Backpacking Bibles (Part 1 of 2)
Cynthia D King (cdk7552@JUNO.COM)
Sat, 21 Dec 1996 20:44:16 EST
The following article appeared in the 12-6-96 edition of the United
Methodist Reporter. It deals with the backpacking Bibles that used to be
distributed at Philmont. It is a quite lengthy article. I did not <snip>
anything so that my personal opinion was not inserted. Cindy King
" 'BACKPACKING BIBLES' FOR BOY SCOUTS HALTED
by Cynthia B. Astle, Associate Editor
There'll be no more "backpacking Bibles" given to Scouts at Philmont
Scout Ranch in eastern New Mexico.
After four weeks of inquiry, the Reporter has learned that the popular
six-year-old "backpacking Bibles" project appears to be a casualty of
skirmishes over authority for Scouting ministries in The United Methodist
Church and in the Boy Scouts of America national organization.
The story of how an apparently worthy mission project has come to an
abrupt end involves three main characters:
*A young United Methodist pastor in New Mexico--described as a
"free spirit" by one conference leader--with a passion for Scouting
ministries but seemingly unwise in the ways of church bureaucracy.
*An exiting church executive whose job as national Scouting
ministries coordinator has been eliminated in the creation of the new
United Methodist Men's Commission; and
*A national Scouting executive whose office has invested "great
amounts" in a devotional pamplet for Scouts.
Confrontation among these three men apparently was triggered by a Sept.
13 Reporter article featuring "backpacking Bibles" and the young pastor
woh has championed the project. The project provides pocket-sized New
Testaments to Scouts camping at Philmont Scout Ranch.
SUMMONED TO A MEETING
The Rev. Jon Farris, pastor of San Jon (N.M.) United Methodist Church,
told the Reporter that he was summoned to a meeting Nov.12 in Lubbock,
Texas. Also in attendance were Mr. Farris' twin brother, Pat Farris, a
United Methodist layman of Crosbyton, Texas; Bob Cash of Lubbock,
Scouting ministries coordinator for the church's South Central
Jurisdiction; United Methodist Scouting ministries coordinator Byron
White of Nashville and Boy Scouts relationships coordinator Tom Diemler
of Irving, Texas.
Jon Farris told the Reporter that Messrs. White and Diemler told him at
that meeting that "backpacking Bibles was discontinued."
Mr. Farris also said that the two men told him he was barred from
Philmont Scout Ranch and from his former pastorate in Cimarron, N.M., the
town nearest the Scout wilderness preserve, lest he be charged under
church law with interferring in another's ministry. (This refers to the
fact that another minister now serves Mr. Farris' former pastorate).
Mr. White acknowledged to the Reporter that he objected to "backpacking
Bibles" because he had not authorized it to be an official Scouting
ministry of The United Methodist Church. Nor, he said, did Mr. Farris
obtain formal approval for fund raising from the New Mexico Annual
Mr. Farris responded that annual conference approval of the project has
been in the works since July and awaits a vote at the 1997 session.
Instead, he said, he was told Nov. 12 by Mr. White that the Reporter's
coverage of the project had placed the effort in the category of a
"church-wide appeal." This type of appeal must be sanctioned by the
church's General Council on Finance and Administration under Paragraph
918 of the Book of discipline, the collection of church laws.
Despite this citation, no one on the staff at the United Methodist
General Council on Finance and Administration in Evanston, Ill., recalled
speaking with Mr. White about "backpacking Bibles," said Sandra Kelley
Lackore, chief executive.
NO APPROVAL REQUIRED
She added that after reading a copy of the story provided by the
Reporter, she didn't deem "backpacking Bibles" to require her agency's
"Even if it did, all we require is that a project submit a letter which
we then process through our board," Ms. Lackore said.
In addition, said an official in the New Mexico conference, leaders there
have expressed little objection to "backpacking Bibles" or to fund
raising for the project.
"We've known about this project--we've had special offerings for it and
profiled it in our conference newspaper," said the Rev. Milton Chester, a
district superintendent in the New Mexico conference.
"Being against giving Bibles to Boy Scouts is like being against Mom and
apple pie," said Mr. Chester, a former executive for the conference
council on ministries.
John Hogue of Albuquerque, N.M., president of the South Central
Jurisdiction United Methodist Men, concurred with Mr. Chester."
----article continued in second posting----
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City