The long-anticipated wait is coming to an end as a new era of Scouting ministry in The United Methodist Church makes its way forward. A highly skilled team of chancellors, insurance risk advisors, and UMC leaders have forged a path through a difficult landscape to provide a safer way for Scouting ministry to continue within local United Methodist churches.
After months of negotiation between the Ad Hoc Committee of United Methodist’s leadership team and the Boy Scouts of America, a new “Affiliation Agreement” has been developed and approved by The UMC Ad Hoc Leadership Team, BSA top executives and General Commission on United Methodist Men's top executives.
The new agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of the various parties – the Boy Scouts of America, the local councils, affiliated organizations, and Scouting units – and specific information regarding indemnity and insurance agreements (including the types of insurance coverage and limits). The ownership of the local Scouting unit will reside with the local Scout Council. The support of the ministry with the unit will still reside with the local church. Under the older relationship known as “chartering,” the local church “owned” the Scouting unit while the local Scouting councils and BSA national acted as resource partners.
As a result of the class-action lawsuit against BSA and their subsequent bankruptcy case, it became imperative to redefine the relationship and re-establish ownership. This move allows the local church more freedom of choice in how to engage Scouting ministry while building a responsible framework and relationship moving forward.
The General Commission on United Methodist Men leads and shepherds the program ministry of Scouting for local churches throughout the connection. Greg Arnold, General Secretary and CEO of GCUMM, said, “I’m pleased at the effort put forth by the team and for keeping the focus on youth, our Scouters, adult volunteers, and local churches. Throughout the arduous process, both parties attempted to find the best way forward for this vital ministry of the local church. The relationship with BSA is new, but the ground-level ministry remains the same. GCUMM will be reaching out to conference leaders, district leaders, and local churches to assist in implementation.”
The underlying question throughout the process circled around how to supply a modern agreement to reflect the needs of youth protection, liability, risk management, and appropriate identification of property ownership and program integrity-- all while creating a meaningful pathway for ministry to occur.
Steven Scheid, GCUMM’s Director of Scouting Ministry, shared his enthusiasm for this revamped relationship. “We looked for a new vision of relationship. This one is one that will last for the next several generations.”
Today, June 14th, a preliminary meeting hosted by the UMC Ad Hoc Leadership Team, GCUMM, and the BSA presented the new affiliation agreement to all attending annual conferences through a special called webinar. Bishops, chancellors, treasurers, conference Scouting coordinators, and BSA council executives were invited to learn of the new agreement.
Scheid said, “Today’s meeting was the first step to ensuring our entire UMC connection is on the same page. This sharing of information will produce a more concise and collaborative effort for the final release made to the entire church on a webinar scheduled for Thursday, June 16th. At such time, new affiliation agreements will be available to execute by June 30th, kicking off the new relationships. The rest of the process of transferring ownership of units and properties from the local church to the local councils will take some time.
In the midst of change and alongside the legal and more technical pieces of Scouting ministries, GCUMM is poised to assist the local church to offer safe Scouting ministries with resources and guidance.