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Statement by the United Methodist Church


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On Monday, September 20, the United Methodist Ad Hoc Committee on the BSA bankruptcy has stated that it will provide an update on the mediations that have been underway for months.

The approximately dozen member committee is comprised of a team of legal advisors, representatives from the United Methodist Men’s group which oversees Scouting programs for the UMC and is headed by a bishop. Their goal has been to attempt to find a way forward that is fair to victims, protects the church and allows Scouting to continue as a ministry within the UMC.  Members of the ad hoc committee have described the issues as being very complex. They have been engaged in mediations with the BSA and its legal team that have been described as stressful and contentious at times.

 At stake is a 100-year relationship that has been exceptionally strong. The UMC has been one of the two foremost leaders among chartered organizations in the number of units sponsored and the number of Scouts. The endorsement of Boy Scouting by the Methodist Church in the time of James West was critical to its credibility.  Boy Scouting initially struggled to get a foothold established in many communities and the commitment by the Methodist church gave the new movement much needed credibility and momentum.

At question for tomorrow’s announcement will be whether the ad hoc committee simply provides a progress update of on-going mediations  or whether it establishes a clear position forward in terms of the denomination’s future relationship with the BSA.

 It is clear that this relationship is under serious stress. Many would argue that it is at a crisis point that will have profound implications for both organizations. The UMC has also been in communication with many other BSA partner organizations. It is very likely that many will follow the direction set by the UMC.

It is also clear that within the ranks of the UMC, that there is a sense of betrayal by the BSA and that it has been “thrown under the bus” as the BSA has worked to resolve the bankruptcy. A reading of the statements made by UMC conference officials is almost heart-breaking. A large number of the top conference leadership have been Scouts themselves and lament the position that the denomination now finds itself.  The revelation in BSA court filings that chartered organizations may have no protection or limited coverage of BSA insurance policies was simply stunning.  This flies in the face of decades of assurances by council BSA representatives (who I suspect were equally as stunned to learn this). 

Several UMC congregations have only recently learned that they were named in bankruptcy claims. The message is clear – “they need to lawyer up” and seek legal consultation concerning their specific situation. This has hit conferences and local congregations like a tsunami. Essentially every conference has advised congregations to cease renewals of traditional charters and halt the formation of new units until the issues around the bankruptcy are resolved.

Many local churches are not waiting for future conference direction. They see the sponsorship of BSA units as being too great a liability to risk future involvement. Even in terms of a facility agreement.

This has had real implications for local councils. In many cases desperate local chartered organizations have contacted their local council for advice and direction only to be told that the council leadership have essentially been left out of the loop in terms of communication from the national organization. In many ways, they are as frustrated as the local units and chartered organizations.

The UMC at the national level has frequently communicated that they view this relationship with the BSA as an important ministry and are seeking to find a way to continue it. However, the judiciary arm of the UMC has had many concerns. Unfortunately, this has sometimes resulted in mixed messages going out. The UMC leadership is working diligently to make sure that this does not reoccur.

It is important to remember that the UMC is decentralized in many ways. The national organization provides recommendations and information for the overall organizations. However, the denomination functions in large part through local conferences which are often built around state boundaries. The conference level leadership receives the national task force recommendations and then communicates them to local congregations. The conference leadership have a LOT of discretion to determine how they communicate this message and work with their own legal advisors to apply the specific state circumstances in the message to local churches. In other words, the message and tone in one conference may sound somewhat different than in another conference.

While it may be tempting to apply the recent direction of the LDS church to the UMC situation, they are very different in some key ways. The decision making of the UMC is based at the conference level and the local church level, not with a national board. The UMC finances are not centralized and the vast majority of the assets reside with local congregations.

The UMC is like the other mainline churches and has had declining membership for decades. Most of the bankruptcy claims go back decades to a time when downtown First Methodist Church had a membership that was perhaps four or five times larger than today. The major asset of most of the local UMC churches are in their (aging) church facility. Many of the (aging) congregations struggle to pay a pastor’s salary and to keep the lights on today (in full disclosure, I am a long-time UMC member).  They have few other financial resources in most cases. So the threat of incurring significant legal expenses and potential other costs has sent a shockwave to the local churches.

Also, keep in mind, that before the pandemic, the UMC was on the verge of an imminent internal split into what might be described as conservative and progressive wings. This was placed on hold and is now resuming. And could potentially affect how these decisions play out at the local level. At the national level, the UMC soon simply will have fewer resources.

 The BSA bankruptcy has placed the UMC church in a very difficult position in attempting to balance fairness to victims, protecting its own position especially at the local congregational level as well as its future relationship with the BSA. Tomorrow’s statement from the ad hoc committee will be closely watched.

Edited by gpurlee
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I agree.  I miss both of them for their insightfulness and ability to bring clarity to issues.  I also miss @ThenNowfor his humor and self deprecating attitude that not everyone appreciated.  I miss @

On Monday, September 20, the United Methodist Ad Hoc Committee on the BSA bankruptcy has stated that it will provide an update on the mediations that have been underway for months. The approximat

Just about twenty minutes ago I got off a short Zoom with two BSA senior staffers, one being Mr. Mosby and the other involved with membership, and two high level Methodist leaders who have been involv

I expect that the statement will be released via multiple routes. The Facebook page for United Methodist Scouting would be a prime source.

Also, I would monitor https://methodistscouter.org/

This announcement will go to the local conferences who will then communicate directly with local congregations who have been told to expect further information and direction. 

It is worth noting the most recent posting:

 We cannot tell what the future will hold exactly. We do know there will be The United Methodist Church and there will be a Boy Scouts of America after the bankruptcy.

Our advice below to delay chartering past Dec. 2021, is not about leaving service with youth. It is about the space to get through the valley. We are working intently with BSA National and across the gambit of chartering groups. Our vision set is to look toward the future. We are looking above the horizon to the greater purpose and future.

 

 

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Do you not think if it was a positive situtation and they had an agreement the BSA would be yelling it from the tallest mountain? 

This announcement could set the tone for other CO's to follow. If it is not an agreement and settlement will others follow and drop scouting too? 

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17 minutes ago, 1980Scouter said:

Do you not think if it was a positive situtation and they had an agreement the BSA would be yelling it from the tallest mountain? 

I could literally see something where they’re trying to mediate this well into tonight.

The Facebook group for united Methodist scounting already indicated they were expecting to hear something by the 20th.

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9 minutes ago, CynicalScouter said:

I could literally see something where they’re trying to mediate this well into tonight.

That would not surprise me either. A self-imposed reporting deadline has been set. There is a lot of pressure to reach a positive resolution for all parties.  A request for prayers was made on Friday for dealing with this difficult situation for the all involved including the victims, the BSA and the UMC.  Future historians may well look back at this weekend and say it was a pivotal moment. 

Edited by gpurlee
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Several weeks ago the people running the UMC Scouting FB said they were going to have an "honest update" by September 20.

Quote

We will have an honest update by Sept. 20. It is not a magic date but one that gives us a bit more time in the legal process and time for units to work as well. We want you to stay and are working to that end.

 

https://www.facebook.com/MethodistScouting/posts/603906087681889?comment_id=604431790962652&reply_comment_id=604441290961702

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I would anticipate that the statement could be as late as the evening. I would not be surprised if some final work is being done on it at this very moment. I would also not be shocked if it is delayed a day or so if they are close to an agreement or trying to reach a consensus among the key UMC stakeholders and decision-makers. Remember, this is a self-imposed deadline.

At the same time, it may turn out to be a simple progress update. 

It will probably be issued out of the Nashville national UMC headquarters which is on central time.

So, stay tuned ...

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4 hours ago, gpurlee said:

Remember, this is a self-imposed deadline.

In some ways it is. In some it is not.

The disclosure notice hearing is tomorrow. The attorney for the ad hoc committee of Methodist churches will I would bet make a statement that can and likely could/will get picked up by media.

The deadline is who should articulate the UMC position: the lawyer or who?

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Just came from a UMC leadership meeting. Several of us have alerts set if there is news this evening. Our suspicion is that it has been a late evening in Nashville  trying to work out final details for tomorrow's hearing. I think that the intent had been to make a public statement this evening.  Given the late hour, our first news from the UMC ad hoc committee may come at tomorrow's hearing followed by a public statement or an update of some sort.  Still waiting to see if the Batphone rings tonight.

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I think the ad hoc committee believed a month ago that there would be a firm decision or direction established by September 20. As was evident from comments made yesterday, that has not happened yet. At least to the point of a public announcement.  

They are under a lot of pressure from area conferences and local congregations for the committee to provide an update as well as a clear direction forward. Many local congregations have recently been advised to consult with an attorney regarding chartering.

And many local congregations are not waiting and are taking their own steps even if they are not under the threat of a claim. The two nearest neighboring UMC's to us informed their units in the past couple of weeks that they are discontinuing all forms of association including even a facility use agreement. In some cases immediately.  This creates a real problem for youth who may be working toward the rank of Eagle. Alternative CO's in our area are not standing in line to sponsor a unit. There are lots of signs that the units sponsored by Roman Catholic units may be next up. 

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