Bishop Addresses Legal Issues Surrounding Boy Scouts


By Sandra Steiner Ball

Dear Clergy, Laity, and Friends of the West Virginia Conference:

Many of you have seen the articles and reports regarding the Boy Scouts of America. Both the UMNEWS Service and secular press have covered much of the legal issues regarding the Boy Scouts of America.

It is important for you to know that our denomination has convened an ad hoc committee to work diligently on this issue. This ad hoc group is providing guidance and leadership to bishops and designated conference leadership across the United States. I write this letter to share information and request action.

FOR ALL CONGREGATIONS:  

  • I call you to prayer.  Pray for those who have been affected by sexual abuse – whether in this situation or any situation. The pain of abuse is deep and can, and often does, last a lifetime. We must continue to offer God’s grace and healing and pray for all who have experienced harm.
  • Make sure that your congregation – whether you have a Scouting troop or not – has an up-to-date and active Safe Sanctuary policy. It is the approved policy of the West Virginia Conference that every church must have and follow the Safe Sanctuary policy. It doesn’t matter whether you have few or no children/youth or a great number of children/youth – all churches must actively and effectively follow their Safe Sanctuary policy. These policies help to reduce the risk of child abuse. If you have questions, call your district superintendent or Rev. Shea James, our Director of Young Disciples and Outdoor Ministries.
  • If you do not have a Cub Scout pack or Boy Scout troop and your congregation is approached to start one, we advise you to consider waiting until more information is known about the current issues with the national and local Boy Scout Councils. Part of the bankruptcy process for the Boy Scouts of America involves a restructure of the organization.  At this time local congregations cannot know what obligations and responsibilities a chartering congregation will have as the organization restructures.

IF YOUR CONGREGATION CURRENTLY SPONSORS OR HAS A SCOUTING UNIT, THE AD HOC COMMITTEE MENTIONED ABOVE ADVISES THE FOLLOWING:

  • Agree to extend an expiring charter through December 31, 2021, rather than renew that charter.
  • Replace an expiring charter with a Facilities Use Agreement that expires on December 31, 2021. (A sample agreement is in process and will be available through the superintendents’ offices.)
  • Terminate an existing charter and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement that expires on December 31, 2021. (Again, a sample agreement is currently being developed.)
  • If your congregation does not charter a Scouting unit, but a Scouting unit uses your church, you must have a Facilities Use Agreement to cover their activities.

All these options allow more time to see how the bankruptcy will impact United Methodist congregations. These options also allow time for the Scouting organization to make clear the expectations/requirements of a congregation that charters a Scouting unit following the organizational restructure.

Scouting has been, and often continues to be, a part of the mission and ministry of many of our local churches. It has provided immeasurable ministry and taught life skills to untold numbers of young people. The action requested does not diminish Scouting. We expect to continue support for Scouting programs, but the type of support will depend on the restructuring.  

Please know that I am praying for each of you. Additionally, I am praying with the congregations of the West Virginia Conference.

In Ministry Beside You,

Sandra L. Steiner Ball

Resident Bishop