Trail Life USA Evolves as Boy Scouts of America Alternative
CAL Executive Director says Churches have options to the BSA and should be exploring them
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
September 11, 2013
Less than four months after the Boy Scouts of America announced it would extend membership to openly homosexual boys, a nationwide exodus of Christians and other conservatives from the program is picking up momentum, especially with the emergence of Trail Life USA, celebrated with an inaugural convention in Nashville earlier in September.
Developed as a Christ-centered alternative to the BSA, Trail Life will be an outdoor scouting-type program focusing on adventure, character and leadership and welcoming all boys ages 5 to 17, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status. However, according to a Trail Life press release, it will require adult leaders to sign a statement of faith and submit to background checks.
The organization, featuring a number of former BSA executives who left their jobs when the membership change was announced, has already heard from some 30,000 former scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts, parents and church leaders, many of whom may be starting new Trail Life USA troops later this month in preparation for the official Jan. 1, 2014 launch.
“Our vision will be to become the premier national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens,” said John Stemberger, Chairman of the Board for Trail Life USA and the founder of the OnMyHonor.Net movement, which helped spawn the organization.
President of the Florida Family Policy Council, an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster, Stemberger launched OnMyHonor.net in late March to rally for the BSA to keep its “morally straight” pledge in force rather than becoming a vehicle of the homosexual agenda. Families led demonstrations in 40 cities on May 17 begging Scout officials not to change the policy. Nearly a week later when the vote to capitulate to gay forces was announced in Grapevine, Texas, OnMyHonor.net became the grassroots vehicle to create an alternative program, beginning with a founding coalition meeting in Louisville, Ky., on June 29, where some 50 denominational leaders, heads of family values organizations, former BSA executives and others begin to lay the groundwork for what would become Trail Life USA. By July 9, the Florida Family Policy Council had announced that the organization was well on its way, and Trail Life USA was unveiled Sept. 6 at the Nashville convention with the theme “Honoring the Legacy… Raising the Standard.”
While Trail Life was being developed, hundreds, if not thousands, of churches across the nation, including many in North Carolina, were assessing their relationship with Boy Scouts of America and determining if and how ties should be severed.
“…The Boy Scouts’ decision created a dilemma and required a thoughtful and patient response of our church leaders, scout leaders, and scout families,” said Dr. Rob Peters, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist in Winston Salem, where Scout troops have been sponsored for some 60 years. “After a season of prayer, conversation, and deliberation the church has decided Calvary Baptist Church will end its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America as of December 31, 2013.”
He said Calvary would assist families who want to stay with BSA to find another pack or troop and that that the church would help those in the Eagle Scout process to achieve their award this calendar year, before the BSA membership change takes effect. Similar announcements have come from churches across the state, while others have said they will try to continue with BSA “business as usual,” unless or until the new policy becomes an issue.
Just recently Bethany Baptist Church in Kenly announced it is considering ending its relationship with BSA, and a pair of longtime leaders of a different troop in that city have stepped down because of the national policy change.
“This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” Stevie Waddell told the Kenly News of his departure from Troop 29. “But, I can’t put on a uniform that doesn’t represent my values anymore.”
Daniel Arant, pastor of Bethany Baptist, laid out the perspective of many pastors and church leaders.
“Everybody has said we’re leaving the Boy Scouts but we don’t see it that way,” he told the Kenly News. “We feel the Boy Scouts are abandoning us.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, agreed and said that churches and other faith-based Scout Troop sponsors have options and should be exploring them prior to Jan. 1, 2014, when the BSA policy change takes effect.
“This is both a moral and a legal issue that ultimately cannot be avoided. Churches that believe the national BSA decision won’t affect their local troop or congregation should think again,” Dr. Creech said. “The BSA has put itself and the religious groups connected to it in a risky legal position if they reject homosexuality and require members to adhere to biblical principles of sexual morality. The organization has betrayed its core value of being morally straight. I recognize that there is a significant history with our churches and the BSA. Churches have always had a great affection for the organization. But we must face the reality that the Boy Scouts of today is not the Scouts of yesterday. It’s been grafted into the mighty tree of gay activism and its homo-evangelists who want the subsequent generations of our children to believe that same-sex relationships are perfectly normal.”
After a thorough analysis of the legal landscape, Alliance Defending Freedom warned churches that “separation from BSA may not be easy, but it may be necessary for churches who want to best protect their right to freely preach the Gospel, to be a witness to our nation’s youth, and to avoid undermining their ability to make decisions based on their religious convictions in other, critical contexts.”
Rob Green, a former Boy Scout executive who is now Executive National Director for Trail Life USA, said the new program is founded on principles and values that reflect a Christian world view and that there will be similarities to Boy Scouts, but also some distinct differences.
In focusing on sexual purity, its membership policy will read, in part, “the proper context for sexual relations is only between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage,” Green told the media.
Stemberger said sex and politics don’t belong in programs for kids, clarifying that a young man experiencing same-sex attraction or gender confusion would not be turned away from Trail Life, but that youth who are open or avowed about their homosexuality would not be admitted, nor would anyone who is not “biologically male” or wishes to dress and act like a girl.
“The society we are living in today is just in moral free fall. Things that were unthinkable generations ago are now not only thinkable, but they are being promoted as virtues. And so we are seeing this kind of downward spiral and moral confusion all throughout our society,” Stemberger said.
“Our prayer would be that this new boys’ organization would really raise up a generation of men who are faithful fathers, husbands, citizens and leaders that could help literally turn our country around.”
Trail Life USA offers resources to anyone hoping to charter a troop in time for its New Year’s kick-off and has assured active Boy Scouts that their prior BSA rank advancements will transfer to the new program.
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