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: 440

Tags: Baptist, Belief, Christianity, Church, Evangelical, Faith, Gay, Now, Politics, States, More…United, gender, issues, rights

Comment by kris feenstra on June 3, 2013 at 4:14pm

Is there a known gay gene flag?

The existence of a 'gay gene' doesn't appear to be the prevalent hypothesis at present time. 

How can you say authoritatively that a person is gay or not gay? Could you tell from a lie detector test?

People self-identify at present time. There are complications to this, however. First, sexuality isn't strict binary. Second, there is substantial social pressure on individuals to identify certain ways. The amount of resources dedicated to research on atypical sexual orientation have been fairly small. The soft sciences seem to have taken a bigger stab at the issue than biology has, so we don't have much definitive information on the underlying physiological mechanisms of homosexuality. There was a research team which claimed to have some measures to indicating a higher likelihood of homosexual orientation, but last I read it was not very refined at all.

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.

No. By that implication we cannot assume those acts are unnatural based off the fact that they represent a minority. 

Whether I think homosexuality is natural or unnatural is immaterial; it's what concerned parents think that counts.

They are entitled, as are all parents, to teach their kids what they like. They are not, however, entitled to their own private reality about which the rest of us should give a shit. If these parents can plead a rational case, naturally we should be compelled to listen, but the very fact that they are parents? An overplayed card. The parents of gay children are, obviously, parents too. It's not about parents; it's about doing what makes sense.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on June 3, 2013 at 4:35pm

No. I'm saying that sexual practice, like smoking, is a choice. When children are around adults and peers, they are more likely to copy.

What evidence do you have that children merely in the presence of homosexual adults are more likely to engage in experimental homosexual behavior or become homosexuals themselves?

Parents who fear that their children may be hurt by exposure to and involvement in unnatural acts have every right to be concerned. Whether particular acts are considered unnatural or not may be open to debate, but parents have every right to make those decisions for themselves.

Parental fear is not in doubt, especially as the basis of bigotry (it's certainly not based on reason) and nobody is questioning the rights of parents to not have their kids become scouts (even over bigotry).

Whether or not experimenting with unnatural acts may cause changes in sexual orientation is not the main issue; parent's main concern is the ever present danger of drugs, AIDS, and violence associated with those unnatural acts.

The page you linked to did not list a single example of a girl scout meeting or activity that involved children in "unnatural acts" associated with ever-present drugs, AIDS and violence.

It says Girl Scouts accepts gay and transgendered members, accepts successful role models for girls-- including lesbians and doctors who work at planned parenthood-- and studies issues including sexuality pertaining to girls. It also chides the Girl Scout leadership for things like supporting a lesbian mayor and favoring marriage equality.

These are downsides?

I'd be proud to have my daughter as a member of that splendidly unnatural organization.

Comment by kris feenstra on June 3, 2013 at 4:36pm

According to the Mayo Clinic, yes. Or are these medical doctors just making this stuff up?

There exists a considerable possibility that the discrimination LGBT people face contributes very strongly to many of those issues. Some issues such as increased risk of HIV do have a lot to do with the increased prevalence of anal sex amongst gay men. Lesbians, on the other hand, represent the lowest number of new cases. Globally, women represent higher numbers than men of known cases.

Depression and anxiety, on the other hand, may have an awful lot to do with maltreatment by society. Drug abuse and promiscuity, and drug abuse may also bear some connection. I've heard that public acceptance and the legalization of same-sex marriage have put a damper on the wilder side of gay culture, though I haven't seen any studies conducted on the matter. My line of thinking is taking a group of people, harassing them and impairing their ability to form stable, publicly accepted relationships is going to lead to subverted pleasure-seeking behaviour (also increasing exposure to STIs). It's speculative, and doesn't necessarily account for the entire picture, but I don't think it is so far-fetched.

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

Comment by Chrisn on June 4, 2013 at 6:07pm

This sickens me yet doesn't shock me. Southern baptist are ruthless when it comes homosexuals. I honestly believe their hate stems from a fear of being gay themselves. But that is another topic for another day

Comment by Unseen on June 4, 2013 at 7:16pm

@Chrisn  Perhaps they fear that Jesus was gay.

Comment by Chrisn on June 4, 2013 at 9:51pm

You guys are too funny lol

Comment by Ed on June 5, 2013 at 12:20am

I am not sure how the sexual preferences of a responsible gay/lesbian scout leader would ever be evidenced within the confines of a scouting event. Sexuality is not a BSA course for discussion, although it has been decades since I was a member of that organization. Any scout leader who conducts themselves according to the organization's guidelines will not be in a position to discuss the LGBT side of things. It is a non-issue. Unreasoned fear mongering will make it an issue for some unfortunately.    


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