September 1, 2021
Dear Beloved Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference,
We are writing to you in your capacity as Pastor, Chair of Trustees and/or Chair of your Leadership Council, Administrative Board, Administrative Council, or other simplified, accountable ministry structure. We want you to be informed and take specific action.
Many of you have seen the articles and reports regarding the Boy Scouts of American. 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 the bishops and designated Conference leadership across the United States.
We, your Bishops, are working closely with this denominational ad hoc group as well as our own Chancellors to address this issue. We are writing this letter to share important information and request your careful attention to this matter.
FOR ALL CONGREGATIONS:
- We 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 Susquehanna Conference that every church must establish and follow its Safe Sanctuary policy. It doesn’t matter whether you have few or no children/youth or lOOs of children/youth – all churches must have an active and effective Safe Sanctuary policy. These policies help to reduce the risk of child abuse. If you have questions, call your District Superintendent or the Director of Connecting Ministries.
- If you do not have a Cub Scout pack or Boy Scout troop and your congregation is approached to start one, please wait 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, rather than renew that charter.
- Replace an expiring charter with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31, 2021.
- Terminate an existing charter and replace it with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31, 2021.
- 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.
As soon as the facilities use agreement is available, you will be able to request the form from your Superintendent’s office.
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 skills to untold numbers of young people. The action requested does not diminish scouting. We expect to continue support for Scouting programs, but the level of support will depend on the restructuring.
Please know that we are praying for each of you. Additionally, we are praying with the congregations of the Susquehanna Conference.
In Ministry Beside You,
Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball