• The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once a major chartering or sponsoring group of Boy Scout troops, says it will pay $250 million to a fund for victims of Scouting-related sex abuse.
• The United Methodist Church, another major chartering group for troops, continues to negotiate in the bankruptcy proceeding out of leaders’ concern for liability faced by local churches.
The United Methodist Church continues to seek liability protection in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy, but another religious group has agreed to pay into a proposed fund for survivors of Scouting-related sex abuse.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — known to many as the LDS or the Mormons — said earlier this week that it would put $250 million into a victims’ fund that is part of the BSA’s bankruptcy reorganization strategy.
“This contribution will provide opportunities to alleviate the suffering of those who have experienced abuse,” said Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS church had been the largest sponsoring or chartering group for BSA troops but cut ties with the BSA at the end of 2019.
The United Methodist Church has been another major chartering group, and thousands of local churches continue to sponsor and provide space for BSA troops.
United Methodist leaders have expressed deep concern for victims. They also have said they’re worried about liability for local churches associated with troops where abuse is alleged.
The denomination has filed motions in the bankruptcy and been part of negotiations.
“The United Methodist Church has not reached a settlement agreement at this point and continues to work with the various entities to achieve a settlement,” said Bishop John Schol, who leads the Greater New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania conferences.
Schol chairs a team formed to help lead The United Methodist Church through the unfolding BSA bankruptcy.
He declined to predict a timetable for negotiations or predict with specificity what a settlement might entail.
Burdened by abuse claims going back decades, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February 2020, and continues to try to work out a reorganization plan acceptable to the bankruptcy court and to most abuse victims. It’s on the fifth version of a plan.
This week brought not only the LDS church development but an announcement by The Hartford insurance company that it had entered into a new agreement in the BSA bankruptcy, and would put $787 million into the victims fund.
The payments would provide the insurance company and the LDS church protection from further liability in Scouting-related abuse cases, The Associated Press reported.
That news service also said the recent proposed settlements with The Hartford and the LDS church are opposed by the official victims committee appointed by the U.S. bankruptcy trustee, along with some law firms representing hundreds of men who say they were abused.
The AP also reported that the latest version of the BSA plan provides a way for churches, civic groups and other troop sponsors to be released from liability. A full release would come for assigning insurance rights and making a significant cash contribution to the fund, the news service said.
An Aug. 25 press release from United Methodist leaders said that an ad hoc committee, consisting mostly of annual conference chancellors, was representing United Methodist interests in the bankruptcy. The press release noted that as many as 5,000 United Methodist congregations in the U.S. were exposed to potential lawsuits by those claiming abuse.
The United Methodist Church, through the ad hoc committee, joined the LDS church in a filing in the bankruptcy in April. The Catholic Church, another major troop-sponsoring group, has joined in other United Methodist filings.
The Aug. 25 press release also summarized advice from the ad hoc committee that United Methodist bishops and other conference leaders have been sharing with local churches that sponsor troops.
The committee said churches supporting Scouting units should hold off on renewing annual charters. Instead, the committee said, they should agree to extend an expiring charter through Dec. 31, replace an expiring charter with a facilities use agreement through Dec. 31, or terminate an existing charter and replace it with a facilities use agreement that runs through Dec. 31.
“All of those options allow more time to see how the bankruptcy will impact United Methodist congregations,” the Aug. 25 press release said.
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