The news last week that the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Boy Scouts of America had signed a
Memorandum of Understanding
, renewing a relationship that had been
strained and broken by conflict 18 years ago
concerning differences between the two organizations regarding gay and atheist scouts, comes at a time when we as a congregation have been asked by Worcester-area BSA Troop 54 if we would consider chartering that Troop again. The relationship between Troop 54 and UUCW is a lengthy one, spanning 87 years initially, the longest tenure of a chartered troop in one location in our area. We too parted ways over the conflict between our national organizations. (Click
for a timeline of the relationship between UUCW & Troop 54)
The process by which this congregation came to the decision then to discontinue the charter of the Troop took a year and a half. Many hail the process as one which demonstrated our health as a community, that could engage in a thoughtful process of deliberation, hear differences of opinion and utilize our democratic process to make a difficult decision, holding all of those involved in the process with care. And that process wasn't without its casualties. The most prominent perhaps was the loss in membership of Herb Adams, who was
the long-standing liaison between Troop 54 and the congregation, in addition to being one of the most celebrated veterans in the area. Herb and his wife both died within months of each other last year, but not before being told that there was an effort underway to repair the relationship between the Troop and UUCW. Reports say a huge smile came across his face at the time.
||Herb Adams and Joshua Froimson, Scoutmaster Troop 54
That smile is indicative of a hope, now solidified in a renewed relationship between to national organizations, and the hope embodied by those who now seek reconciliation between Troop 54 and our congregation. Much has changed since the decision to discontinue that charter 15 years ago. The Boy Scouts of America have agreed to not discriminate against gay scouts and have discontinued a national policy of discrimination against gay scout leaders, leaving it an open question for local Troops and their chartering organizations as to whether to accept such leadership locally. The new Memorandum of Understanding between the BSA and UUA states in part, ""...the UUA and the BSA will work cooperatively with each other within the policies and regulations of each organization to establish and nurture Scouting units as an expression of the pastoral care and outreach of the youth ministry of the UUA and its member congregations so that boys, young men, and adults may nurture their religious life in a supportive and welcoming Unitarian Universalist community." Initial conversations between our local Troop leadership and members of the Board of Management suggests that this is exactly the tenor of the relationship they wish to establish with us.
Members of the Board and I have been assured that the local Troop will not discriminate based on the sexual orientation of scouts, their families or leadership. Additionally when discussing the question of the use of the word "god" in the scout oath, literature and traditions, we have been assured by the Troop that there is a tradition of broad recognition of what that term can signify.
Because the congregation was so careful in its deliberation of the question of discontinuing the charter, the Board and I feel it is imperative that the congregation also be the body that decides whether to renew a charter with the Troop. To begin this process, members of the Board of Management will be on hand following the Sunday morning service on April 10 to discuss this issue with all those with questions, concerns, or comments related to this request for renewed relationship. An additional meeting to discuss the issue with leaders from the local Troop will also be scheduled, with the hope that the congregation would take up the issue of whether to charter the Troop at its Annual Meeting on June 5, 2016.
I hope that all of those interested in this issue will take a moment to consider this request for renewed relationship and express their responses to the Board, myself, and the congregation as opportunities are made available.