In light of ongoing sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America, United Methodist Church (UMC) leaders are urging congregations that support troops to cancel or alter their agreements through the rest of the year.
For years, the Boy Scouts have been mired in controversy that has caused membership numbers to plummet. Issues range from bankruptcy due to lawsuits, to opening the Scouts to girls, to allowing gay youth and adult leaders to participate.
Reuters reports that a judge recently approved an $850 million settlement to resolve over 80,000 sexual abuse claims after thousands of lawsuits were filed by men alleging they were molested as youngsters by scout leaders.
Boy Scouts of America’s legal struggle, triggered by Scouting-related sex-abuse allegations, has implications for #UMC local churches and entire denomination.https://t.co/t2OCqazSjS
— United Methodist News (@UMNS) August 26, 2021
United Methodist officials say it is unclear how chartered organizations will be impacted by the settlement agreement. An ad hoc committee representing the UMC is actively involved in negotiations with the bankruptcy.
“The denomination continues to maintain a relationship with the BSA and churches may continue to support scout troops,” reads an Aug. 25 announcement from UMC’s Office of Public Information.
“However, the ad hoc committee is disappointed and very concerned that the BSA did not include its sponsoring organizations, charter groups, in the agreement with the claimants.”
The committee recommended that churches with scouting units not renew annual charters. Rather, it suggested that churches extend their current charter until Dec. 31 or replace the charter with a facilities use agreement that expires at the end of the year.
The options were given while groups determine how the bankruptcy will affect congregations.
UMC Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey called upon the church to pray for the victims and their families.
“This tragedy is a reminder for all of us to be vigilant, update Safe Sanctuary policies and continue to review those policies to ensure congregations are following the policies and keeping all young people safe from harm,” she said in a statement.
Girl Scouts Involved in Legal Battle with Two Councils
Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts have also dealt with their own set of problems. There is an ongoing legal battle pitting the national headquarters against two of the 111 local councils, which have refused to start a nationwide technology platform.
Despite these challenges, both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts’ officials, say they’re optimistic about the future. They reported that their summer camps were full, special events sold out, and they’re expecting thousands of families to join and others to rejoin the organizations now that activities are occurring in person rather than virtually.
Christian alternatives to the scouting programs are also seeing huge increases in membership.
Trail Life USA has seen a tremendous 70 percent growth in the last year. Troops with American Heritage Girls are now operating in all 50 states with girls taking part in 15 other countries.
The faith aspect clearly sets American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA apart – a critical component in a world competing for the attention of girls and boys.
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