Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scounts

Posted on CNN May 31, 2013

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(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 longtime 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.”

Daniel Burke - CNN Belief Blog co-editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Evangelical • Faith Now • Gay rights • gender issues • Politics • United States

Views: 482

Comment by Obfuskation on June 3, 2013 at 3:23pm

you describe homosexuality as "unnatural" three times.  And then you link AIDS, drugs and violence to homosexuality.  How very prejudicial.

Prejudicial, and in accordance with the worst homophobic stereotyping.  I don't see how anything that is so common to mammals in general, and humans in particular, can be labeled "unnatural".


Comment by Unseen on June 3, 2013 at 3:24pm

@Holo Gram  You seem to be avoiding it, but implicit in your concern is the notion that people become gay through exposure to gays. What science tells us, though, is that people are born gay, not made. Even if they experiment with gay sex, if they aren't gay, they are not going to "turn" gay. Don't be silly.

Despite one seeming qualification, you clearly regard homosexuality as unnatural, whereas it is simply a sexual minority. Being in a biological minority doesn't make that minority ipso facto "unnatural," unless being left-handed, redheaded, or tending to be skinny or overweight is also unnatural.

Comment by CJoe on June 3, 2013 at 3:25pm

Whether particular acts are considered unnatural or not may be open to debate...

Actually, this shouldn't be a debate at all. Homosexuality is not unnatural. It is common in the animal kingdom, and in humans. What's "unnatural" is the suppression of sexuality in general. This cultural fear of sexual contact or sexual interest is absurd and outmoded. If we were honest with our children, and informed them of how to experiment safely, teen pregnancy AND disease would go down. That's a proven fact. Children are going to experiment with or without their parents' consent... instead of stigmatizing and shaming that NATURAL part of ourselves, we can have a healthy view of something everyone engages in, and participate safely.

Even if homosexuality were unnatural (which it's demonstrably not), Americans engage in very little that is natural. We wear glasses, clothing, and live in climate-controlled environments; we pave roads and highways, eat cooked food, wear man-made materials as clothing, and drink from plastic bottles, and ride bikes, drive cars, and fly in airplanes. I can't actually think of anything that we do, as humans, that is natural. It is a FALLACY to claim that things that are unnatural are inherently bad. If we want to live by what's "natural", we're going to have to alter our lifestyles dramatically. And then... guess what. Most of us would die, because nature is unmerciful... which is why we've spent the last few hundred, or thousand, years trying to manipulate the world to our liking.

We should at least be consistent with the arguments we make. If things that are "unnatural" bad, are we willing to give up 90% of our current lifestyles? Or are we just going to change the definition of what's natural to suit our liking?

The only right that parents have is to shelter their children from exposure to ideas that challenge their prejudices and bigotry... by not sending them into public. The public has a right to demand that public institutions progress past outmoded and prejudicial ideals, and parents are free to refrain from engaging by keeping their mini bigots at home.

Comment by CJoe on June 3, 2013 at 3:29pm

P.S. your parallel to rape doesn't fly; homosexual relations are consensual. rape is not consensual. that's the difference, and it's a huge difference.

Comment by Emperor Milos on June 3, 2013 at 3:47pm

@Holo Gram,

Just come clean and say it.

"I don't approve of what the Boy Scouts are doing with the LGBT because I think that any sexual orientation other than hetero is icky."

That is what your argument has amounted to thus far.

Comment by Obfuskation on June 3, 2013 at 3:47pm

What's "unnatural" is the suppression of sexuality in general. This cultural fear of sexual contact or sexual interest is absurd and outmoded.

This, a thousand times.

Comment by Simon Paynton on June 3, 2013 at 4:08pm

If 10% of the population is born gay, and a good 50% or more is bisexual, I'd call that "natural", if natural means something we are born with and don't choose.  How about ancient Greece and Rome?  Batty fun was the norm in those societies, and celebrated in poetry and on pots etc. 

Comment by Simon Paynton on June 3, 2013 at 4:11pm

"There is a biological minority of people in the world who prefer to have sex with sheep and dogs and horses. So, by this implication, those acts are not unnatural either."  Maybe unnatural in the sense that almost everyone doesn't like it - however, in the age of the internet, it's clear that some people enjoy it enthusiastically, without anyone or anything coming to too much harm. 

Comment by Dave G on June 3, 2013 at 11:26pm
Cara wins one(1) Internet.
Comment by Brendan on June 4, 2013 at 6:14am

Ok so heres the issue your too concerned with who is sleeping with who. Lets just take a step back and look at the real problems the world has. Gay, lesbian, bi, straight who really gives a flying F. If you see a person and the first thing you base them on is an insignificant detail that's being a complete dick, a persons merit is what counts who gives a rats about who sleeps with who. This stuff about some church hmmm Baptist? Westborro Baptist comes to mind you really think anyone should take these nutjobs seriously? Off course not but hey it comes down to god hates fags but loves divorce, gluttony, greed, anger, murder, pride, infanticide umm i know theres more he loves but too many too list. For a group that states they must not judge others they sure know how to judge.
Peace be the journey


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