A message from Heather Kimmel, General Counsel to the UCC:
Over the past several days I’ve received a number of inquiries from both Local Churches and Conferences related to the relationship of Local Churches and the Boy Scouts of America, and the BSA bankruptcy.
One line of inquiry is what advice I would give a Local Church that has received the “Summary Regarding Chartered Organizations’ Options Under the BSA’s Chapter 11 Plan.” This document gives several opt-in choices and an opt-out. Each choice involves waivers of important rights. A Local Church that is a chartering organization should consult with its attorney to carefully review its options in the context of its history with BSA and knowledge of potential abuse claims for the best advice on how to proceed. I cannot advise Local Churches individually on this issue.
A second line of inquiry is whether a Local Church should sign the Charter Agreement. The decision to be a chartering organization for the BSA is a decision that has always been up to the Local Church and should be made in consultation with an attorney who can review this agreement with the church and specifically attend to whether the church is prepared to undertake its obligations under the agreement. The church’s insurer should also be consulted. The obligations under this Charter Agreement for the church are significant, including making the scouting program a ministry of the church and putting the burden of conducting background checks and approving leaders on the church. This agreement may be different from what the church has signed in the past; some churches have indicated they have never been asked to sign such an agreement.
Third, some churches are noting that the United Methodist Church has urged its congregations not to continue their relationships with BSA and are asking what the position of the UCC is on this. The UCC, given its polity, would not make such a recommendation to its churches and neither should the lack of a statement be considered approval of the relationship. It has always been up to the Local Church to determine whether to have that relationship with BSA. The UCC does continue to have a Scouting Working Group that can provide resources to churches with scout troops, especially as relates to inclusive scouting; the National Setting liaison to that group is Michael Schuenemeyer.
Finally, some churches are also asking about the possibility of a facilities use agreement in place of a charter agreement, so that the troop has access to the church building. My advice here is to have an attorney draw up such an agreement in consultation with the church’s insurer and to ensure the appropriate certificates of insurance are in place. I do not know if local BSA councils are accepting such agreements.