A few months ago, the Boy Scouts of America took a vote that caused a split within its ranks. I viewed that with sadness, as I have been a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and a District Executive. Out of that split, there was a push to found new organizations that could provide a way for boys to continue to enjoy camping, merit badges, etc., but in a context which congenial to traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs. The biggest organization to come out of that is called Trail Life USA. Their statement of belief states:
Statement of Faith
We believe there is One Triune God – God the Father; Jesus Christ, His one and only Son; and the Holy Spirit – Creator of the universe and eternally existent. We believe the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. We believe each person is created in His image for the purpose of communing with and worshiping God. We believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who enables us to live godly lives. We believe each of us is called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We believe God calls us to lives of purity, service, stewardship and integrity.
Statement of Values
Purity // God calls us to lives of holiness, being pure of heart, mind, word and deed. We are to reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman.
Service // God calls us to become responsible members of our community and the world through selfless acts that contribute to the welfare of others.
Stewardship // God calls us to use our God-given time, talents, and money wisely.
Integrity // God calls us to live moral lives that demonstrate an inward motivation to do what is biblically right regardless of the cost.
On January 2nd a news release was issued by Trail Life which said in part:
Adults members of TLUSA are required to sign a Christian statement of faith and values, undergo Child and Youth Safety Protection Training, submit to background checks, and provide letters of recommendation from pastors that know the applicants.
However, the program will have an inclusion policy for youth members and will welcome families with boys from all faiths (or no faith) to participate in this unapologetically Christian outdoor adventure program.
I like this approach which differentiates between what is required of an adult and what is required of a minor. After all, one cannot influence the lives of children if one insists that the child must already be a perfectly behaved Christian before one allows the child to join the organization. I first came back to the Lord because I was allowed to attend a Bible Study before I had stopped using drugs and before I even had any type of reasonable relationship with the Lord. The now archpriest who led that Bible Study had an open enough attitude to realize that you cannot convert by insisting on correct behavior first. Like Our Lord Jesus Christ, first you welcome the woman caught in adultery and only afterward do you tell her to go and sin no more. That was his approach. Eventually, he and his wife became my sponsors for ordination to the priesthood.
I hope that this will be the approach of Trail Life USA. I did read a bit in their forums, and there are at least some who are trying to push the organization into a a purely Evangelical/Fundamentalist mold. I hope the organization will resist those adults. They will not get Orthodox or Catholic or Lutheran or Anglican, etc., members if that wing of Christianity wins out. But, I have high hopes that if push comes to shove that the organization will stick with its broader definition of what it means to be a Christian. In the meantime, if you are the parent of a young boy, you may wish to check them out.