Great Plains ready to support victims as part of BSA settlement

1/13/2022

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. wrote the following letter to clergy and laity of the Great Plains Conference regarding an agreement in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case. At the center of the case is a trust fund set up to compensate victims of child sexual abuse.

Download the bishop's letter.

Dear United Methodists of the Great Plains Conference,

The grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with your spirit as we begin a new year.

This letter serves to inform you that pending court approval of a settlement agreement in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bankruptcy case, United Methodists have agreed to contribute $30 million to a $3 billion Survivors Trust Fund that will receive contributions from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), insurance companies and charter organizations.

Every annual conference in the United States is asked to contribute toward the $30 million fund. The Great Plains Annual Conference’s assigned allocation to the Survivors Trust Fund is $988,456. Our Conference Board of Trustees has approved the terms of the settlement, and our Conference Council on Finance and Administration has authorized the payment of our allocation in one lump sum in 2022. This is possible because of the generous giving of our 2021 conference mission shares from churches like yours who supported our connectional ministries at a significantly higher level than had originally been anticipated.

The fund will be used to compensate persons alleged to have experienced abuse while in Scouting. The BSA filed for bankruptcy as it faces more than 80,000 claims for alleged child sexual abuse over the last 80 years. United Methodist congregations sponsor more than 6,000 Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs.

United Methodists participated in the bankruptcy mediation process with five goals:

  1. Healing and support for survivors.
  2. Releases from claims related to sexual abuse for United Methodist congregations that chartered Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs.
  3. Releases for all charter organizations.
  4. Preservation of congregations’ and annual conferences’ insurance.
  5. A fair and just financial settlement.

The settlement agreement meets each goal, but the cornerstone of the United Methodist settlement is the healing and support offered for the survivors in efforts to restore their dignity and alleviate social stigmatization.

The United Methodist Church does not tolerate sexual abuse of any kind and has consistently worked to keep young people safe. Most of the 80,000 claims occurred in the 1950s through the 1970s. Since that time, new practices and policies have been put in place by the BSA and UMC that have dramatically decreased child sexual abuse. For United Methodists, only 1 percent of all claims alleged to have taken place in and through United Methodist Scouting programs occurred in the last 20 years. While that is a dramatic reduction, even one case is too many.

In addition to a financial contribution, United Methodists are committing to the following:

  1. Train leaders to meet with and hear the experiences of survivors who participated in Scouting activities connected with a United Methodist congregation.
  2. Review all Safe Gatherings policies and update as necessary.
  3. Develop a series of articles about how to ensure safe youth programing.
  4. Participate in a survivors’ justice and healing working group formed by survivors who filed claims.

The United Methodist Church also will continue our ministry with Scouting, including with the Boy Scouts of America. Representatives from our denomination and the BSA are working to develop a form of relationship that will allow these important ministries to continue in our churches while also addressing many of the concerns that have been raised around chartering as it is currently practiced. At this time, churches are still encouraged to continue to put a hold on any changes to their present relationships with BSA units, pending the final outcome of negotiations.

Each annual conference is now being asked to commit to follow through with the United Methodist commitments listed above by agreeing to the following:

  1. Identify leaders who are willing to be trained and listen to survivors’ experiences.
  2. Review all Safe Gatherings policies of congregations and the conference to ensure they are up-to-date and are being followed.
  3. Publish a series of articles about child sexual abuse.
  4. Raise funds for the Survivors Trust Fund.

When people, especially children, hurt, God hurts, draws near, and cares. United Methodists also hurt and are moved by the love of Christ to show God’s love, healing, and justice to a hurting world.


Peace,


Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.



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