Sister Oscarson Talks about Faith on Girl Scouts Panel

Contributed By Tracie Cayford Cudworth, Public Affairs

  • 24 October 2014

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, discussed the impact of faith on the lives of girls with other youth religious leaders during a 90-minute panel discussion at the 2014 Girl Scouts Convention held Thursday, October 16, 2014, in Salt Lake City. The session was titled “Faith in Action: Understand the Impact of Faith on Girls’ Lives and on Their Communities.”

“Faith adds purpose,” said Davia Temin, first vice president of the national board of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), who explained the Girl Scouts is a nonsectarian organization that has a membership of more than 2 million girls representing every major religion in the country. “We are a big tent committed to diversity and variety.”

Faith plays an important role in the lives of many youth in the United States today; however, many Americans are not religiously affiliated, according to a Pew survey released a couple of years ago.

Sister Oscarson said it’s possible to have faith and not belong to a religion, but “[Christ] organized a church, and I think that’s our example.” She shared that gathering and learning together is “a way to strengthen one another.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Davia Temin, first vice president of the national board of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). Other participants included Noorain Khan, chief of staff of Teach for All and a speaker about Islam in America; Robert J. McCarty, executive director, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry; Vashti Murphy McKenzie, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Jill Tanney, chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Girl Scouting. Photo by Kristen Howey.

“This is a challenging time to live,” said Sister Oscarson, who serves more than a half million young women ages 12–17 around the globe. She told the audience that to help young women meet these challenges, the Church’s Young Women organization emphasizes faith and leadership.

Temin said surveys of the Girl Scouts indicate faith plays an important role in many of their lives. “It provides a wonderful place to both learn and use their leadership skills. For them, faith adds purpose, community, values, and value to their lives.”

Noorain Khan, a Muslim American and speaker about Islam in America, said it’s “immensely distressing” to watch television or read the news and hear people “perpetuate misconceptions” and “hateful speech” about her faith.

“I think discussions like this go a long way in helping to break down barriers and misunderstandings when you put a personal face in each one of these religions and see that we’re all sincere in our beliefs,” said Sister Oscarson, who explained that Mormons are also often misrepresented.

“The presence of one caring adult matters so significantly in the lives of young people who are dealing with hard times,” said Robert J. McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. “My relationship with God has got to impact my relationship with my neighbor,” said McCarty, who mentors Catholic youth. “You can’t separate the two.”

“My faith in God permeates everything that I do,” said Vashti Murphy McKenzie, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “It’s a part of our lives.”