OA Membership Update

Order of the Arrow Membership Update

The Order of the Arrow has more than 160,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with over 270 BSA local councils. As of August 2018, there is now an OA lodge in every council across the United States

Membership Requirements

As of February 1, 2019, unit elections are permitted in Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scout units. The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are as follows:

  • Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Have experienced 15 nights of camping while registered with a troop, crew, or ship within the two years immediately prior to the election. The 15 nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of at least five consecutive nights of overnight camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. Only five nights of the long-term camp may be credited toward the 15-night camping requirement; the balance of the camping (10 nights) must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps of, at most, three nights each. Ship nights may be counted as camping for Sea Scouts.
  • At the time of their election, youth must be under the age of 21, and hold one of the following ranks corresponding to the type unit in which they are being considered for election: Scouts BSA First Class rank, the Venturing Discovery Award, or the Sea Scout Ordinary rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster, Crew Adviser or Sea Scout Skipper, be elected by the youth members of their unit.
  • Adults (age 21 or older) who meet the camping requirements may be selected following nomination to and approval by the lodge adult selection committee.

Youth Protection Policy

Youth protection policies for Order of the Arrow events with female youth present are the same as with any Scouting event with female youth present and are specified in the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Recognizing the uniqueness of conducting Ordeals, guidance has been developed to assist lodges in the application of these policies in the conduct of Order of the Arrow Ordeals. This information is available here.

View guidance regarding the application of Youth Protection policies to Ordeals

As previously communicated during NOAC 2018 as well as in our NOAC Wrap Up communication to lodge advisers, Youth Protection policies require that at least one registered adult female over the age of 21 be in attendance at any meeting or event in which a female youth member is present. Lodges should be working now in anticipation of this requirement to ensure provisions have been made for appropriate adult female participation to ensure female youth members are afforded the same opportunities in the OA as their male counterparts as they enter the OA next year.

Youth Leadership Opportunities

All leadership positions in the OA will be open to female OA members on an equal basis with their male counterparts. All OA youth members, regardless of Scouting program source, will be eligible to run for section chief. Regional and National Officers will continue to be chosen from those elected as Section Chiefs.

The underlying principle which you will find applies in all circumstances is that female OA members are to be provided the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Use of Gender Neutral Terminology

In general, OA publications and ceremonies are being updated to incorporate broader use of gender neutral terminology so that all members feel equally welcome. The use of “Arrowmen,” “Brother,” and “Brotherhood” will continue as focus group discussions we have held with female Scouters and youth recommend we do not change the use of those terms.

Unit Elections

Unit elections under the new membership policy are authorized beginning February 1st, 2019 when the revised membership policy takes effect, not before. Elections held in Venturing and Sea Scout ships on that date or after should be scheduled and conducted in the same manner as those held in troops. Lodges and chapters should prepare their election teams for the need for more thorough explanations of the OA since many of these Scouts may have no prior knowledge of our Order.

Youth may be eligible for election in more than one unit. To be eligible for election, the youth must normally meet the applicable requirements of the BSA program in which they are being considered (Venturing, Sea Scouts or Scouts BSA). The one exception might be in meeting the camping requirement.

There has been some confusion over what camping qualifies in meeting the membership requirement for camping. Three factors apply:

  • Camping must be under the auspices of an approved BSA program.
  • The decision on what specific camping meets the spirit and intent of the camping requirement rests with the unit leader of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election.
  • It is preferred that camping requirements be met as part of the unit in which the youth is being considered for election (i.e., troop, crew or ship); however, extenuating circumstances may exist (e.g., in cases where a youth did not have an opportunity to meet the requirement with the unit), that make it appropriate for unit leaders to consider other BSA camping experiences (e.g., a Venturer counting camping nights completed with a troop or camping nights completed while serving as a staff member at a council camp or national high adventure base). In each case, the unit leader must satisfy themselves the spirit and intent of the requirement was met (i.e., it was indeed qualifying outdoor camping).
  • The term “ship nights” refers to nights during with the individual slept overnight on their ship. The ship need not be underway during that period for the nights to qualify.

Once elected in any unit, a youth is no longer eligible for election in another unit. In the rare instance a youth was elected in a second unit because they were not yet notified of their election in another unit, the lodge will determine the unit of election based on the unit with the earliest date of election.

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