UMC agrees to extend Boy Scout charters through June amid sex abuse lawsuits

A statue titled 'Trail to Manhood' stands outside the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, in this file photo taken May 22, 2013.
A statue titled "Trail to Manhood" stands outside the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, in this file photo taken May 22, 2013. | REUTERS/Michael Prengler/Files

The United Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts of America have reached an agreement that will extend church-sponsored charters through June 30, with the future between the two entities uncertain after that.

In an announcement released Monday, the UMC said the denomination had reached an agreement with the Boy Scouts to extend existing charters that many of their congregations have with the youth organization until the end of June.

The mainline Protestant denomination had previously extended an earlier deadline from the end of 2021 to March 31 due to ongoing legal proceedings over the BSA’s bankruptcy case.

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“Organizational leaders are working together to develop a long-term solution regarding the church’s relationship with Scouting as they plan for new relationship agreements that will help to improve the program and safety of Scouting for future generations of young people,” stated the UMC Office of Public Information in the announcement.

“The United Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts of America have worked together to develop the character and values of youth through Scouting for more than a hundred years.”

According to the UMC, churches with scouting troops do not presently need to take action on the issue of charter renewal, though they are encouraged “to move forward with the annual membership renewal process for all youth and adults who participate in Scouting programs.”

“Charter renewal and membership renewal are distinct processes. Charter renewal focuses on the organization-to-organization relationship, while membership renewal involves the relationship between individual Scouts and volunteers and the BSA,” the UMC added.

“Annual membership renewal is a vital step in allowing Scouting to continue, as maintaining active membership registrations for all Scouts and volunteers is critical to ensuring that Scouts and volunteers are covered by BSA’s insurance, that volunteers meet training and safety standards, and that both youth and volunteers continue to receive communications.”

Membership renewal should be completed by no later than Feb. 28, according to the announcement, with the UMC noting that local council representatives can offer support.

Last August, the UMC’s Office of Public Information released a statement advising congregations that chartered BSA chapters to consider ending their agreements with the scouting group in light of the Scouts’ sexual abuse lawsuit settlement.

The BSA is working to resolve approximately 82,000 claims of sexual abuse leveled against it, with the expected compensation presently estimated to be around $2.7 billion.

The UMC explained at the time that the BSA “did not include its sponsoring organizations, charter groups, in the agreement with the claimants,” thus leaving “as many as 5,000 United Methodist U.S. congregations — or more than 15 percent of U.S. congregations — exposed to potential lawsuits by the survivor claimants.”

“Questions remain about how that agreement might affect chartered organizations, including thousands of United Methodist congregations that have sponsored scouting programs,” stated the UMC last year.

“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.”

In 2019, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, previously the religious group that sponsored the largest number of BSA troops, cut its ties with the scouting organization.

In a joint statement with the BSA in 2018, the denomination said the decision to halt the relationship was related to a decision by LDS leadership to “create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally.”  

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