aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Scouting Ministry Kerfuffle, Part Two

In my last post, I referred to the General Commission on UM Men as the UMM Treehouse. I need to explain that. Along the way, let me also give you some history on the relationship between NAUMS and UMM.

UMM was originally a Section in the General Board of Discipleship. After much squabbling, they became a Division. But the UMM guys were never happy in GBOD. They fought a lot with the General Secretary. For one thing, UMM had this habit of spawning independent organizations in control of their own money. The National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men, for example. And the UM Men Foundation. And NAUMS. The General Secretary didn’t like this. The Men dreamed of having their own Agency. It would be independent. It would be theirs: their treehouse, where no one could tell them what to do.

In the meantime, they got involved in Scouting ministry when whatever Division was nominally in charge of maintaining the charter partner relationship with BSA dropped the portfolio. BSA was alarmed; they no longer had a partner in the UM bureaucracy. The Men offered to pick up the portfolio – to their very great credit. I mean it. Whatever you may see me write about UM Men, believe this: they deserve every Scouter’s thanks for picking up the charter relationship with BSA and trying to build on it. In fact, they decided that they would expand it. They would not only relate to BSA, but to the Girl Scouts, too. And 4-H. And Campfire. They would set out to do ministry with and through them all. And they would raise the money to endow a position so that never again would The UMC not have someone in charge of Scouting ministry.

To help raise the money and to guide the program in the meantime, they created NAUMS c. 1982. NAUMS is an independent non-profit corporation chartered in the State of Tennessee. The NAUMS Board acted as an advisory board for Scouting ministry. The officers led the program. NAUMS members staffed Jamborees, taught training courses at Philmont and at GBOD, and developed a new approach to doing ministry through a group of programs with similar but often proprietary terminologies. BSA loaned us an executive who acted as our first National Director while we raised the money for the Scouting endowment. UM Men’s groups did bowlathons and other fund-raisers to reach the goal of a paid Director of Scouting Ministries. NAUMS sold Life Memberships the way UM Men sell John Wesley Fellowships, and Life dues went directly to the Scouting endowment.

In 1992, GBOD hired the Rev. Byron White as our first paid Director of Scouting Ministries. Byron took the NAUMS Board as his basic working group and lots of good stuff was done. The UMC passed the LDS Church to become the Number One charter partner of BSA. The terminology wrangle was decided by the strategic decision to adapt Methodese rather than constantly code-switching among BSA models and the others’. We talked ministry and making disciples, not “scouting.”

But the contentiousness in UMM was getting worse. The UMM leadership was ready to try for their own agency, which they achieved at GC 1996 by promising that they would be self-supporting in four years (which was preposterous*). At any rate, General Conference created GCUMM, which then set about divorcing itself from GBOD. The bitterness of that divorce is only now subsiding. One of the “children” doomed to grow up dealing with custody issues was the Upper Room Prayer Line, which the Men agreed to continue funding, but which remains under GBOD ownership. Creating the Commission doomed Byron White’s ministry. He was seen as the GBOD’s man. In the end, three new executive staff were hired. Joe Harris was hired as General Secretary, Larry Malone was hired as Director of Men’s Ministries, and Larry Coppock was hired as Director of CYSA/Scouting.

Joe Harris said he wanted all three staff members to be proficient and available in both Men’s and Scouting ministry. He didn’t want anybody to do only his thing. But so far as I know, Joe Harris never did anything with Scouting ministry, nor did Larry Malone. But by saying that all the programs would be resourced by all the staff, cover was achieved for a creative bit of accounting in the hiring of Larry Coppock. Larry’s background was in professional Scouting and Catholic charities, but I think what made him attractive to GCUMM was his credentials in development – i.e., courting major gifts. In effect, Larry Coppock was to function as a sort of development director (if not with that title), but the Scouting Endowment maintained by the UMM Foundation was devoted to his place exclusively. So, we had a full-time General Secretary, a full-time Men’s Ministry Director, and a part-time Scouting Ministry/part-time Development Director. This was, if not unethical, at least devious. It meant that the one position actually endowed and more or less paying for itself was being used to build up the org to maintain the other positions.

The Scouters began to grumble about various things. Tensions developed. Now, the NAUMS Board is no more saintly, take them all in all, than any other collection of church leaders, and I’m not saying they were mere victims of the devious staff. They gave as good as they got sometimes. But there was, over everything, a sense that things were slipping. That the stuff we kept hearing about was not really what we wanted or needed. That we were becoming content at Number Two with BSA, to which position we had slipped and yet remain. And nobody knew why we seemed to be off-track, except to blame personalities. I think I know why, though. I think that GCUMM deliberately shorted their efforts in Scouting Ministry in order to keep their Treehouse viable. And then they turned on NAUMS and started to make them unwelcome in what they see as their private club.

And so with every quadrennium, with every change of officers, the firmly emplaced staff slowly pried ownership from the hands of the UM Scouters who had developed it all. NAUMS’s place as a covenant partner equal to the UMM Foundation or NACP was being lost. At one time, NAUMS paid for its operations by income from the various Scouting ministry awards offered by the Office of CYSA/Scouting. Shortly after Larry came, GCUMM took over that income. The awards were made easier to earn, too, because the philosophy had shifted from setting standards high to move behavior, to setting standards lower to increase sales.** In other moves, a Scouting Ministry Committee was created which gradually took over functions which had been under NAUMS: teaching at Philmont; staffing Jamborees; doing training courses. The SMC is wholly under the control of the Scouting Ministries Director.

Meanwhile, out in the Conferences, Conference Scouting Coordinators are largely appointed by Conference Presidents of UM Men. Which works okay where UMM is strong – which is few places these days – but even there, the Conference Scouting Coordinator is often a sort of reward for being one of the Good Guys than a post where the occupant is supposed to achieve something. Without independent control, the Scouters of a given Conference can do no more than the UM Men will enable them to do; and UM Men is the weakest organization in the Church. Worst of all, UM Men officers and appointees are basically invisible, unfindable by anyone out in the congregations looking for someone at the Conference level for help and advice. Which is why, when I became Conference Scouting Coordinator, I insisted that the Annual Conference create a free-standing Conference Committee. I didn’t repudiate a mutual relationship with UM Men, but I insisted upon accountability to the Conference, and with it access to the Conference floor and publication of our names and doings in the Conference Journal.

As Conferences and Districts have weakened across the Connection, it has become harder for General Agencies to work with them. Conference and District Scouting Coordinators, especially where they are creatures of shaky UM Men organizations, are hard to work with even for the staff and key leaders from the Office of CYSA/Scouting and NAUMS, (not to mention basically invisible to pastors and local church volunteers). So the Office of CYSA/Scouting has simply stopped working with them. They no longer try to do training with Conference and District Coordinators, and they have vociferously resisted NAUMS’s attempt to fulfill their training mandate by doing it for them. For that matter, the Office of CYSA/Scouting has badgered NAUMS about doing Local Church Scouting Coordinator training (i.e., they don’t want NAUMS to do that, either). GCUMM’s answer to the lack of direction in the Conferences has been the creation of Scouting Ministry Specialists.

SMS are, in theory, trainers and troubleshooters directly supported by Nashville who are available to help Scouting Coordinators at every level. They actually work as independent marshalls in whatever bailiwick they choose. We have quite a few of them in Indiana. Some of them are quite good and work at it; most of them I never hear tell of, and I’m about as connected as you can get in Hoosier UM Scouting ministry. But SMS are completely the creature of Nashville. And now they can be Life SMS: it’s no longer just a credential that has to be renewed. I suspect that what you’re seeing is GCUMM’s replacement for NAUMS: people who do what we tell them, or just leave us alone (and we’re good either way).

Well, this is in danger of degenerating into a gripe session. I need to offer a better vision, which I hope to do in my third and last post on this topic.


*The GC as a whole thought it unlikely to be fulfilled, but probably approved the proposal when the UMM Foundation said it would back the new General Commission with everything it had. The Foundation has been NAUMS's best friend among the tangle of UMM entities, so I am loath to criticize them; however, when the President of the Foundation told me this story, I was profoundly shocked. Pledging all you have to something should not include dedicated funds, but the largest single asset the Foundation had, and has, is the Scouting endowment. As it is, the Foundation's pledge was only possible ethically (and perhaps, legally) if one assumes that the highest purpose of Scouting ministry is to keep UMM afloat. Which tells you everything you need to know about the priorities at HQ.

**To recover its losses, NAUMS quit paying Life member dues into the Endowment. For quite a while, NAUMS was awash in Life member dues, which led it into some trouble; new safeguards had to be put into effect. Meanwhile, GCUMM gave up pretending they would ever be self-sufficient a few years ago and now compete zealously for their piece of the apportionment pie. They still provide more of their own funding than most General Agencies – which is to their credit; however, they agonize over their revenue streams from UMM charters and EMS memberships and whatnot. As UMM declines, their funding base also declines.

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