Goodbye BSA, Hello Trail Life!

Yesterday was a momentous day in the life of outdoor adventuring — our BSA troop celebrated it’s last meeting together before disbanding, and we received our “time to charter” notice from Trail Life USA!

So we ate pizza, played RISK, watched slides from our three years of being a faith-based, Christ-focused BSA unit while discussing how we’d each move forward from this point.  One Life scout is going to stick with BSA until he completes Eagle, then may join us (officially) at TLUSA.  For him, he wants to wrap up the award for a certain sense of completeness and to close the loop, emotionally.  Others have elected to forgo the Eagle award as it no longer holds an active interest for them (these boys have been through as many years of WorldView Academy as BSA summer camp and actively question the wisdom of investing time in that pursuit).

Others talked about rejoining friends from our old unit (777) in neighboring Montville, NJ.

You see, back in February of 2013, we were still reeling from the notion that BSA HQ would try to hold a secret meeting to vote on a major membership policy change.  The families felt betrayed — they had placed their trust in the program believing that they were a part of the program and had a voice.  Now they recognized that they might not be heard at all.

I was asked to find alternatives to BSA for those families who objected to the changing policy landscape because it became quite clear that the pressure to change would never cease until the last traces of assumed bigotry fell.  Even the progressive New York Times’ own analysis (Click Here) concludes that

Sadly, though, the change the organization is contemplating falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of antigay bigotry that is called for … Such a partial move should hardly satisfy former donors who have been repelled by the Scouts’ discriminatory ways … Board members should reject the idea of allowing local chapters to continue to exclude gay scouts and troop leaders. Instead, the board should establish a firm anti-discrimination policy and make clear its determination to see that the principle is followed at the local level. If the Boy Scouts of America is serious about repairing its bigoted image and serving all boys and their families, further discrimination cannot be an option.

Indeed, since the vote in May three things have occurred:

  1. We learned that there are many alternatives to BSA that are quite good, strong, interesting replacements for what BSA offers.  There’s no compromise or settling for something less as these other programs rival BSA for tenure, scope, curriculum, activities, advancement, skill building and faith/ideals integration.  We would not have recognized these programs as such robust replacements if we had not be put in the position to go looking – thanks, BSA!
  2. The corporate sponsors (and United Way type agencies) did not restore funding, and in fact, more funding was lost over time due to momentum and the dissatisfaction of sponsors with the outcome of the membership policy changes.  Further the crushing debt burden ($440 million) will only serve to be a millstone around BSA’s neck for the foreseeable future (Click Here)
  3. As a group of families, we began to investigate other issues within BSA that had been at the periphery of our minds.  Issues of non-sectarianism being applied as either agnosticism or inter-faith pluralism (all faiths are equally valid, true paths that lead to the same God/god) and more.

Since it is obvious that the activism, while quiet for the moment, is not gone and will not be satisfied with a half-measure, and that there are numerous alternatives to BSA that offer as good (or better) programming, and there are other faith issues unrelated to the membership policy… was time to move on despite our love of BSA as a branded curriculum.

Individually, fathers brought me concerns to consider from their study of scriptures.  Here are some of their concerns.

  1. Based on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (each man’s work to be tested by fire for reward or removal of the impure/imperfect) it was time to reflect on the value of sticking with BSA (and accepting compromises) or moving to a deterministically Christian program.
  2. Have I compromised my faith by idolizing my involvement in BSA (has my 1.5 hours per week become more of a religion to me than my actual faith practice)? (1 Cor 10) 
  3. Am I happier and more excited to be at scouting events than Bible Study, Church or Sunday School? (Matthew 6:21)
  4. Do I actually testify as to my beliefs while scouting at district/council events, round table, summer camp, camporees, etc. or do I hide my candle under a bushel for fear my scout buddies won’t tolerate my testimony (Acts 17:22-33)
  5. Does the BSA practice of non-sectarianism equate to “all faiths are equally valid paths to God?” and if so, can Christians reconcile that with scriptures (John 14:6, etc.)
  6. Is the issue of same-sex attraction a moral, ethical, spiritual issue or merely one of “distraction” as BSA characterizes it? (Romans 1:18-32,
  7. I sign a contract with BSA each year that affirms my commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle, and that I’ll uphold EACH of their policies regardless of my beliefs.  Does that constitute unequal yoking (2 Cor 6:14-17) or can I just ignore those verses?
  8. Is BSA helping me win my race, or has it become a distraction – am I closer to God because of BSA or in spite of BSA? (1Cor.9:24)
  9. Is the focus of our unit meetings merely on the “highly practical, but temporal, things of earth” or do we genuinely celebrate and understand matters of eternity?(John 12:25; James 4:4; James 4:13-15; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-16; Col. 3:2; Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13; Philippians 3:19-20; Ps 73:1-3 & 17)

So it’s not really about bigotry or fear, but whether we’re going to be hypocrites to our own scriptures and faith.

It’s not about you, them, or someone else, but merely a question of “am I being true to my God — the creator of the universe, the Savior of my soul, the forgiver of my trespasses and the restorer of my heart?” (agere sequitur credere: we act according to what we believe)

So we’ll continue to walk the Trail of Life with another organization, and see how God blesses our families in the coming years for making the commitment to examine our hearts and intentions in the light of scriptures.


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