Crew / Ship 4 is a coeducational and inclusive Venturing Crew and Sea Scout Ship in Knoxville, Tennessee, part of the Chehote “Champions” District of Great Smoky Mountain Council in Area 6, Southern Region of the Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”), a member of the Interamerican Scout Region of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (“WOSM”).
Youth and young adults ages 14 (or 13 with the completion of the eighth grade) through 20 are eligible to join. No previous Scouting experience is necessary.
Crew / Ship 4 was chartered with three objectives:
To develop outdoor skills, leadership, and ethics through fun and challenging high-adventure activities;
To engage in community and conservation service; and
To develop a global perspective through the worldwide Scout Movement.
The unit that would become Crew / Ship 4 began forming on January 31, 2016 when three of its founders met together to discuss organizing a coeducational and inclusive high-adventure Venturing Crew chartered by Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (“TVUUC”) in Knoxville, Tennessee.
On March 24, 2016, the BSA and the Unitarian Universalist Association (“UUA”) signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding re-establishing organizational ties. The Memorandum of Understanding and associated press release and frequently asked questions are available online at the UUA’s website.
On April 17, 2016, the TVUUC Board of Directors voted unanimously to charter our unit. An eight-month new-unit organizing process thus began, during which time additional volunteers signed on and an Organizing Committee was established.
On September 12, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (“SMHC”) voted to support our unit. Established in 1924, the SMHC has a longstanding tradition of hiking, fellowship, volunteerism, and conservation, and today its membership includes over 600 hikers and outdoors enthusiasts who love the Smokies and the mountains of East Tennessee.
The Organizing Committee held a volunteer outing on October 30, 2016. Several of our founding volunteers hiked together in Norris Dam State Park and visited the former camp of Civilian Conservation Corps (“CCC”) Company 494. The volunteers learned that the site later became known as “Camp Sam” in honor of a BSA leader who popularized the area for primitive camping. This outing, among other factors, contributed to the decision to designate the unit as Crew / Ship 4 to honor the CCC in East Tennessee.
On November 7, 2016, the Chartered Organization Representative, Committee Chair, and Scoutmaster of Troop 147, chartered for over 50 years by West Hills Baptist Church, formally agreed to an already-underway partnership between the Troop and our unit. Our first prospective youth members began registering that same evening.
The new-unit organizing process culminated on December 19, 2016, when TVUUC and the Great Smoky Mountain Council signed our New-Unit Application and first Annual Charter Agreement.
On August 1, 2018, after 18 months of sustained membership growth and the resultant need for larger meeting and storage space, we relocated to St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Knoxville. We remain grateful to TVUUC for supporting us, and we thank the clergy, chapter, and members of St. John’s for welcoming us.
After learning more about Sea Scouts, our youth members voted on May 16, 2019 to dual-register as both a Venturing Crew and a Sea Scout Ship.
Coeducation, Inclusivity, and Nonsectarianism
We felt strongly from the outset that Crew / Ship 4 should be coeducational, inclusive, and nonsectarian. We seek to model what a truly welcoming Scouting unit can look like. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, and wherever you are on your journey, you’re welcome in our unit.
Crew / Ship 4 was intended from the start to be a mixed-gender unit because the Scout Movement itself was coeducational from its earliest days.
Scouting began with the Brownsea Island Scout camp of 1907 and gained popularity with the publication of Scouting for Boys the following year in 1908. The next important milestone was the Crystal Palace Scout Rally of 1909.
The Crystal Palace was an enormous exhibition facility and stadium in London, and it was selected as the site for the first-ever large gathering of Scouts. The Rally was therefore the forerunner to all later national and world jamborees.
The Rally included displays, contests, and a parade of the more than 11,000 Scouts in attendance. At the end of the parade, the last patrol to march by was the Wolf Patrol from Norfolk, England. The Wolves consisted of nine girls led by their patrol leader Marguerite de Beaumont, all wearing Scout hats and carrying Scout staves. Robert Baden-Powell (“B-P”), the founder of the Scout Movement and Chief Scout of the World, inspected their patrol. He told them that, while he had “never heard of you,” they had “better come and join in.” The Wolf Patrol thereby became the first girls to be officially recognized as members of the Scout Movement. Decades later, Ms. de Beaumont remembered that B-P’s welcome “pleased us very much.”
While the Wolves became famous, they were far from alone. All over the United Kingdom (and presumably in the United States as well), girls had been forming Scout patrols, wearing Scout uniforms, camping, and taking up the Scout Law. Some formed girls-only Scout groups, while many joined with boy Scouts to form mixed-gender patrols and troops. (Ms. de Beaumont had herself been a member of a mixed patrol of two boys and four girls; consequently, they “thought all Scouts were girls and boys—mixed.”) By the end of 1909, over 6,000 British girls had registered as Scouts.
Before the Rally, B-P had been asked whether girls “may share the delights of a Scouting life with the boys.” His response was unequivocal: “But of course they may! I am always glad to hear of girls’ patrols being formed.” Further, he said, “there is no reason at all why girls should not study scoutcraft.”
After the Rally, however, some parents and politicians with Victorian views about gender unfortunately found plenty of reasons why girls should not study scoutcraft. By 1910, public outcry forced the division of the Scout Movement into Boy Scouts and Girl Guides (called Girl Scouts in the United States).
B-P never wavered from his belief that Scouting “appeals with equal forces and with equal advantage to girls.” In 1922, for example, B-P presented a report he titled “Education in Love in Place of Fear” to the 3rd International Congress of Moral Education. In this little-known text, B-P offered a vision that helps us to understand what he wanted to do for future generations of boys and girls.
“Are there no ideals that we could offer to boys which … would yet give them … admiration of pluck and daring, of self-reliance and heroism and self-sacrifice and chivalry? You have only to ask the boys themselves or look at the books they read. … [G]ive them their choice and they much prefer stories of adventure by sea and land, tales of exploration, of backwoodsmanship …. [E]xploration of a strange country, the clambering over wild mountains, naturalist research in woodland and forest, the camping and the woodcraft lore, the pioneering skill, all have their fascinations for them. … Moreover, … the open-air life with its nature study, camping, exploration, … etc., appeals with equal force and with equal advantage to girls.”
60 years after the Crystal Palace Scout Rally, coeducational Scouting resumed in the United States in 1969 when BSA Exploring Posts—predecessors of today’s Venturing Crews—became coed for the first time. Since about 1970, the global trend back toward coeducational Scouting has accelerated. In 1977, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (“WOSM”) in its Constitution defined Scouting as “an educational movement for young people open to all without distinction.” In 2019, the BSA welcomed girls to join all of its programs.
Crew / Ship 4 believes in inclusivity and welcomes members regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity because we believe that no one should be excluded from Scouting because of who they are. We further believe that inclusion and mutual respect are traditional Scouting values integral to building character, developing leadership, and promoting good citizenship.
The Scout Movement as a whole stands up for and believes that everyone should be allowed their basic human rights. This can be seen through the endorsement by successive World Scout Conferences of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”). The UDHR opposes discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Human Rights Task Force of the World Scout Committee has recognized that “sexual orientation is increasingly accepted today as being included in the meaning of discrimination based on the grounds of sex.”
The Scout Movement includes members of many different faiths and religions—including non-monotheistic religions, such as Hinduism, and those that do not recognize a personal god, such as Buddhism—as well as those with no formal religion.
The BSA requires that Scouting activities shall be carried on under conditions which show respect to the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion. In keeping with its Declaration of Religious Principle, the BSA does not require membership in a religious organization or association for enrollment in the Movement. The BSA respects the convictions of those who practice religion as individuals in accordance with their own personal convictions without formal membership in organized religious organizations. The BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God or the practice of religion, and it rejects any form of compulsion to enforce conformity to religious practices.
Crew / Ship 4 welcomes and respects each individual’s journey to finding and understanding their own religious beliefs and philosophical positions, and we do not seek to define anyone’s beliefs or positions for them. We are therefore a nonsectarian, interfaith, and religiously pluralistic unit.
Crew / Ship 4 welcomes youth members and adult volunteers who are willing to live by the Scout Oath (or Promise) and Law. Membership will not be denied and no one will receive less favorable treatment or suffer disadvantage on the basis of class, color, ethnic origin, gender identity, marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or nationality (or statelessness).