HOUSTON – The nation's largest Protestant denomination stopped short of calling for its member churches to boycott the Boy Scouts, but voiced strong opposition to acceptance of gay scouts - with a top church leader predicting at the annual gathering of Southern Baptists that a "mass exodus" of youths from the program that has been a rite of passage for more than a century.
The move by the Southern Baptist Convention came at its annual, four-day meeting in Houston, and three weeks after the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay youth to join. With more than two-thirds of Boy Scout troops sponsored by religious organizations, and Baptists being the nation's largest protestant denomination, the resolution could have a crippling effect on the Boy Scouts.
"There will be a mass exodus over time," said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “Churches are finally going to have to come to realize – there is a point when you say, ‘sorry, no more.’"
The resolution did not call on churches to stop sponsoring troops, but urged ones that do to push to have the decision to admit gay scouts reversed. It seemed to be largely aimed at what church leaders believe is the inevitable inclusion of gay scout leaders.
“We express our well-founded concern that the current executive leadership of the BSA, along with certain board members, may utilize this membership policy change as merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual leaders in the Scouts,” the resolution said.
The Southern Baptist Convention claims to represent more than forty-five thousand churches and church-type missions as well as nearly 16 million members.
“Over time we will see a dramatic drop in overall scouting numbers," added Page.
The church already sponsors what some believe could emerge as an alternative to the Boy Scouts, in the Royal Ambassadors.
The resolution also called on the Boy Scouts to remove executive and board leaders who worked to allow gays as both members and leaders without input from religious groups that sponsor Scout troops. Mormons, Methodists and Catholics have all urged their churches to continue to sponsor Boy Scout troops in the wake of the policy change.
Fox News' Todd Starnes contributed to this report