LCMS, AHG reps sign ‘Memo of Understanding’

By Megan K. Mertz

On Wednesday, May 14, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Patti Garibay, national executive director of American Heritage Girls (AHG), signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining how the two organizations will work together in the future. It was a moment many years in the making.

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison signs a Memorandum of Understanding May 14, 2014, with Patti Garibay, national executive director of American Heritage Girls, at the Synod's International Center in St. Louis. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison signs a Memorandum of Understanding May 14, 2014, with Patti Garibay, national executive director of American Heritage Girls, at the Synod’s International Center in St. Louis. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

Garibay and a group of concerned parents started AHG in 1995 in Cincinnati, Ohio. They wanted to provide a Christ-centered scouting alternative for girls ages 5 to 18. Since then, the nonprofit organization has grown to more than 34,000 members in 772 troops, including 67 troops chartered by LCMS congregations.

Through the Memorandum of Understanding (which can be found here), the LCMS affirms the values shared with AHG and provides guidance for Synod congregations that have AHG troops or are considering starting one.

The memorandum states that the two organizations “will work together, within the guidelines of the policies and regulations of each organization, to establish and nurture American Heritage Girls Troops within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod so that girls may be provided with life skills, leadership development opportunities, service programs and character building opportunities.”

In the document, the two parties also agree that AHG will “respect the spiritual and moral responsibility” of the LCMS in any charter signed with an LCMS congregation.

“AHG is a wonderful organization that allows the local congregation to run the program and have oversight of all spiritual care for the troop,” said the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission. “Shaping young women to be faithful Christians and strong citizens who care for the world and their neighbor are among the many laudable core tenets of AHG, so we want to strengthen our congregations’ participation with AHG and encourage others who might be interested in scouting for their girls.”

Garibay describes AHG as a ministry tool to “help girls understand who they are in Christ” through adult mentoring, leadership training, life-skills building, citizenship, service and fun.

“It’s a win-win, really,” said Garibay, noting that she hopes AHG will grow among LCMS congregations now that it has been officially approved by the LCMS after several years of study and discussion.

“Every church needs young families, and AHG attracts them,” she continued. “I hope that it will be mutually beneficial for the cause of Christ.”

“The LCMS is delighted to be able to enter into this relationship with the American Heritage Girls,” Harrison said. “They stand for the kind of values that our church really thinks are important with respect to citizenship. Also, this is a way for us in our congregations to have a structure for reaching young girls and sharing Christ with them.”

To listen to a May 14 interview with Garibay on KFUO Radio, click here.

Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.

Posted May 16, 2014

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9 Responses to LCMS, AHG reps sign ‘Memo of Understanding’

  1. Bill H May 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    This is very encouraging. I pray that we there will be a Christian Group as an alternative for the Boy Scouts. God Bless.

    • Dave May 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      There is an alternative for boys called Trail Life USA. It is modeled very closely after AHG. The organization just started Jan 1 and already has over 300 chartered troops with another 300 in the process of chartering. It’s a small amount compared to BSA or GSUSA, but it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

  2. debrah May 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    This is great news. @Bill H. there is an alternative for the Boy Scouts it’s called Trail Life…Here’s a link to their website

  3. Michelle May 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I actual don’t see why the LCMS would side with a group that is not Lutheran. I may be old school (but I am not old) but I believe that my beliefs are very important and unfortunately there are different religions that make up AHG. I don’t see a problem with any girl joining but if it isn’t an LCMS group (like Walther League use to be) I don’t think he should side with one group over the other. Big Mistake!

  4. May 20, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Their statement of faith (which is also used by the “Trail Life”) includes the evangelistic shading that does not recognize original sin: “We believe each person is created in His image for the purpose of communing with and worshiping God”. Humans had the image of God in the prelapsarian world and it is only restored through faith in Christ. We submitted the Apostles Creed as a substitute statement of faith. AHG accepted that and our individual charter includes the Creed. Our congregation has chartered an AHG group since cc 1997. As with many things, it is only as good as the local leaders and we have had WONDERFUL leaders who have used all of the abundant resources of AHG to help the girls grow.

  5. Jojakim Dettmann May 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    The Missouri Synod has been split on the question of Scouting since at least the thirties.

    Given that not everyone agrees, I think it is presumptuous for President Harrison to endorse a generic Christian scouting program for girls while ignoring the ministry of the Lutheran Rangerettes.

    Pres. Harrison endorsed a non-Lutheran organization while ignoring an existing LCMS scouting organization which has been around for 50 years. To put this into perspective, how would Thrivent people feel if the LCMS endorsed a competitor fraternal benefit society like Modern Woodmen of America. Or how would the LWML leadership feel if the LCMS endorsed the Women of Faith Conference?

    I just hope I am wrong and in a month or two I will see a news release of President Harrison endorsing the Lutheran Rangers/Rangerettes.

  6. Jeri May 21, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Rangers/Rangerettes?? Never heard of them. AHG has been a blessing to our LCMS congregation and honors the teachings of the LCMS. The real transition to address is the peaceful removal of the secular scouting programs now that God-honoring, Christ-centered scouting is available for our youth.

  7. Jojakim Dettmann May 22, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    The Lutheran Rangers/Rangerettes were established in 1963 in Wisconsin by LCMS Lutheran congregations. This was several years before the Lutheran Pioneers were established in the Wisconsin Synod.

    The Rangers spread quickly, but shrank in the last three decades. Perhaps the Rangers would have spread further and been more popular had the LCMS at the time not made scouting one of the issues at play during the schism between the two synods in 1961. Basically, the Wisconsin Synod took a position that Boy Scouts were best avoided in favor of a distinctively Lutheran organization, while the Missouri Synod allowed for the Boy Scouts, but did not compel members to renounce the Wisconsin Synod’s line of thinking. However, I have heard people use the scouting issue to claim that the Wisconsin Synod is guilty of legalism. But such “us. vs. them” arguments might have discouraged congregations from signing up to the Lutheran Rangers/Rangerettes.

    I personally didn’t participate in the Rangers/Rangerettes growing up, but I knew many kids who did, and I only remember them saying positive things about it. National Jamboree was approached with anticipation.

    Here are some links if you are interested:

    1963 news article “Boy Ranger Units Multiply”

    1965 article “Rangers Hold a Convention” (describes the founding of the Rangerettes… by the way, I knew Pastor Haas, mentioned in this article, as a kid)

  8. John Flanagan May 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    In my humble opinion, I believe the LCMS should not endorse any youth organizations which do not embody Christian beliefs and values pertaining to the fundamentals of the faith, traditional marriage, and pro-life. The choice to join such groups which are Christian but do not embrace all of the Lutheran distinctives might be left to individual families, but official endorsement of the LCMS is not especially warranted.

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