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.
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