same-sex relationships which are loving and mutually respecting. Guidelines for these relationships should come from the same general Scriptural norms that apply to heterosexual relationships.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Jeebusss

      Woooo! Yay for ancient hokey supers†itious religions!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • mike

      Hooray for the Baptists for speeding up their own irrelevancy! Buh bye, nutjobs! LOL.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • mb2010a

      Which god are you talking about??? Whose god??

      June 2, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      If it is "god's truth" why is it so easliy corrupted by mere mortal men? (If you say satan, remember that your god created satan, knowing full well the consequences, so your god is OK with anything this satan character does.)

      The answer is simple. Men created your god and bible from their own imaginations in response to their own ignorance. The same way that men have created the thousands of other gods out there.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  7. Beards & Bellies

    The Bible also condemns diet and sloth. Never heard any objections about the scouts letting in fat kids that ate shrimp. But all sins are equal in the eyes of God, right?

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

      You need to study the Bible a lot more so you can contribute a better educated opinion....

      June 2, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • mike

      Teri, he's actually right. Just because fundies are willingly ignorant of their own faith is no excuse.

      June 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  8. AlfieJN2002@yahoo.com

    Goddbye and good riddance Baptists. The Boy Scouts of America will be MUCH better off without you. Hate is NOT a "Family Value".

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  9. Zon

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

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  10. eclecitic

    Why not let the gay boys join the girls scouts? That would be more appropriate.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  11. mama k

    Post Austin says "God is being circu.mvented, and this agenda is being pushed. " He is way out of touch with what we know from science. 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 9:58 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 9:59 am |
  12. mike

    Good riddance. The more these vile bigots marginalize themselves from mainstream society, the better. Don't let the door hit you in the rear, fellas.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  13. NorthVanCan

    "God clearly says " or was it some guy's 2000 years ago that said god said something from a bush?
    I don't know. It all sounds wack to me.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  14. afnmvet

    Allow me to be the first to nominate Pastor Tim Reed for the National Neanderthal of the Year award.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  15. disanitnodicos

    TV and movies used to be entertaining, but now they are just political propaganda for gays and race-mixing. This is what TV was like in Soviet Russia, all party propaganda all the time. It's interesting that political correctness was actually invented by the communists.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • mike

      Yeah, the Communist Soviets sure were known for preaching tolerance, right?! IDIOT

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

      Man, I don't even know where to begin with you, except that I suspect it's the 8th Circle of hell, 6th Bolgia for you: the place of the hypocrites.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  16. TallinOK

    The Scouts are better off without them. What is shameful is that the Boy Scouts took this long for inclusion.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  17. Doctorstrangeluv

    Too bad it is not a real "Exodus", It would be nice if Baptists disappeared into the desert for 40 years

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • TallinOK

      Or off the face of the earth ...

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

      Good one

      June 2, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  18. jackinbox

    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Someone has to make a stand,
    Tis just not fine.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • mb2010a

      Don't quit your day job flipping burgers...

      June 2, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  19. Larry Moniz

    The headline appears misleading. Doesn't the writer know there are two major denominations of Baptist, American and Southern? "“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16. “It’s a moral stance..." Oh no, it's not hate, just bigotry to refuse to allow youngsters to experience today's multicultural world.
    As to forming it's own "scoutlike" group, be advised Walt Disney and his buddies, Huey Dewey and Louis already have claim to the Loyal Order of Chipmunks.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  20. Nattyone

    Me, I'd quit the Church for such an unprincipled stand against rights, justice, fairness and decency...Shame on the Baptists.No wonder people are turning away from Religion, with such short-sighted policies as this being espoused...

    June 2, 2013 at 9:56 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.