Recommendations Regarding BSA
Dear North Carolina Conference United Methodists:
We write this letter with heavy hearts.
BSA Current Reality
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as a way to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their Chartered Organizations in a vulnerable position. The Chartered Organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other units. The details of these plans are still being worked out, but the BSA is placing United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in scouting in a challenging position.
Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. As a result, local churches that sponsored scout troops are at risk of paying significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some scout leaders. In addition, the local churches may have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. The BSA did not fulfill its promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches and has not taken sufficient steps within the bankruptcy to protect the Chartering Organizations.
Future Relationship with the BSA
We recommend that local churches change their relationship with their scouting units, at least for the time being.
If your local church currently charters a scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of two options, the choice of which is up to you.
- Tell the local scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.
- Tell the local scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021. This will act similar to a lease allowing the scout unit to use your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders.
After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold.
Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.
If your local church does not charter a scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how the United Methodist relationship with scouts will continue in the future. Again, we will be in a better position to assess whether it is safe and appropriate to charter a new scout unit after December 31, 2021.
We understand that these suggestions may be disruptive, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from costly litigation.
We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA has not appropriately taken into account the interests and concerns of The United Methodist Church in pursuing their effort to emerge from the bankruptcy without liability to the victims who have asserted these claims. We simply cannot currently commit to having the same relationship with the BSA outside of the bankruptcy when the BSA is pursuing a plan within the bankruptcy that leaves churches within the North Carolina Conference, and the Conference itself, at an elevated risk of being sued and facing crippling liability. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from facing a fate similar to the BSA in the future.
Please send any questions to email@example.com.
Facilities Use Agreement Template
An example Facility Use Agreement you can use or modify for your local church.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some answers to common questions.
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Other articles and information related to The UMC and BSA.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I learn more about what is happening with the Boy Scouts bankruptcy case?
You can find more information about the recommendations and history of the BSA bankruptcy case at this UM Communications Press Release.
Where can I send questions or concerns about this recommendation?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and your question or concern will be forwarded as needed to the appropriate person.
Is there someone at the denominational or conference level monitoring this case to advise us on how to proceed?
United Methodist congregations represent the largest active collection of chartered organizations for boy scout troops. The interests of those congregations are represented by an ad hoc committee established to represent United Methodist interests, which is actively engaged in the bankruptcy process and related negotiations. The ad hoc committee is made up of conference chancellors, bishops, and legal experts working specifically with the interests of The United Methodist Church in mind as this case unfolds.
Should we continue to charter a scout troop in our church?
The UM Ad Hoc Committee working with this case has advised that churches that support scouting units should: (1) agree to extend an expiring charter through December 31, rather than renew that charter; (2) replace an expiring charter with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31; or (3) terminate an existing charter and replace it with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31. All of those options allow more time to see how the bankruptcy will impact United Methodist congregations.
Why are we being asked to make this change?
At this time, the plans that the Boy Scouts have suggested as a way to continue after the bankruptcy do not provide adequate legal protection for chartering organizations such as Methodist churches, leaving them at risk of potential lawsuits. In order to protect churches, the relationship should change to a facilities use agreement until legal protections are made clear, and the church can be confident in the relationship with scouting ministries.
Will we never have a scout troop again?
The change is recommended at this time. We will know more information about how to move forward by the end of the year. Therefore, for charters that renew between now and then, a facilities use agreement is recommended instead of the traditional charter.
Is the Boy Scouts organization closing?
The BSA organization is undergoing a restructuring as part of the bankruptcy process. It is not anticipated that the organization will cease to exist. It is expected that scouting ministries will continue in the restructured organization.
We never had an issue in our church. Does this apply to us?
This recommendation applies to all churches involved in scouting ministries.
How do we know if our church was involved in the claims filed?
If your church was involved in the claims process by being named in a filed claim, the church may be contacted soon to begin gathering information needed as part of the claims process.
What should our church do if it had a claim filed?
At this time, wait to find out if your church was named in the claims process. If the church was named and information is needed for the claims process, someone will reach out to you in the near future with instructions on how to proceed.
Should the trustees/church council approve the facilities use agreement between the BSA unit and the church, especially as it relates to the insurance recommendations?
The Trustees should be involved in a facilities use agreement just as they would be for other uses of the church facilities.
Who can decide if we have a scouting ministry in our church?
The Trustees are reportable by the Book of Discipline to the Church Council. Recommendations can be made for the use of church facilities. A partnership should be developed for those responsible for church ministries and church properties. In many churches, the United Methodist Men were leaders in supporting scouting ministries. Partnerships will be needed to best use church facilities in ministry for making disciples of Christ. This relationship may be lived into differently in different churches. Ultimately, the Book of Discipline defines that each local church may have a scouting coordinator who shall relate to the church council.
We love the Boy Scouts. Doesn’t this change hurt our relationship with the Boy Scouts?
As can be seen in the letter, these recommendations have not been made lightly. Scouting ministries are valuable and have played an important part in the discipleship of many. At the same time, we are disappointed that the BSA has not taken adequate steps to date in the bankruptcy to provide legal protections for churches that served as chartering organizations, leaving them at risk of potential liability. It is our hope and desire that a better relationship will come from this process that will honor scouting ministries and the organizations that support them.