Order of the Arrow updates

Recent developments and changes in the Boy Scouts of America have resulted in the need to revise a few policies and procedures of the Order of the Arrow.

The OA, sometimes called Scouting’s society of honor campers, has been around nearly as long as Scouting itself. We’ve written about the history of the Order and what it means to troops, packs and the Scouts themselves. An organization within an organization, it strives to foster a sense of cheerfulness, brotherhood and service in those Scouts chosen by their peers for espousing those traits.

Here’s a summary of the updates that have been announced or taken effect in the last few months.

Brotherhood eligibility

The change that most likely affects the largest number of Arrowmen is the shortening of the time following completion of the Ordeal membership before one can become a Brotherhood member. Previously ten months, the time in service as an Ordeal member is now just six months until one can take part in a Brotherhood ceremony, signifying full membership in the Order. The other requirements still apply as they did before (those unsure of those requirements should check with their unit OA Representative or a member of their lodge committee).

Most Scouts who are inducted into the OA complete their Ordeal requirements but don’t follow up on their pledge to be of cheerful service and strengthen their commitment to the Order. It’s unfortunate that these who choose to sash and dash do not avail themselves of the opportunity to take the next step. Shortening the time requirement can help, because the Ordeal experience is still fresh in their minds, and if they completed Ordeal in the fall, they would be eligible for Brotherhood at summer camp, when many lodges hold ceremonies.

Another point to consider is that, like our units, districts and councils, lodges also are evaluated by the OA’s Performance Measurement Program (similar to our Journey to Excellence) and one of the parameters measured is the percentage of members who become Brotherhood. Taking that step not only helps the Arrowman but the Lodge as well.

Membership policy change

The BSA’s membership policy change that took effect in February extends to the Order of the Arrow as well. Previously, membership in the OA was only open to Boy Scouts, which made the membership almost entirely male. Now that girls are welcomed in Scouts BSA, those female Scouts who meet the requirements are also eligible for election. Additionally, elections can be held in Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships, extending the opportunity for both male and female members of those units. Since Arrowmen have been considered youth members up to the age of 21, bringing in Venturing and Sea Scouting overlays nicely and allows those who were never elected as a Scout another opportunity to be recognized by their peers.

Equivalent ranks to First Class are the Discovery award for Venturers or the Ordinary rank for Sea Scouts. The camping requirements are the same, and while camping should be completed in the unit that the individual is being considered for membership in,  it can be fulfilled in any of the programs in which the individual is a member or elsewhere under BSA auspices (such as camp staff) at the discretion of the unit leader.  Camping with a crew or a ship can be counted retroactively if it took place within the prior two years. Ship nights can be considered camping nights for Sea Scouts. A youth may be elected in only one unit; if by happenstance someone is elected in more than one unit, the one holding the earlier election prevails.

And although you’ll notice the broader use of gender-neutral language going forward, including in ceremony scripts, certain terms such as Arrowman, Brother and Brotherhood will remain in use.

Ceremony updates

The OA has emphasized it intends to continue to honor Native American traditions by continuing to use American Indian regalia in its ceremonies, but policies as to when such regalia can be used are being strengthened and reviewed to ensure respectful treatment. And as female members may be participating in ceremony teams, new guidelines are being published.

Unit representative

The OA Troop Representative youth position of responsibility allows a Scout to be active in both the troop and OA lodge as a liaison providing information and encouraging participation by other Arrowmen. Since membership is now available in crews and ships, the position has been renamed OA Unit Representative. Additional guidance, and presumably position patches, are forthcoming.

If you have questions or would like more detail, visit the Order of the Arrow website or contact your lodge adviser.

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