BY THE CHIEF OF GILWELL PARK IN 1961
following are excerpts from a speech given to the 18th International Conference
of the Boy Scouts World Bureau in September 1961. The speaker was John Thurman,
Camp Chief of Gilwell Park, England. It was printed in the May 1962 issue of
The Scout Leader [Canada].
The Spiritual Training of
B.-P. said: "An Organisation
of this kind would fail in its purpose unless it brought its members to a
knowledge of religion."
In 1957 the 16th
International Conference passed a Resolution which came to be known as the
"Faith and Endeavour Resolution", in which it reaffirmed its faith in the
fundamental principles of Scouting, putting duty to God as the first of these
principles. . . .
It is vital to remember that
entry into Scouting is entirely voluntary but that the making of the Promise is
a condition of membership for each individual boy or man . . .
If we believe and accept
these Conference Resolutions, . . . then it seems to me obvious that we can
admit and use only those adults who are prepared to accept the principles,
including the religious principles, upon which Scouting is based. . . .
I have always welcomed the
spiritually active young seeker who in the process of running a Scout Troop
finds the right spiritual road for himself. The genuine seeker I know we can
use, and I believe we should use him, but deliberately to allow into contact
with boys the militant agnostic, the declared atheist, or the middle-aged
spiritual lay-about is, I suggest, unwarranted, unfair to boys and their
parents, and a betrayal of Scout principles. . . .
I conceive it possible that
if we abandoned all our principles we might recruit more leaders and
consequently could handle more boys and perhaps -- although I doubt it -- in ten
years we might double the number of registered Scouts, but we would have
lessened a hundredfold the true strength of Scouting for we would end with
something that had betrayed its past and in so doing had betrayed its purpose. .
My overriding fear in regard
to Scouting is that it will die of respectability, having lost the urge to
attempt the difficult and ending as a rather nice middle-class Movement. It is
more important to be proud of what Scouting does for the boyhood of the world
than to be proud of Scouting.
. . . I want to appeal too
that we strengthen our tolerance towards other faiths. "None has a monopoly of
truth." Tolerance does not mean weakness or a weakening of your own faith, for
it says in effect, "This is what I believe but I respect your right to be
different," but that is not the same thing as tolerating the right to be
spiritually lazy or to believe nothing. . . .
Why should a Movement like
this set out to please an agnostic or an atheist adult? Why should we allow him
to contaminate (and I use the word deliberately) the efforts of tens of
thousands of adults who accept the principles of Scouting without question and
who try to carry them effectively into the lives, the hearts, and the spirits of
their boys? Don't tell me that it is brotherly to countenance evil. I believe
that Scouting must be militant in its approach to fundamentals, and the
fundamentals of Scouting without duty to God are worthless.
Our Founder gave us a Promise
couched in no uncertain terms and presented in an order of descending loyalties:
God, country, other people. That order remains vital. Our efforts should be
aimed at its maintenance.
I have not attempted to
define God. I know what I mean; You know what you mean -- and unless I am very
much mistaken we know what each other means, but our predecessors in Scouting,
at the International Conference in 1949, had this to say, and I commend it to
It does imply the acceptance
of the highest that we know as a guide to life and the recognition that behind
all life lies a spiritual reality which provides the purpose and direction. It
carries with it also the duty of service to others as part of our duty to God.
However impossible the individual may find it to say precisely what he means by
such terms as spirit, soul, and conscience, the recognition of these in
experience is a step towards fuller knowledge. The man who sincerely finds it
impossible to accept one creed, or to join any one church, yet at the same time
continues his search for the truth, can in all honour take the Scout Promise."
. . . I believe we have the
faith. Now, personally and -- I pray -- unitedly we must make the endeavour.