September 3, 2021
To the Pastors and Administrative Councils of the United Methodist Churches who Charter Boy Scouts of America Units:
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
You may have read that the Boy Scouts of America, after filing for bankruptcy due to more than 84,000 people claiming sexual abuse while a part of scouting, announced that an $850 million settlement between the Boy Scouts of America, its Local Councils, and representatives of most of the victims had been reached. It would be the largest settlement in a child sexual abuse case
in U.S. history.
We call on all of us to pray for the survivors and their families. Most of the acts of sexual abuse occurred many years ago, yet there are examples of events occurring more recently. Some of the victims allege that the abuse occurred in central and southern Illinois. This tragedy is a reminder to be vigilant, update your Safe Sanctuary Policy, and continue to review your policy to ensure the congregation is following the policy.
While the Boy Scouts have reached a tentative settlement with most of the victims, the victims’ lawyers said, “We will now negotiate with the insurers and sponsoring and chartering organizations who have billions of dollars in legal exposure, of which a substantial portion is necessary to fairly compensate the survivors.” United Methodist congregations are the largest active collection of chartered organizations. Some of you have been asking what does all of this mean for our denomination, our conference, our local church, and our local church’s scouting ministry?
We offer the following in response to those inquiries.
The United Methodist denomination continues to maintain a relationship with the BSA and local churches may continue to support scout troops and engage in a scouting ministry. However, an ad hoc committee established by the General Council on Finance and Administration’s Legal Department to represent United Methodist interests in the BSA bankruptcy proceedings is very concerned that the BSA did not include chartered organizations in the $850 million settlement agreement with the victims. This may leave as many as 5,000 United Methodist congregations exposed to potential lawsuits without access to the insurance coverage the BSA has promised to provide. We share that concern.
We are entering a season when local BSA councils will be approaching local churches who sponsor scout units and asking those local churches to renew their charter relationship with the BSA for year 2022. The ad hoc committee is recommending that such a request be answered in one of three ways, namely: