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: 431

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

Comment by Cara Coleen on June 2, 2013 at 11:53am

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!! ;)

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on June 2, 2013 at 1:39pm

The leadership of Boy Scouts of America voted 61% in favor of allowing gay members. The ban on gay scout leaders still stands. Once a gay scout turns 18, he is shown the door. The ban on atheists, by the way, remains in place.

What a gutless half-measure on the part of Boy Scouts. If you're going to do it, have some guts and do it all the way, withstanding that 70% of the funding for Boy Scout troops in the United States comes from churches.

As I said the day of the vote: may these churches yank every penny of funding and may the cowardly BSA shut down. Let the BSA acknowledge equality for all in every way-- in membership and leadership-- or may their whole organization land in the garbage bin of history.

There are alternatives to Boy Scouts of America, such as the Navigators, where everyone-- gay, straight, male, female, atheist, and theist-- is welcome.

Comment by H3xx on June 2, 2013 at 6:46pm

I say good riddance. I used to ignore the boyscouts at the grocery store because of their ban against my people. Now, I'll gladly buy whatever it is their selling, provided it isn't too devastating to my diet. lol

Comment by Ed on June 2, 2013 at 9:51pm

Gee lil' Johnny, do you want to go camping, fishing, & hiking or sit around and memorize bible verses?

Organizations that fail to conform to the changing cultural values of a society will be expected to wither and die away. It's called progress.

Comment by H3xx on June 3, 2013 at 8:40am

@Holo Gram

We don't want to promote homosexuality to children, we simply want Homosexual parents to be able to bond with their children in every way that straight parents do. The ridiculous ban on homosexuals from the scouts only serves to draw unneeded barriers between good upstanding members of the community. Also, there is such a thing as gay children. some of them discover that about themselves early. It's not something they choose, it's just who they are. It makes no sense to single them out and turn them away from society for simply being honest with themselves.

Comment by Unseen on June 3, 2013 at 9:55am

@Holo Gram  How does simply allowing gay citizens to participate in scouting activities amount to "promoting" LGBT issues?

Comment by Strega on June 3, 2013 at 11:05am

I wonder what the impact of "promoting" LGBT issues is likely to be.  Is there a concern that children born heterosexual might be led astray and become homosexual?  Doesn't that sound a bit ridiculous to you?  You could promote any sexual orientation you felt like, and it isn't going to change peoples inherent sexual orientation.  This business of "promoting" seems utterly ridiculous.  All the LGBT community is requesting, is that they are not treated as flawed, or in some way inferior because of their sexual orientation.

Comment by Emperor Milos on June 3, 2013 at 11:16am

I still don't understand what people mean by LGBT issues, or women's issues or any shit like that. Last I checked those are human issues, and all they seem to want is to be treated like everyone else.

Things will still be exactly the same, just with LGBT people being members.

Comment by Strega on June 3, 2013 at 12:32pm

Holo, smoking is a choice!  Are you saying that sexual orientation is a choice too?  That would be insane.  Your point appears to indicate that if youngsters are around other youngsters who are gay, they may be "tempted".   When did you consciously decide to be straight?  Do you really think your sexual orientation would have been different if you had been in communities supportive of gays?

Comment by James Cox on June 3, 2013 at 2:13pm

Is being a Baptist, 'a choice'?

I know that, for me, being atheist was a choice. Leaving the church was a choice. Starting out catholic was 'demanded of me because of family expectations and sunday school attendance'.

Happily the early experience did not take. They did a very good job of causing me to 'start asking questions'. At some point, I sort of 'wandered out of the fold', and did not find any wolves with big teeth, just more people with different questions, and a few possible answers.

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