Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Chartering Churches Frequently Asked Questions
Updated with new information 6/14/22
The Office of Finance and Administrative Ministries has received some common questions related to chartering agreements with the BSA. We’ve incorporated our responses in an FAQ format for use in your local church conversations.
Is the UMC ending its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America?
No. In fact, on June 16, 2022, the Boy Scouts and the United Methodist ad hoc committee announced a new form of “Affiliation Agreement” through which local churches may continue to operate Boy Scout Troops. That new agreement may be found here and will serve as a contract between the local church as the sponsoring organization, the regional Boy Scout Council and the Boy Scouts of America. Through that agreement, all parties will agree to certain responsibilities. Your local church’s scout leaders should review the document carefully, especially the section of local church responsibilities.
How is the new Affiliation Agreement different from the old Chartering Agreements?
The new Affiliation Agreement makes clearer the insurance obligations of the Boy Scouts. It also attempts to clarify the role local churches and their leaders are supposed play when engaging in scouting activities. The advice the annual conference has been giving for several years still apply: if a local church is going to sign an Affiliation Agreement to operate a troop, it’s leadership should (a) be active in operating the troop; (b) know all leaders working with that troop; and (c) fully engage with the troop’s operations and activities. The new Affiliation Agreement is not an excuse for a local church to sign without understanding its obligation or to put a troop on “auto-pilot” with troop leaders that aren’t involved in the local church or known by the local church’s leaders. Most significantly, however, the troop will no longer be under the corporate status of the local church. Nonprofit/tax-exempt status will not become a matter for the BSA’s regional council.
Do scout leaders need to be Safe Gathering certified under the new Affiliation Agreement?
Yes. UMC and BSA leaders made it clear in the webinar for Conference leaders held on June 14, 2022, that local churches still need to follow their safe sanctuary/Safe Gathering policies. That means leaders should go through the training, submit to the background checks and have the same clergy references obtained by local church leaders working with children and youth in other ministries. All procedures we have in place to protect our youth and vulnerable populations should apply to Scouts. The new Affiliation Agreement also provides for training and background checks through the Boy Scouts as well. Both layers are helpful and should be carefully considered and followed. Local churches should seek to do whatever is reasonable to prevent future abuse, whether in scouting, or any other ministry of the local church.
Who signs the new Affiliation Agreement?
The chair the local church’s board of trustees or single leadership board should sign on behalf of the local church AFTER getting approval of the trustees or the single leadership board itself.
When does the new Affiliation Agreement need to be signed?
There is no deadline. The Affiliation Agreement may be signed by a local church at any time, and the document is now ready. It can be effective as soon as July 1, 2022, but local churches can engage the process and sign any time after that as well. Regional BSA Councils may well wish to hurry the process. There is much excitement about the new document and the renewal of the relationship between the BSA and the UMC. But the local church needs to operate in its own time, and only after reviewing the document with its leadership and insurer. It should be formally approved in a vote of the board of trustees or single leadership board.
Can a local church still insist that another organization sign the Affiliation Agreement and simply use the Facilities Use Agreement?
Yes. Every local church is free to decide at what level it wishes to engage with scouting. It may refuse all scouting activities entirely. It may refuse to sign the Affiliation Agreement, but still offer a Facilities Use Agreement to an organization operating its own chartered troop. Or it may sign the Affiliation Agreement.
Do you have a template for a Facilities Use Agreement?
Yes. If you have questions about the local church’s relationship with a Troop or need assistance generating an agreement for a self-chartering Troop or one chartered by another organization, simply contact Christa Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. That said, the Conference generally cannot provide legal advice to Troops seeking other chartering options.
Are other organizations continuing to charter BSA troops?
Yes. Although other religious denominations are ending (or have already ended) charter relationships with troops, and the UMC has moved to affiliation agreements, organizations such as the American Legion, VFW or community clubs have regularly chartered troops and will likely continue to do so going forward. The BSA is exploring other forms of relationships.
If we end a charter agreement or don't sign an affiliation agreement, can the troop still meet on our church property?
Absolutely. They will need to sign a facilities use agreement and abide by the same rules that apply to any other organization that uses a church building (including Safe Sanctuaries/Safe Gatherings policies).
If we end a charter agreement with a troop, what happens to their property?
If a church ends a charter agreement with a troop, that troop should continue to own any property it has owned in the past. Similarly, the church should continue to own any property that belongs to the church. In some cases, troops have used the church’s legal entity to open bank accounts or insure equipment. If a new entity is chartering the troop going forward, the church should cooperate to make sure bank accounts or insurance policies are transferred to that new entity.
How do I know if there is a claim involving a troop chartered by our church?
We have already communicated known claims to lead pastors and trustee chairs. We cannot, however, be sure that the list of claims accurately includes all local churches involved, and in many cases the claimant failed to clearly identify the charter organizations. If we learn of a claim originating from a troop chartered by your troop in the future, we will alert you at once.