· Scouting

United Methodists urge churches to delay renewing charters with Boy Scout units


NASHVILLE, Tenn.––Steven Scheid, director of the Office of Scouting Ministry of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, told an August 26 meeting of the Scouting Committee of the Commission, that bishops and conference chancellors are advising local churches not to renew their charters with BSA units beyond December 31, 2021. This delay gives denominational leaders time to work out an agreement with Boy Scouts of America (BSA) regarding settlements of charges of sexual misconduct.


BSA filed for bankruptcy protection in February. For years they have assured churches and civic organizations that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts.


There are now some questions about the amount, availability, and access to past insurance policies.


Local churches may have a risk of paying significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of Scout leaders.


Most claims are historical


Thousands of claims were filed following a nationwide effort to get people to file. 


Most claims relate to incidents that occurred 40 or more years ago. Many recent claims are youth-on-youth claims, and most are outside the statute of limitation. The length of time allowed under a statute varies depending upon the severity of the offense and the jurisdiction of dispute.


Scheid noted, “There has been real harm. The Commission recognizes the need for healing.” If you have been harmed, he recommends working with 1in6.org. There is support for healing.


Scheid works with Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the commission, and a committee of 12 conference chancellors to provide advice to bishops and other conference leaders.


Time and space are needed to get through the bankruptcy. The committee is advising churches to tell their local scout council that they will not renew their chartering agreement beyond Dec. 31, 2021. There is an option to use a facility use agreement up to Dec. 31, 2021, as well. Making moves while in the uncertainty of negotiations is not advised.  


Scheid does background work


Scheid has done much of the background work for the 14-member committee. “Steven has saved churches thousands of dollars,” said Hanke. 


“There is a need for healing, but there is also fraud,” said Hanke. “I have no idea how this will turn out, but steps have come faster now than they were two months ago.”


Small percentage


"BSA has served 160 million youth in the last 100 plus years,” said Scheid. “If one were to accept all initial 96,000 claims as valid, that is a rate of abuse of only 0.006 percent. That percentage compares well to the fact that one in six young men across America experienced sexual abuse: a rate of 17 percent.” 


“The safest place for your child is in Scouts in the United Methodist Church,” said Hanke. “That is good news.” The leaders are checked and trained. The youth are trained and safety paramount.


Required Youth Protection training was begun by BSA in 1984 and Safe Sanctuary training by Methodist churches followed in 1998.


The future


“The number of Scouts today is the same as the number of Scouts in 1933,” Scheid lamented. There were 700,000 Scouts 88 years ago and today we have the same number.


Some of the declines are due to COVID-19, some are a result of changes in the culture, and some are due to the BSA bankruptcy.


To address the future, the Scouting Committee of the Commission agreed to form a Growth Committee. That five-member group will suggest steps a local church can take to reinstitute their charters with Scout troops and Cub packs after bankruptcy issues have been settled. A focus is on matching the relationship between the church and BSA to the current time. 


The committee also formed a twelve-member Girl Scout Committee to continue strengthening ties between the denomination and Girl Scouts of the USA. Girl Scouts have never used the charter system that BSA uses. With the different relationship, churches are able to safely serve in the community.


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