Dear members and friends of Franklin United Methodist Church,
I am writing to inform you of recent actions taken by the Church Council as it relates to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Franklin United Methodist Church has a long history of supporting the Boy Scouts. The first Cub Scout Troop began meeting at the church around 1950; and, in the latter end of 1970, a Boy Scout Troop was formed. For just over 70 years, the church has been a chartering organization with the Boy Scouts of America. We currently charter Boy Scout Troop 29.
In recent years, the BSA has been overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations accruing nationwide over many years. In response to the charges, the BSA filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2020. On August 25, 2021, Bishop Devadhar wrote to the entire Annual Conference to update us on the bankruptcy proceedings, inform churches who charter a troop of potential liability exposure, and forwarded urgent recommendations (from the Conference Chancellor and an ad hoc committee representing United Methodist interests in the bankruptcy proceedings) for how to move forward. Conference Chancellor Hewig summarizes well the situation in his letter, forwarded by the bishop, dated August 17, 2021:
“For over forty years, the [BSA] promised the church…that if the BSA or its council got sued for any misconduct by its leaders, the BSA would defend and indemnify the Charter Organization. The details of the two Bankruptcy restructuring plans are still being negotiated, but NEITHER plan would honor the BSA’s defense and indemnity promises made to its Charter Organizations. This means that while the BSA and its councils would emerge from the Bankruptcy proceedings immune from any further sexual assault suits, Charter Organizations would not. In this way, the BSA’s present actions would have the effect of leaving all United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in scouting exposed to what could be potentially enormous and ruinous liability, and through no fault of their own.”
Every United Methodist Church in New England (and the United States) chartering a troop has been asked to take one of the following actions: 1) discontinue the charter; 2) extend an expiring charter through December 31; 3) discontinue the charter and allow a unit to use the facility under a building usage agreement through December 31, leaving the scout unit with full responsibility for everything else, especially including the selection of leaders.
On Sunday, September 19, the Church Council met to discuss the BSA and our on-going relationship with them as a chartering organization. The Church Council has decided to discontinue all charters with the Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scout Troop 29 and any other BSA-associated groups may continue to utilize our facility for meetings under a building usage agreement through December 31, 2021. After December 31, we hope to have additional guidance from the Conference Chancellor and the Ad Hoc Committee.
If you have any questions about this decision, please contact me or Linda Zardeskas, Chair of Church Council, to set up a time to talk.