A message from Bishop Devadhar: BSA update for our churches

October 06, 2021

Beloved in Christ:
 
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sometimes there is a need to change a practice to achieve desired results. Today, those working on the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy and resolving more than 5,200 abuse claims since 1940 against United Methodist congregations are recommending a modification in how UM congregations charter with Scout troops and Cub packs.

As part of our initial negotiations with the BSA, the UMC Ad Hoc Committee in the bankruptcy proceedings, and the UMC Leadership Team recommended that UMC churches pause in renewing all charters, or in extending current charters with Boy Scout Councils, as of December 31, 2021. If any relationship with the local council beyond that date was still intended, the Ad Hoc Committee and Leadership Team recommended that such relationship be defined by a Facility Use Agreement, prepared and circulated by the Ad Hoc Committee and GCFA, and that charter agreements no longer be used.   
 
More recently, the Ad Hoc Committee and representatives of the UMC Leadership Team have engaged in direct mediation negotiations with BSA and lawyers for the surviving claimants, which gained clarity about liability issues, resolved a couple of critical issues through the mediation process, and helped people working on a resolution to recognize how important United Methodists are in the healing of survivors and serving young people.

As a result of progress in the negotiations (which the Ad Hoc Committee believes would not have occurred without the December 31 charter pause discussed above), BSA and the UMC have agreed to recommend that the charter pause date be revised from December 31, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
 
The following is a joint statement of the Boy Scouts of America and United Methodist leadership working on resolving United Methodist claims.
 
United Methodist leadership and the BSA have agreed to the following joint statement regarding the status of units chartered by United Methodist churches.
 
The Boy Scouts of America and United Methodist leadership continue to work together to resolve matters related to BSA’s financial restructuring and have agreed, in the best interest of the young people who participate in Scouting, to strongly recommend to United Methodist chartering organizations and Boy Scout Councils to extend existing charter agreements and facility use agreements in force at this time through March 31, 2022. There will be no additional fee required from those chartering organizations through March 31, 2022. 

This will pause new chartering, re-chartering and the use of facility use agreements with United Methodist churches. This automatic extension will allow Boy Scouts of America, United Methodist leadership, and other parties in the bankruptcy case time to resolve important issues affecting chartered organizations, including a favorable release for chartered organizations for any Scout abuse claims.
 
Congregations that charter Scouts are strongly encouraged to follow this process as it resolves confusion and helps us resolve our concerns in the mediation process. To be clear, this statement calls for the BSA and UM congregations to pause any rechartering conversations and use what is in place at this time.
 
The fundamental strategy remains the same; only the date has changed. The charter deadline is advanced to March 31, 2022, beyond which the Ad Hoc Committee and the UMC Leadership Team continue to recommend (for now, at least, although this could change if a final settlement agreement is reached) no new or extended charters be granted. Should the local church desire to continue a relationship with its local Scout Council, that relationship should be defined by the GCFA and Ad Hoc Committee approved Facility Use Agreement circulated with our earlier letter.

There is a team working on a new UM charter for Scouting ministries that may be used in the future.
 
The United Methodist church has four goals to meet through the mediation process:

  1. The healing of survivors and commitment to how we will continue to work to end abuse. Our congregations and UMC leadership have and continue to make progress on ending abuse. Less than 1% of our cases occurred in the last 20 years. The other 99% occurred prior to 2000. While this is significant progress, we strive to work toward ending abuse.
  2. Gaining a release for all of the UM claims against our congregations that will prevent anyone from suing a congregation for a claim directly related to Boy Scout activity prior to 2020.
  3. Not using a congregation’s insurance to resolve any of the more than 5,200 UM claims.
  4. A financial settlement.

 When explaining these changes to your local congregations and scouting families, please urge patience with the process. This revised recommendation is the product of the dynamics of ongoing give and take negotiations with BSA, under which both sides are attempting to put past disagreements aside to achieve a settlement that will bring both a measure of justice for the victims and serve as a foundation for beginning a new transparent and equitable partnership between the UMC and BSA.

We want to assure you that our UM chancellors and more than 200 UM leaders are working on your behalf to reach these goals. In addition to pausing all rechartering through March of 2022 and continuing with the present charter or facilities use agreement, today we ask that you pray for the survivors’ healing. We also ask you to pray for those leading this effort. God has gifted us with compassion and wisdom to reach just settlements and faithfully steward the resources of the UMC.
 
In Christ’s love,



Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
 
William Hewig III 
Conference Chancellor

Find our webpage with information on the BSA bankruptcy