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. david0296

    They can take their religion and stick it...
    If demonizing gay people is what their religion is all about, they should be ostracized by society. Yeah, I know it makes you feel superior when you can demonize other people. But that's not the message of religion. These hate-mongers might want to look up the word "tolerance". Because they definitely don't know what it means.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  2. Reality

    Please read the referenced article before commenting:

    From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"


    June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • nadinesh

      Gosh that's a dilemma, isn't it? Talk about Satan quoting Scripture!! 🙂

      June 2, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  3. jeff

    evidently the phedophiles they were hiding was ok...... so they draw the line at some gay kids... oh so christian...

    June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Tracy

      umm...that was the Catholics rummy!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  4. Tracy

    Im sure the Catholic priests will let the scouts in.....

    June 2, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Ignorant. Educate yourself. Pedophilia and gay are two vastly different things...http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

      Now I understand the facts in that article may not matter to you but they are what matter, not your bigoted opinion.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • billfitt

      Your lies are pointless, because no one but the most radical and bigoted gays such as yourself will believe them. You gayatheists are meaningless and totally worthless to anyone. With the possible exception of the recipient of your next B J of course.

      June 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  5. zrlw26

    Glad I left this church years ago, sorry that others still follow these mad men, and yes mad men woman can't be preachers and lots of other crazy hate filled ideas they have.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  6. Mark

    The real question now is what are the scouts going to do about locker rooms, restrooms, sharing a tent, etc... ? Personally I think we should move from gender based restrooms. Separate but Equal? Yea, I've heard that before. We should stop the discrimination and only have common restrooms and locker rooms that everyone can enjoy.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  7. SV

    A man died and went to Heaven. St. Peter was giving him a tour. They approached a large room where everyone was singing, "Over in this section are all the Lutherans". Another room was lavishly decorated "Here's where the Catholics gather". As they approached a third room, St. Peter said "You must be very quiet here.". Why, asked the man. "Because these are the Baptists. They think they're the only ones here."

    June 2, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Lavi

      Love it..... lol

      June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • RZ

      True enough

      June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  8. Lavi

    Southern Baptist Convention leads this country in hate yet again. Big surprise. Lets look at their history..... Or lets not actually. Its pretty ugly.

    I dated a girl for 2 years when I was younger who attended a Southern Baptist Church.... Once a month, they donated food to a homeless shelter and needed 12 volunteers to serve the food..... A church with 5000 members never could get the 12 people together without 5 of us non-members helping every month. I also recall a homeless man who was always near the church. Members sneered and looked down at him. My girlfriend asked the pastor "Why don't we invite him inside to worship with us? Don't we have some food for him?" The pastor did agree to the food but had no real answer why they could nit let this guy in to pray.....

    It was an eye opening experience to see totally un-christlike behavior from a leader of 5000 "Christians"......

    June 2, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Tracy

      this sounds like a load of made up bull....

      June 2, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      oh but Tracy, as much as you may think that, you sounding like a complete bitter bigoted person is much worse. You're not a decent person and I sincerely hope you don't have children. Children need to be raised with an open-mind, not closed like yours is!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  9. Lawless4U

    So the southern baptists didn't think there were any gays in the scouts before?

    June 2, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  10. Tracy

    The fat lady sang!

    June 2, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  11. John F Smith

    It's Alabama, why would we be surprised or care?

    June 2, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Tracy

      Roll Tide!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Huebert


      Don't as.sociate your self with my home.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  12. James Ruston

    Losing the sponsorship of the Baptist church should be seen as a blessing in disguise. It is one less opportunity for that backward church to brainwash kids.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  13. DaveW

    Why are these "religious" organizations so filled with HATE and INTOLERANCE. They only pick and choose the teachings of Jesus that they can twist to match their own prejudices. Shame.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  14. faith

    it is another shocker. nazi god hating fascists find Christians guilty of everything and blah blah blah endlessly about the minutia.

    as prophesied, they run away from even a hint of serious discussion on the person jesus christ and the power of his shed blood.

    how did the hucksters do such a remarkable job selling this snake oil in the first place and y can't those writhing in hatred and bitterness over his influence reduce him to the nothingness they insist he is?

    June 2, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • faith

      Additionally, god hating nazis are now cloning boneless chickens. I just saw two more kfc ads this morning.

      report these criminals to the authorities now.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  15. Marsha Duprey

    I thought. God and Jesus loved everyone. I guess this does not hold true if one is a Baptist. Shame on you for dumping the Scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  16. Tracy

    lol....later scouts! and take your gay friends with you!

    June 2, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Bigotry and lack of education runs deep in your blood. If you don't want your children near gay people then it's best that you move them to a cave and as far away from society as possible, gays are not going anywhere and as much as you may not like it, science has shown that being gay is as natural as being hetero.
      You need an education outside of the church.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  17. BenHarper

    Forget the Boy Scouts. Time to start the God Scouts. No way any gays would get into that group.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  18. ron

    While the Baptists trash BSA, they see this as a grand opportunity to exploit it for the benefit of their own organization, Royal Ambassadors. If they want to spread their kind of narrow-minded intolerance, let them do it in their own organization and leave the Boy Scouts out of it. This is good news for the BSA. They can get on with being Boy Scouts without the bigotry promoted by the Southern Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  19. Gregory

    Be aware of government data mining. Being openly gay on line only serves to identify what you're about. Just think of what Hitler would have done with this information.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Pete

      "Hitler would have done with this information."

      Hitler was a Christian.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  20. James Gods

    Chances of my kids being molested when gays not allowed in BSA: 10%
    Chances of my kids being molested when. gays allowed in BSA: 99%
    So, I've pulled my kids out of BS

    June 2, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Pete

      "Chances of my kids being molested when gays not allowed in BSA: 10%
      Chances of my kids being molested when. gays allowed in BSA: 99%
      So, I've pulled my kids out of BS"

      You're an idiot and don't know much about gays. You might want to look up the definition of a pedophile too.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • muri

      Still beats the odds of any child going into the "church"

      The Vatican has a much more sordid history with kid touching than the boy scouts EVER have. But you know, that reality things is sooooo liberal biased.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • marcusjcarlson

      Chances you just made up those statistics based not at all on research: 177%.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Pete's right, educate yourself before sounding like the bigoted hateful dolt you have portrayed yourself as. There is no direct correlation between gays and pedophiles. Rising your children to hate and be bigoted is far more damaging than allowing them near gays. Hopefully the following article opens your closed-mind a little:

      June 2, 2013 at 11:27 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.