By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
NEW VERNON TOWNSHIP —
Troop 2 is still the outdoors youth activity sponsored by Emmanuel Christian Church in New Vernon Township, but the group is affiliated with a different national organization.
Since the first of the year, the troop with about two dozen members has been associated with Trail Life USA, a newly formed Christian organization based in Orlando, Fla. Church leaders decided last year not to renew the troop’s charter with Boy Scouts of America, Associate Minister Brent Thiec said.
Trail Life USA describes itself on its website as “a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men.”
Its formation picked up steam in the same year the Boy Scouts changed their membership standards to accept boys regardless of sexual orientation.
Thiec, who joined Boy Scouts more than 30 years ago and was Troop 2’s founding Scoutmaster, said Emmanuel Christian’s decision was driven by church leaders’ attraction to shared religious values with Trail Life and not by any disapproval of the change in the Boy Scouts’ membership policy.
“We first heard about Trail Life even before it was named,” Thiec said. “We caught wind of a new organization that was to be distinctly Christian and that kind of matched what we have always imagined Troop 2 to be.”
He was one of four church members who attended Trail Life’s inaugural conference last September when they decided to start the process of affiliating with that organization.
Like the Boy Scouts, Trail Life has several programs to involve boys from kindergarten through high school and a co-ed program for youth leaders.
Woodlands Trailcq is for grades kindergarten through five, Navigators has members in sixth through eighth grades, Adventurers are in grades nine through 12 and co-ed Guidons are 18 to 25 years old.
The local troop will continue its weekly meetings and participate in camping and other outdoors activities as it always has, Thiec said.
Troop 2 had been a member of French Creek Council, Erie, which serves 4,200 boys and girls in 178 units in six counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.
The units can be made up of some combination of Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews and Explorer posts.
Executive Duane Havard said Troop 2 is the only one he knows of that has not renewed its charter with French Creek Council.
Whatever controversy there may or may not be about the change in membership standards, “the Scouting program hasn’t changed,” Havard said. “We are still hiking. We’re still camping and going to summer camp. We want as many kids in the program as possible.”