Why Should Your Annual Conference Make a Financial and Survivor Healing Commitment?
- When people are hurt, United Methodists We are called to help with the healing of Scouts who participated in United Methodist-affiliated Scout programs and who experienced harm. Following through with our commitment is a testimony to our values, ideals, and ethical responsibility to do what is right in the name of Christ.
- United Methodists are connectional. We have seen over and over again the value of our connectional system when we work together to address challenges and crises. We work collectively to help one another, not only for our individual needs but for the good of the whole church and particularly for those who are in crisis or who have been harmed while participating in any of our ministries. Following through with our commitments strengthens the connection and our
- We have chosen to follow our values in the bankruptcy. Within the church and publicly, there is an appreciation for the leadership and work of United Methodists. Responding fully and faithfully to each of our commitments, including giving our full contribution of $30 million, is If we fail to raise our portion of the settlement, the public will decide how faithfully we responded.
If we do not contribute the full amount, a substantial number of our congregations and U.S. annual conferences will be forced to litigate the claims in court. This will create significant challenges not only for those congregations and conferences but for all of us as we make a public witness. Connectionally, United Methodists help when people are hurting.
What will happen if we fail to reach the $30 million contribution?
What we have contributed will be returned and no United Methodist entities will receive a release for the abuse claims arising out of scouting activities. Congregations in every U.S. annual conference are implicated in such claims, which threatens all such congregations, conferences, and other UM entities with lawsuits that your congregations and conference would have to defend in court. Given the magnitude of the defense costs and damage awards typically imposed in cases of this nature, not meeting our $30 million commitment is not an option.
What happens if an annual conference does not contribute its share?
Other United Methodist Conferences may have to pay that annual conference’s contribution.
Why should our conference contribute if we are protected by the statute of limitations?
While it is true that there are states that have not opened the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, more and more are opening up to allow child sexual abuse claims to be tried in the courts. HOWEVER, as the Church, ours is not only a legal obligation but a moral and ethical obligation; AND the BSA, insurers and other chartering organizations are also contributing toward all BSA sexual abuse claims regardless of the statute of limitations.
Suppose United Methodists oversubscribe and raise more than our stated contribution?
Ten percent was added to the overall request to carry out the healing initiatives, assist in the release of all charter organizations, provide legal representation, and guarantee we raise the full $30 million. If excess funds are raised, contributions will be returned proportionately to annual conferences for any funds raised over the amount needed.
How long does a conference have to raise and give their contribution?
Two or fewer years. If needed, a conference may take up to a third year. The sooner the funds are raised and paid, the sooner survivors who were part of United Methodist troops receive compensation and the sooner we receive releases for all United Methodist entities and other charter organizations.
How was our conference’s contribution identified?
Your conference’s contribution is proportionate to the number of claims that implicate congregations in your annual conference. This is outlined in your Commitment Form.
When our conference researched its claims, we found some claims were not associated with our conference. Was this taken into account?
Yes, that is correct, and they were deducted along with a number of other claims that were researched through staff with the General Commission on United Methodist Men. You will see these deductions in the form.
Who approved the contribution allocations?
The BSA Leadership Team is made up of bishops, treasurers, chancellors, and specialists in certain disciplines (e.g., insurance). The allocations sub-team reviewed a number of methods for allocating amounts to conferences. The team recommended that the total claims be reduced by the number of claims on or after January 1, 1976 (those claims are to be covered solely by the BSA, BSA Councils, and insurers), and then further reduced by to eliminate claims that could not fairly be attributed to your conference. After applying those deductions, the remaining number was divided by the total of all claims implicating UMC congregations. The resulting percentage, when applied to the total United Methodist contribution, reflects your conference’s allocated share of the $30 million the UMC has committed to contribute to the Survivor Trust Fund and other associated costs such as legal fees.
Why are only claims before January 1, 1976, considered?
Starting in the mid-1970s, the BSA committed to cover all liabilities for chartering organizations related to Scouting activities. Insurance carriers, the BSA and BSA Councils are paying for all claims on or after January 1, 1976.
How will funds be raised?
Each annual conference is asked to contribute as part of the settlement to the Survivor Trust Fund that will be used to compensate survivors. Conferences will determine how to raise the funds. The United Methodist BSA Leadership Team’s fundraising sub-committee has developed ideas and resources for your annual conference that will be available by mid-January for annual conferences to use. These will include strategies and materials.
How will the United Methodist Church (UMC) move forward with the settlement agreement, and what will be the implications to local churches?
Annual Conference leadership will identify how it will work with congregations and conference agencies to finalize a conference’s commitment to the settlement which includes financial and healing support for survivors. There are also teams now being formed at different levels in our connection to outline how these commitments will be carried forward. We will update local churches as more information becomes available.
How will the UMC produce the $30 million outlined in the settlement?
Each annual conference will receive an allocation based on the number of their cases. A team is being put together to work on strategies to support and resource Annual Conferences for the appropriate fundraising over the next 3 years to raise the 30 million contribution to the survivors’ fund by United Methodists. Additional information will be available in the weeks and months to come.
Is the UMC committing to raise an additional 100 million to cover other non-Methodist chartering organizations?
The UMC advocated for the release of all chartering organizations. As a global denomination, we have the organization and capacity to be represented but other smaller denominations and social service organizations do not. We helped to achieve their releases and in part to gain their release we committed to assisting in raising an additional $100 million from chartering organizations not represented in the mediation. The release of all chartering organizations was essential to continue to serve 1.2 million young people in scouting.
What will be the financial obligation of my local church, if we vote to approve the plan?
Voting for the plan does not obligate a congregation to anything further. Annual conferences will identify how they will raise their allocation from the settlement. There is a team working on how to best allocate Annual Conference contribution to the settlement amount that ensures equity. More information will be shared as it becomes available.
Does a summons/lawsuit against a local church go away if the settlement is approved?
All lawsuits that involve abuse in connection with scouting will be channeled to the Survivor Trust and the survivor will be paid from the trust.
How can UM congregations help survivors now?
We call all GNJ congregations to continue praying for the healing of survivors. Second, we need to get the plan approved. Voting to accept the plan provides a path forward for survivors. The settlement is supported by all groups representing survivors in the process. More information on ways congregations can engage survivors in their local communities will be shared as it becomes available.
What happens to the Scout troop if it does not find a chartering group?
The councils can charter, so we anticipate that will happen.
Should a Scout troop sponsored by the church be required to have its members and quests wear masks if that is what the church is mandating for the congregation?
Yes. The church’s requirements should be detailed in the lease “Usage/Lease Agreement” document.
When should churches switch from a charter agreement to “Relationship Statement” and “Usage/Lease agreement need to happen by?
We recommend that you work on this as soon as possible, particularly as current charter agreements become eligible for renewal if not sooner. Work directly with your local council for them to charter the troop. We encourage you to use common sense and work with the scouts and understand that this needs to be done in collaboration with the Scouts. At the very least, we suggest that by December 31, 2021, all churches convert to Usage/Lease Agreements and Relationship Statements.
If our church has not been advised by GNJ, that it is on a claims list in the pending Bankruptcy litigation (“List”), does that mean there is no claim against us?
Not necessarily. The List provided to the Conference is from the BSA, which took information from the 84,000 claimants in the Bankruptcy Case and attempted to identify all the churches it was able to, who were named as chartered organizations of BSA units. However, we cannot be sure that the List accurately included all local churches involved, and we know that in some limited situations, the claimant failed to clearly identify the charter organizations involved. Nevertheless, the Conference hopes the List includes all affected local churches, and it believes it has in fact accurately advised all local churches in question based on the List received.
If a claim is brought to the church that is new/different than what has been communicated, the pastor should immediately contact the Bishop’s office.
Can a church be held liable if there are no claims from that church?
Only to the extent that we’re a connectional body who may all share in the financial impact.
Should our church name be removed from the Scouts’ messaging?
You need to collaborate with the troop to work out the best way forward, but it may work best if any publicizing of their activities include your address and not your church name.
How do you anticipate this lawsuit affecting individual churches financially?
An “ad-hoc committee,” comprised of the legal team from GCFA, some nationwide senior chancellors, and two law firms, has been established to represent the interests of all UMC churches in the United States with respect to the current BSA Bankruptcy case. While no outcome is certain, the Committee is working to be fair to survivors while protecting UMC churches.
If a settlement can be reached, we will share more information on the potential financial impact.
If a settlement cannot be reached, it is possible each individual church may need to prepare for legal action and the related costs and judgments.
Do these recommendations also apply to Girl Scouts?
Yes. While we have been speaking to the current BSA case, our recommendation is to switch to a “Relationship Statement” and “Usage/Lease Agreement” for all scouting entities.
Should this building usage and relationship agreement be used with NA and AA groups also?
Yes. For any external group that uses your facilities, please consult our “Usage/Lease Agreement.”
My understanding is that the Council does not charter units and that they would therefore need to find other organizations to charter the units?
The Scouts are starting to charter units; speak to your local council.
Who should be the point person on the Relationship Statement and Usage/Lease agreement at church?
Board of Trustees chair.
We have the scout trailer registered to the church. Should that be changed?
We would recommend that you collaborate with your council to determine the best next steps, but keep in mind that if you are the charter, you are responsible for this trailer.
Is my church responsible for both on-campus and off-campus activities of the Boy Scouts?
Yes, the church is responsible for any activities, although in certain situations others may also hold responsibility.
I received a letter requesting follow-up on the Boy Scout’s proof of claim filing but we don’t have a Boy Scout Troop.
If you received the email letter, your church either self-identified as having chartered a troop in the past 50 years (or more) OR, we identified your church as having chartered one based on a list we received from the Boy Scouts. We strongly urge you to complete the form accepting the terms of the proof of claims so that your congregation can have some protection for future claims. The only requirement on the form is acceptance of the proof of claim and confirmation from the chair of the Board of Trustees
Wouldn’t our insurance policy cover any “bad acts” committed on church property by BSA? The Conference is covering initial expenses, but what are the potential costs to local churches down the road?
In short, the insurance policies may not necessarily cover a claim in this situation which is why we’re seeking to protect our churches through filing proof of claims. The conference is covering the cost of filing the proof of claim. Should a lawsuit come to the local church, the proof of claim then allows the church to seek reimbursement from the bankruptcy funds set aside for future claims.
The FAQs gave a deadline of November 16. What if I can’t get all the documentation by the 4th?
The deadline to accept the terms of the proof of claim is Friday, 10/30. This will ensure the legal team has the time they need to file the proof of claims by the “bar date” (11/16) set by the bankruptcy court. The 11/4 deadline is when GNJ must provide our complete data to the legal team which is why we’re asking for the forms to be submitted by 10/30.
What kind of fees will my church be expected to pay?
The conference will be covering the costs of filing the proof of claim.
How much time will this take away from my ministry? Will I have to travel any great distances to meet with the law firm or in courts?
The legal team is handling all the work involved in filing the proof of claim. We do not anticipate additional time or travel on the part of congregational leaders.
What about the victims of sexual abuse stemming from the Boy Scouts?
Incidents of sexual abuse are significant and devastating for the lives of the victims. The United Methodist Church supports fair treatment of all sexual violence victims, including persons in these situations, and calls for reconciliation for victims. BSA has set up victim compensation funds with the participation of their insurance carrier.
All victims coming forward and making a claim by November 16, 2020, may be cared for through the victim compensation fund. Claims filed after the date will not be eligible. This is true even for persons making a report after November 16 for an occurrence prior to November 16.
Who is paying for the Proof of Claim?
The Annual Conference is supporting the local churches by paying the initial proof of claim filing with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.
What type of Boy Scout programs are included in the legal filings?
Your congregation should be included in the Proof of Claim if you have chartered or hosted any of the following:
- Cub Scouts
- Blazer Scouts
- Sea Scouts
- Explorer Scout Posts
- Boy Scout Troops
- Other affiliated Boy Scout programs
Why do I need to review records for 50 years?
The imperative for this historic review is due to the nature of potential sexual abuse claims after the claim deadline. Most of the sexual abuse cases coming up now are related to actions that happened 30+ years ago. It may not matter if the abuse happened in the 1970s, and it may not matter if you think your church has nothing to do with a BSA Unit other than allowing them to use space for meetings. Even if you are currently unaware of any potential claims against a BSA Unit if your church had been a Charter Organization going back over 50 years ago, your local church may still be fully responsible for damages arising out of sexual molestation that far back.
What is the urgency?
A Proof of Claim will provide some protection for local church chartering organizations.
What is the difference between hosting a Boy Scout Troop and chartering a Boy Scout Troop?
Many churches allow outside organizations like the Boys Scouts to rent their buildings for meetings. This would be considered hosting a Boy Scout Troop. It is an agreement to use the space. Present chartering arrangements are different. The congregation assists in recruiting volunteers, providing a liaison between the congregation and troop, assisting with raising money, hosting annual scouting Sundays, and providing volunteers. Hosting is a very informal relationship and chartering is a more formal relationship.
What is the financial risk?
If a sexual abuse claim arises, a plaintiff likely sues the national BSA organization, the local Council of the BSA, the local Troop, and the Chartering Organization. Bankruptcy can eliminate the debts of a debtor. Bankruptcy can also extinguish judgments and future claims against the debtor – particularly if the future claim is based on an act that happened before the bankruptcy proceeding. Accordingly, if the BSA goes through bankruptcy and extinguishes liabilities related to sexual abuse claims, a chartering organization (including our affected local churches) may be the last entity standing with potential liability. The concern is that absent a new Indemnification agreement with the BSA, chartering organizations may lose rights of presently existing protections because of the Bankruptcy.
Is there a denominational action?
Denominational legal leaders from the General Council of Finance and Administration are considering coordinating efforts to try and maximize the leverage of all affected United Methodist churches. This might involve the establishment of a central source for filing all notices of claims. It also may include a uniform United Methodist effort to join with all other similarly impacted in order to collectively negotiate with the BSA and the bankruptcy trustee during the course of the litigation with the goal of concluding an amicable arrangement going forward. We will keep you posted if these steps are initiated.
Where do I go for questions?
You can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.