The "Lutherian" Spirit of Trail Life USA

Been pondering this grand new adventure called Trail life USA we’re about to embark on. An historic parallel seems apparent . . .

I do a weekly podcast called Communio Sanctorum – The History of the Christian Church. We’ve made it up through the Reformation so far. I think the parallels between what happened in the break between the Roman and Protestant Church is illustrative of the break between the Boy Scouts and Trail Life.

Martin Luther was by no means the first to call for reform in the Roman Church. People had been calling for it for generations. Many had attempted reform. Several of the monastic orders were attempts at altering the course of the Church. The Roman Church proved adept at allowing these reform movements to begin, then over time subsuming them back into itself. Like an oyster turns the irritant of a grain of sand into a pearl, so the Roman Church eventually took each new attempt at reform back into itself and made it just one more part of its system. The Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and a whole host of lesser known movements were in one dimension or another aimed at reforming the church, but ended up becoming just one more vehicle for reinforcing its culture and aims.

The Reformation was different though it didn’t start that way. Luther had no grand plan to launch a divergent movement that would leave the Roman church. He wanted to shuck the man-made traditions that had hijacked it and return it to its Biblical roots. Being a man of firm conviction and knowing he was in the right, when he present his ideas via the format of the time, when the Church rebuffed his proposals for Reform, he refused to back down. So the Church ousted him.

So he started a new Church. Although, he wouldn’t have stated it that way. Luther would say that he was staying true to what Jesus and the Apostles always meant for the Church to be. It was the Roman Church that had departed, long before. It was the Vatican’s whole-hearted endorsement of the practice of Indulgences that was the proverbial straw that broke the church-camel’s back. Luther said it was time for church leaders to wake up and smell the manure pile that had become so much of church doctrine and practice.

The Boy Scouts were originally commissioned with a mission of turning boys into men of character and virtue. That is why so many people of faith, and specifically, why so many Christians were drawn to BSA. For a number of reasons from the desire to be inclusive to the need for funding, the BSA has accommodated an increasingly “Big-tent” position in regard to moral issues. Groups within BSA have called for caution as the questions these issued raised was brought up, and until recently, BSA has maintained a conservative stand. But the appearance of the questions themselves and the debate that ensued revealed the moral creep that was already in play.

BSA’s recent decision to make a crucial concession to the homosexual community by opening its membership to same-sex attracted youth is indicative of an accommodation with cultural forces that will certainly hijack the BSA and fundamentally shift the organization away from its founding mandate of making men of character and virtue. For all the semantics the secular leadership of BSA wants to employ, their idea of virtue is not that which Biblically-consistent Christians hold. And anyone with a lick of sense knows that while BSA has drawn the line at allowing same-sex attracted scout-masters, the writing is on the wall—the momentum at BSA is toward greater accommodation of the world.

The brave leaders of Trail Life USA constitute a collective “Lutherian” spirit that says, “We haven’t left BSA so much as BSA has left its mandate, its very raison d’être. We will pick up and carry the standard BSA dropped.”