The United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America re-established a formal relationship on Oct. 5 2015 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding local UCC congregations chartering Scout troops.
Signed by Michael B. Surbaugh, BSA chief scout executive, and the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, the document affirms the recently-adopted BSA resolution that removed the restriction on gay adult leaders and employees, and formally states that UCC congregations chartering BSA units can conduct scouting programs according to their own values of inclusion and extravagant welcome for all.
“As a former Boy Scout growing up, and one committed to the open and affirming ministry of the United Church of Christ, it brought me a great deal of pride and satisfaction to be able to sign my name to that memorandum of understanding,” said Dorhauer. “I am grateful to Mike Schuenemeyer for the hard work that he did over the last few years to bring this historic document to us, to help the Boy Scouts understand how important this is.”
The memorandum follows several months of renewed efforts by a UCC working group, headed by Schuenemeyer –– UCC executive for health and wholeness advocacy –– and the Boy Scouts of America to re-establish a partnership. The negotiations began in earnest following the July 2015 BSA policy change.
In the July policy change, Robert M. Gates, national president of the BSA, said, “Everyone associated with scouting agrees to follow national policies and comply with BSA’s behavioral standards; no youth may be denied membership to our organization on the basis of sexual orientation; and no council can deny a charter to a unit that is following the beliefs of its religious chartering organization.”
The UCC had pulled back from any formal ties and had withdrawn its letter of endorsement in 2001 because of BSA policies of excluding boys and men based on sexual orientation. The BSA changed its policy regarding youth in 2013.
“This is significant moment in the relationship between the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA),” said Schuenemeyer. “With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, we are entering a new time of mutual cooperation and collaboration as a direct result of the policy changes the BSA has initiated, opening their doors to full, inclusive participation of youth and adults no matter their sexual orientation.”
The MOU states, in part, that “the United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America 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 nurture and outreach of the ministry of the United Church of Christ and its member congregations so that boys, young adults, and adults may grow in their relationships with God, develop into responsible citizens, serve the needs of others, and develop personal fitness to achieve their greatest potential.”
“Since its founding more than 100 years ago, scouting has been important to many congregations in United Church of Christ. Today UCC congregations sponsor more than 1,000 units of scouting with nearly 28,000 participants,” Schuenemeyer said. “Our commitments to justice and the inclusion of all people in the life of the church continue to call us to engage in actions that promote a just and peaceful world that affirms the gifts and ministry of each individual. That is why we welcome this opportunity to engage with colleagues in Scouting, the UCC and other faith traditions to foster inclusive Scouting programs.”
Written by Barb Powell
Read the text of the Memorandum of Understanding.