aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Scouting Ministry Kerfuffle, Part One

A number of people have asked, in various fora, about the announcement by the General Commission on United Methodist Men that it has dropped its relationship with the National Association of United Methodist Scouters. I’ve been out of office for two years now, so I have no first-hand knowledge of this, but I’ve been around a long time and I know where the bodies are buried (so to speak), or at least some of them. So I thought I would write this blog post for the benefit of those who are wondering what’s going on and who might be inclined to trust my judgment.

Up till now, I haven't said much about what goes on with NAUMS and GCUMM in public. For one thing, I am no longer on the NAUMS Board, and have no brief to issue explanations on their behalf. For another, I haven't wanted to say anything that would make it more difficult for NAUMS to work with GCUMM. At this point, though, I might as well say what I think, so long as nobody thinks I'm speaking in anything other than a personal capacity. Just keep in mind, other people equally-well connected probably see things differently.

Last year, following a tumultuous year on the NAUMS Board, the NAUMS Annual Meeting removed the President of NAUMS and the Board elected a new one. Having stepped down as President myself only the year before, I was deliberately not involved in any of this, although toward the end, I did counsel several Board members that they had to figure out a way to resolve this. Anyway, upon Phil Craig assuming the Presidency, he found himself confronted by Gil Hanke and Larry Coppock at GCUMM with a list of demands.

The list, as I hear tell, was humiliating and demanded changes to NAUMS’s bylaws that couldn’t be delivered without due process. Under duress, Phil signed a letter committing NAUMS to abide by the conditions, but then the Board refused to go along, or something like that. In any case, the demands of GCUMM were so high that I rather suspect they were designed to be impossible to meet. Upon not meeting them, GCUMM then could say that they were willing to work with NAUMS, but NAUMS walked away. I hear tell that NAUMS is contemplating an appeal to the Judicial Council. I have no news on that.

But I can tell you that ambushing new Presidents of NAUMS is SOP down at Nashville. Every time NAUMS elects officers, GCUMM moves the goalposts. I was elected President during the General Secretariat of David Adams, which was a crazy time for all the institutions sheltered under the UMM umbrella, though none of them experienced the hostility being vented toward NAUMS. I went to my first GCUMM meeting – the quadrennial organizing meeting – and was immediately invited for a private chat with David Adams and Larry Coppock (Director of Scouting Ministries), at which I was told that the Commission needed to include more overseas representation, so David wanted to remove the President of NAUMS from the Executive Committee and replace him with Bishop Ntambo Nkulu of North Katanga. Nothing personal.

Now, I knew this was a load of codswallop, but I was new, alone, and friendless, and I had gone into my term of office determined to do what it took to get along with these people. So I watched as David’s chosen stooge made the motion which removed me from the Executive Committee – the first President of NAUMS not to have a seat there. Fast forward to the end of the quadrennium. We had been told that GCUMM was not seeking any changes to the Discipline at General Conference 2012. But there was all that ruckus about merging General Agencies and such, and lots of bureaucrats’ jobs and titles were on the line. After the first plan or so was rejected by GC, a compromise was cobbled together, which passed. Gen. Sec’y Gil Hanke was deeply involved in the process, and staved off any significant change to GCUMM’s piece of the pie by offering some cosmetic changes – the only significant one of which was to remove the President of NAUMS from the membership of the Commission. In my last report to the NACP, I told them as delicately as I could that I had now had the experience of being voted off the island twice in one quadrennium, and that that said more about them that it did about me. They gave me a rousing ovation for my four years’ service, which staggered me; I’d just told them they were foolish and venal and didn’t know beans about Scouting ministry, and they liked it.

But then, there’s a lot of cluelessness, as well as a fair amount of viciousness, down there. And the cluelessness is not confined to Scouting ministry. United Methodist Men is (I am sad to say) the weakest organization in the Connection. While reasonably strong in the South East and South Central Jurisdictions, it is fading even there. Up here in the North Central, it’s barely surviving. And yet, what programs does UMM offer to people interested in Men’s ministry? Very few; in fact, they spend more effort promoting other organizations’ programs (e.g., Man in the Mirror) than in developing their own. The only rationale for chartering an official UMM group is loyalty.

I don’t say that to be nasty. I’ve started some men’s groups in my congregations over the years, and I have loyally asked every time that they charter. None have. They have seen no value in UMM. This is typical here in Indiana, I think. Even though for many years the quadrennial National Gathering of UMM was held at Purdue, Indiana sent only a trickle of men to it. This weakness continues up to District and Conference level as well. When I became Conference Scouting Coordinator – a position I held for ten years -- I automatically became a member of the South Indiana Conference Board of UM Men. After several years in that position, I could only remember one Board meeting. I was in the Conference office and asked the pool secretary who handled Scouting and UMM and several other groups if I were just not on the list to be invited to the meetings. She reached up to a shelf and took down a 3-ring binder that said UMM Minutes on it. She opened it. It was empty. She had no record of them having met at all; certainly she had no minutes. To my best knowledge, they went eight years without an official meeting, though the Conference President’s chair was never unoccupied.

One finds this kind of rot throughout the organization, and they have no plans to fix it. I used to think that while the leadership of UMM might know something about Men’s ministry, they sure didn’t know much about Scouting ministry. After four years on the General Commission, I came to the conclusion that they don’t know much about Men’s ministry, either. All they care about is their “treehouse” – which is how I think of GCUMM. More on the UMM Treehouse in my next post. Stay tuned.

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