I get asked that question all the time. Why is someone who loves Scouting, serves in it, and wants it to grow, making changes? Why should we not recharter? Why are some Councils not accepting the BSA National Council and United Methodist agreement? Why is often the most challenging question to answer. Change is difficult for most people if they do not understand why.
For a Future
The Updated Affiliation Agreement is a negotiated agreement designed to provide Scouting with the most stable footing for the future. After the first round, the question was asked to legal counsel, “What can we not do?” There were only two things: Provide the EIN for banking and sign approvals for adults. The Updated Affiliation Agreement reflects that answer. We are committing to do everything we can do safely. We want Scouting to succeed.
Many Scout Executives recognize the need for an agreement that provides this structure. Bankruptcy is only one of two kinds: liquidation or restructuring. Just as the BSA Youth Protection Rules have changed dramatically, partner relationships need to change so we can be true partners.
A Few Things to Consider
There are some unique factors we are dealing with that most people have not thought about but are critical when considering the charter document.
BSA does not share the Ineligible Volunteer File. BSA asks charter partners to approve and monitor adults yet will not let the charter partner know if BSA has had previous problems with an adult. The Ineligible Volunteer File goes beyond the legal background check and into reported violations of YPT that may not be illegal. BSA has the ultimate knowledge and decision on membership regardless of any charter input. So why would a BSA Council not be willing to approve adults? That remains a requirement in the traditional charter that ended up being a liability within the BSA bankruptcy. It will continue to be a liability if we return to the old charter.
Conduct The Program
Traditional Chartering requires the church to conduct the program of Scouting. In effect, the Scouting program becomes a curriculum for the youth and adults participating. Many of our churches are getting older and smaller. While I wish for the 1970s for church and Scouting membership, I am glad we are far from that same peak season of abuse. Why would a Council want to go back? People who care for kids cannot go back to the good old days when abuse was more frequent and chartering was the thing. It is near impossible for most churches to have a presence at every activity. Yet this is a minimum requirement for conducting the program. Churches can be actively involved in the ministry without taking the liability to provide direct oversight of the program. (If you believe what Councils have said, they know this oversight is not being done anyway. Why would a Council want partners to sign a contract that they believe and express is not being fulfilled? It is not Trustworthy, loyal, or brave. We are being honest in the relationship.)
The not-for-profit insurance market is hardening. Multiple insurance groups will not allow a church to charter and still receive its church insurance. The church has many missions. BSA is a highly valued one of those missions. If the United Methodist Church puts Scouting Ministries above all others and charters, we set the other ministries at risk of not being insured. The BSA bankruptcy is taking more the $1.2 Billion out of the insurance market assets. It makes sense that this motivates changes in the market. We can use the Affiliation Agreement or Facilities Use Agreement to stay in ministry without risking it all.
A Long Term Commitment
These are the three most compelling challenges. We are not walking away from Scouting but walking toward the next generation of Scouting. A Scouting where BSA, who approves every membership and writes the rules for all activities, will take the responsibility that comes with these two privileges. A Scouting where the church will have contracts that fit our society and our church. The church will be free to engage with whole heart and depth of conviction, without risking every ministry. Some churches have kept the contract and the promise of Scouting. For these, I am deeply grateful. Our current work is to make Scouting strong for the vast majority that wants Scouting but honestly cannot keep the old contract.
Charter extensions run through Dec. 31. This allows for dealing with any hiccups that might come up before the charter grace period is over.
If your Council is unwilling to accept the Updated Affiliation Agreement for stronger Scouting, then the Scout unit will need to identify another charter partner to provide the EIN. The church can hold/insure the physical property simplifying any changes. This is an opportunity to build community. Look for a charter partner with whom the unit and the church have contact. Examples are the Lions, VFW, Kiwanis, Moose Lodges, and many others.
A Resource Page
All the documents are for download.
Scouting is Worth Making Stronger Partnerships
Most importantly, no youth read these agreements. They should not have to either. It is the adult part of us setting the path for them to enjoy Scouting. Change can be hard, but these few changes are worth it!