January 31st, 2013

junior woodchuck guidebook

The road goes ever on and on

Getting ready to hand in our happy Crew's recharter stuff tomorrow. Paperwork ready, training up to date, ready to go.

We're going to lose several youth and adults this year -- and we're gaining several new youth and adults. Venturing is a different kind of program. Crews tend to be small and once a group gels, it will age in place until the youth graduate, get married, or whatever. It's a lot like a small church youth group that way. When Deanne and I started doing this kind of program, first with Exploring and then with Venturing, our core group died and had to be brought back to life three times as kids aged out. Twice, we had an influx of new kids; the third time we let the group die -- just before moving here.

We started this Crew three years ago. Most of the group we started with are now moving on, and their parents with them. It's sad, but it's normal.

What this means is that for Venturing to succeed, you've got to have leaders committed to making the program happen, and not just for their own kids. And it means that Charter Partner support is crucial. The church has got to believe that this is their ministry, not just mine. If they want it to continue, they have to commit to ministering to youth and their families this way, even as youth and parents and leaders change.

The same is true of other Scouting programs, too, of course -- as well as youth groups, Sunday School, VBS, and other forms of ministry to children, youth, and their families. There's a cycle to people's participation. The smaller the church, the more the ups and downs of the cycle affect things. A big church will always have enough people to do X, or Y, or Z. The small church has to really work to get the people they need to stay in the game sometimes.

Praise God, we are still in the game. The adventure continues. So here's to another year with Venturing Crew 119: Rougher! Tougher! Buffer!

More working it out in my head

So, if BSA approves gays for membership and leadership next week -- or, rather, allows charter partners to admit whom they please without blocking people for their sexual orientation -- what was the point of all the furor some years ago as BSA battled the gay lobby all the way to the Supreme Court?

Well, several important points were won which condition this move now. First, BSA did not crack under pressure. They turned aside the direct legal onslaught and then stood up under an avalanche of negative publicity and proxy fights aimed at their supporters. They won. And what they won was not only the brawl, but the right to their own identity.

The lawsuits brought by gays and their supporters against BSA for their membership requirements sought to establish that BSA was a public accommodation within the meaning of the law, and therefore could not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As a public organization, rather than a private one, membership would be a right, not a privilege; the claim was that BSA was denying a public good to some people who had a right to it. If the gay lobby had won on those points, BSA would have been fundamentally changed.

Ask yourself this: do you think the guys parading in their penis rings down Castro Street in San Francisco really wanted to do Scouting? No. They just wanted to force it open, to make it what they wanted to spite those who valued something else about it. And after they'd muddied someone else's water, they'd lose interest and go on to something else. But they lost, utterly. BSA is now contemplating allowing gays to join openly -- but on BSA's terms. Those who actually want to do Scouting and are willing to abide by the rules like everybody else can find a way to belong.

While I agree with The UMC position that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, I don't want or expect to keep homosexuals in some kind of box. But if we are to get along, then we have to be less publicly obsessed about sex. If the gays had beaten the Boy Scouts in those court cases years ago, we would all wind up more obsessed about sex. So maybe there's some sanity ahead that we can hope for. I don't know.

The occasional gay leader or gay kid in a group of leaders and kids, all of whom are NOT standing around talking about sex but rather tying knots or something is a far cry from a whole group of people shouting how gay they are at the top of their lungs and making a big deal out of their being gay Boy Scouts. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. It may be less of a big deal than some fear. I hope so.
how long

Wherein I remind myself that Despair is a mortal sin

As I read what my fellow clergy post on various blogging and social media sites, I notice that there is a certain kind of evangelical that I react very badly toward. Humorless, graceless, always more against things than for them, always raging against our crazy, dying Church and its apostate leadership, but never taking any responsibility for their participation in it. The Inspector Javert type. Reading their screeds makes me feel the terrible sterility of today's evangelicalism.

On the other hand, I occasionally read what my progressive colleagues write, and I am oppressed by the utter emptiness of their souls. They're all politics and no perspective. There is no there there. They are like the dehumanized unbelievers of the N.I.C.E. -- Professor Frost or Deputy Director Wither -- mere shells of men. They recite slogans and think they have committed thought. Despite their talk of freedom from outmoded restraints, their every "liberation" enslaves more souls.

And these are the alternatives that grapple for control of the Church these days. These are our options! Dear God, are there no shepherds left to lead your people? Sometimes, I ask myself, Am I the only one left (or nearly so)? And then, I seem to hear a quiet voice, saying, "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." O Lord, may I be among their number!