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BSA bankruptcy proceeding informational update!

posted on October 12

12 October 2021
BSA update

Dear Kentucky Conference Clergy and Churches,

Grace and Peace in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

We are writing with two important updates related to the Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy proceedings and its impact on United Methodist congregations. We noted in a previous letter that the landscape of the BSA bankruptcy proceedings is ever changing, and we could not predict what might happen as the next several months unfold. We also expressed our commitment to provide you with timely updates if the circumstances changed. Considering the United Methodist Ad Hoc Committee’s ongoing engagement in mediation with the Boy Scouts of America and the lawyers for survivor claimants, we offer the following two updates:

First, 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.

Several months ago, it was recommended that congregations pause the re-chartering process and extend existing charters through the end of the year or use a facility use agreement. This has been a very helpful practice up until this time. It gained clarity about liability issues, resolved a couple of critical issues through the mediation process, and helped people working on resolution recognize how important United Methodists are in the healing of survivors and serving young people. 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 re-chartering conversations and use what is in place at this time.

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.

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 re-chartering 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.

Second, we’d like to make you aware that your local church may receive a Disclosure Statement Package in the near future. If your church does not receive the Packet, you can safely ignore this update. If you do receive the packet, do not take any action at this time.

In the coming days, many United Methodist churches will receive a package in the mail from the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case. The mailing is being sent to all chartered organizations that sponsored a troop with Boy Scouts and is called a Disclosure Statement Package. It is intended to summarize for chartered organizations how the BSA’s proposed plan of reorganization will affect the legal rights of chartered organizations with respect to Scouting-related sexual abuse claims potentially connected to chartered organizations. The Package will include the following:

     • A “plain language” summary of the Disclosure Statement drafted specifically for chartered organizations;
     • An “opt out” form relating to options all chartered organizations have as to how sexual abuse claims against each chartered organization will be dealt with. THIS SHOULD NOT BE FILLED OUT BY A LOCAL CHURCH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE (more information on this will be provided in the next two weeks); and
     • A ballot for casting a vote for or against the plan (only local churches that timely filed a “proof of claim” with the bankruptcy court will receive a ballot, other chartered organizations will only receive the rest of the Package). THIS SHOULD NOT BE FILLED OUT AT THIS TIME (more information on this will be provided in the next two weeks).

The Package is being sent by the BSA to all known chartered organizations, so it will be received by local churches that are chartered organizations regardless of whether they filed a proof of claim. ANY LOCAL CHURCH THAT RECEIVES THE PACKAGE SHOULD TAKE NO ACTION AT THIS TIME. The United Methodist Ad Hoc Committee is also developing recommendations for local churches on how to complete the included ballot, which will be shared as soon as they are complete (and well before the voting deadline of December 14, 2021). Local churches will also be provided with a summary of the most important aspects of the plan. Additionally, information sessions for district superintendents, as well as webinars for church leaders about how to complete the form, why the vote matters, and how the outcome may affect our congregations, will be provided. Again, we want to assure you that our UM chancellors and more than 200 UM leaders are working on your behalf. We also ask that you continue to pray for the survivors’ healing.

If you have general questions, questions about your local church’s relationship with a Troop, or need general guidance please contact Rev. David Garvin at dgarvin@kyumc.org. That said, the Conference generally cannot provide legal advice to Troops seeking other chartering options.

In Christ,
Bishop Leonard Fairley
Kentucky Conference

Rev. David Garvin
Treasurer Administrative Services, Director