Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Chartering Churches Frequently Asked Questions
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. In some sense, the old “chartering” responsibilities are now shifted to either the regional council or another community organization. However, affiliating with a troop still includes responsibilities of the local church. Because of that, the advice the annual conference has been giving for several years still applies: 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 now become a matter for the BSA’s regional council or another community organization.
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. 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 (or Charter) 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.
Can we still sign a charter agreement?
Ultimately authority for deciding how to work with troops is up to the local church. However, the Conference through its Office of Finance and Administrative Ministries and Chancellor strongly recommends against chartering. This is why we have a new Affiliation Agreement with the BSA. Continued use of the Charter Agreement also may expose the local church to unwanted liabilities.
Isn’t the BSA Bankruptcy over?
No. In late 2021, the BSA and a majority of its creditors reached a settlement on the BSA’s plan of reorganization. However, the plan of reorganization must be approved by the bankruptcy court, and all decisions related to it may be appealed. The court has indicated its approval of the plan with respect to United Methodist Churches and the release offered to them but has not made a final decision. That approval and final resolution should come some time in 2023.