With the Boy Scouts of America facing several issues involving bankruptcy and sexual abuse, the United Methodist's leadership has encouraged churches to end their support of local scout troops.
According to the United Methodist News Service, UMC churches have established charters with at least 3,000 different Boy Scout troops across the United States. However, the Boy Scouts of America recently had an $850 million settlement approved by a bankruptcy judge that would pay out millions to several thousand victims of sexual abuse.
However, UMC authorities have expressed concerns about how their chartered relationships with the BSA could affect their churches. "The denomination continues to maintain a relationship with the BSA, and churches may continue to support scout troops," writes the United Methodist Communications Office of Public Information in a public statement. "However, the ad hoc committee is disappointed and very concerned that the BSA did not include its sponsoring organizations, charter groups, in the agreement with the claimants."
By having these chartered relationships, the churches are risking becoming part of future lawsuits or receiving legal trouble in the immediate future. It also remains unclear if insurance would cover the potential legal costs for the churches.
That is why the Office of Public Information encourages churches not to renew their charters after this year. Instead, the churches should either extend the charters until December 31 or replace it with a facilities use agreement that expires at the year's end.
When asked for comment, the BSA told Religion News Service that "The Chartered Partners are extremely important to the BSA, and we are committed to honoring their partnership. The Ad Hoc Committee of Local Councils continues to be a critical partner to the BSA in the mediation process and especially in resolving questions regarding Chartered Partners." The organization intends to provide additional information for how churches can assist organizations despite UMC churches stepping away.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling told RNS that she is working with local leaders to find appropriate steps to protect her churches and act appropriately. "I join my colleagues across the connection in grieving for those harmed by leaders in the Boy Scouts of America organization and praying for their families. The harm they have experienced is unfathomable," Easterling said. "I strongly advise congregations to heed the advice of the denomination with respect to existing BSA charter agreements."