In this issue:
Note from the Editors
Foundation-Fellowship Agreement Avi Dogim
GLAD Newsletter Premiers
A Socio-Religious Expression of the Fifth Epochal Revelation Meredith Sprunger
Texas Lone Star Roundup Conference
Varieties of Religious Expression Peter Laurence
What's New on the Website?
List Your Events
FROM THE EDITORS
The Mighty Messenger endeavors to bring to its readers news and opinions which the editors consider to be of interest to most of you. From time to time, as we think is the case with this issue, we will publish controvertial items. We hope to do so in a balanced manner, while recognizing that objectivity in our realm of existence is relative. You can help us achieve our goals and yours by sending us articles or letters which you think should be openly discussed and deserve reader attention.
by Avi Dogim
Ever since the split between Urantia Foundation and the, then, Urantia Brotherhood in 1989, many in The Urantia Book reader community have hoped and prayed for a reconciliation between the two organizations whose fundamental purposes center around making the fifth epochal revelation available to the peoples of the world. Early this fall it seemed as if these prayers were answered when, on October 10, Fellowship President Janet Farrington Graham and Foundation President Patricia Mundelius issued a joint statement heralding a new era of cooperation between the two organizations.
The statement was issued following a meeting at a Chicago hotel on October 3 between the five Foundation Trustees and six representatives of the Fellowship's Executive Committee. "All eleven persons in attendance felt the meeting was a success," read the statement. "On behalf of our respective organizations, we agreed to put the questions arising from the June 10 appeals decision behind us and focus on the future; we agreed to pursue better communication, more understanding, and direct cooperation on mutual projects. There was a willingness to discuss ways to solve trademark concerns through cooperation. All eleven representatives were hopeful that our cooperative efforts may meet with success in the future." The statement went on to include terms of Agreement that "have been sealed with a handshake, symbolic of a renaissance of trust and cooperation between our organizations." These terms read as follows:
1. Pending any appeal to the 9th circuit's decision, Urantia Foundation shall release The Fellowship and Uversa Press from all claims for damages from having published the first and only Uversa Press edition of The Urantia Book.
2. The Fellowship shall retain possession and control of the disposition of the unsold copies of the Uversa Press edition of The Urantia Book. These copies shall not be sold. They shall be given to libraries, prisons, or to persons who cannot afford a book.
3. The Fellowship shall make a significant donation to the Foundation's Translation Fund.
4. The two organizations shall form a small committee to address ongoing problems in a timely fashion.
5. Within the next six months, The Fellowship and the Foundation shall schedule a face-to-face meeting to address issues such as reader referrals, translation efforts, and licensing ideas.
6. Both organizations reconfirm their prior agreement to talk with each other before either group initiates legal action against the other.
7. The Trustees of Urantia Foundation and the Executive Committee of The Fellowship shall help each other represent the Agreement to their respective constituencies in such a way that supporters of the two organizations shall know that cooperation and interdependence are possible between the two groups.
The reaction to the agreement from the community was, by and large, favorable. Fellowship President Graham reported that "we received many letters commending us for a job well done."
Surprisingly, however, within days of the publication of the joint statement, Urantia Foundation issued subpoenas against Asoka and Agondonter Foundations, demanding exhaustive information regarding these two organizations' support of Kristen Maaherra and Eric Schaveland in their litigation with the Foundation. Among the information sought were the names of all individuals contributing through Asoka and Agondonter to Maaherra and Schaveland and the amount of each contribution. To many, this latest of the Foundation's legal actions appeared to be inconsistent with the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of the Joint Agreement.
The Executive Committee, which had convened in a prescheduled planning retreat in the Vail, Colorado home of Fellowship Treasurer, Harry McMullan III, on October 24th and 25th, issued the following statement in response to the subpoenas: "The Fellowship's Executive Committee recently issued a joint statement with Urantia Foundation concerning improved relationship and cooperation between the two organizations. Unfortunately, Urantia Foundation's subsequent escalation of litigation against believers greatly hinders these efforts, making cooperation extremely difficult. We believe that litigation between Urantians is inexcusable and we appeal to the Trustees of Urantia Foundation to cease these damaging actions. Regardless of this setback, the Executive Committee intends to continue efforts to achieve greater unity in the believer community, while moving forward with the challenge of bringing our incomparable revelation to the world."
A day after the statement was issued, Foundation President Mundelius called Fellowship President Graham to inform her that, in response to the unanticipated community outrage over the subpoenas, the subpoenas had been withdrawn. A response to the subpoenas, which could not be reversed in time, was the cancellation of a visit by a Fellowship representative to the Foundation's translators conference held in Paris over the first weekend in November.
Objective views regarding the complex relationship between the Fellowship and the Foundation are difficult, if not impossible, to come by. Individual positions among readers range from unqualified support for either organization to total rejection of both. There is no uniformity of opinion regarding the best approach to this persistent problem among the Fellowship's General Council or Executive Committee. One would expect that as divergent viewpoints are reconciled in light of supreme values, the organizations, as well as the entire Urantia Book reading community will achieve greater and greater harmony.
Supporting The Fellowship Joseph Liszka, Chair, Finance Committee
To "go forth and teach all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" was a biblical admonition but one which The Fellowship has taken on as its responsibility as well.
And why not? Consider the import of The Urantia Book as a revelation of epochal significance. Dare we simply bathe in its magnificence and say, "We got ours, who cares about where you get yours?" Of course not!
Let me make a flat-out statement. The Fellowship is an organization that is dedicated to promulgating The Urantia Book and its distribution, as well as its spiritual and social support systems. As a result of this dedication and in response to the needs of its readership, the Fellowship seeks and certainly hopes to find your support as well.
It's the time of year when giving is so much a part of the season, a season which reflects the generosity and love from our Father who has given us life and meaning. Won't you please help us in our mission and give as generously as you can? Thank you.
GLAD NEWSLETTER PREMIERS
The first issue of GLAD (Gay & Lesbian AgonDonters), the Gay & Lesbian Urantia Book Reader Association Newsletter, saw the light of day in October. According to founder and editor, Nick Curto, requests for the newsletter came from as far away as Finland and Mexico in response to the publication's announcement in the previous Mighty Messenger. Curto added that, "gay parents, activists, and Urantia Book readers who have never had an opportunity to communicate with other gay Urantia Book readers before have written to us from all over the world."
GLAD is now accepting articles, stories, poetry and artwork for the next issue of the newsletter. For submissions or for membership information, write to: GLAD, c/o Nick Curto, PO Box 387, New York, NY 10028, or call/fax: 212/289-1741.
A SOCIORELIGIOUS EXPRESSION OF THE
FIFTH EPOCHAL REVELATION
by Meredith J. Sprunger
The major responsibility in the Urantia movement, in my judgment, is disseminating the unique spiritual-cosmological paradigm of the fifth epochal revelation. The authors of The Urantia Book project two venues in which this will take place: (1) by establishing new religious groups (p. 966), and (2) by leavening traditional religions (p. 1041 and p. 2082).
No major value system or religion in the history of our planet has acculturated society without being institutionalized. The authors of The Urantia Book observe that the institutionalization of religion increases the potential for evil, but they go on to say that religion cannot survive in civilized society without being institutionalized. The teachings of the fifth epochal revelation must, sooner or later, be institutionalized to acculturate and transform our religious understanding and social institutions. Our basic challenge is to discover, reform, or create the social religious vehicles that can accomplish this task.
I had great hope that the leaders of the growing edge of Christianity would examine and recognize the high quality and transforming potential of the teachings of The Urantia Book. They would be the leaven that would start a renaissance in the Christian Church. Forty years of interfacing with these leaders has demonstrated that the paradigm shift is just too great for them to make. The history of religion shows that a new spiritual vision has never been able to "win over" or reform the old religions.
The viability of the fifth epochal revelation must be established through indigenous religious social institutions. The first step in evolving indigenous religious structures at the grass roots of society is the formation of study groups. This we have been doing for over forty years, but study groups are at best transitory groups. The next step in this creative process is to intentionally recognize the basic importance of religious institutions in the dissemination of the fifth epochal revelation throughout the world.
The new mission of The Spiritual Fellowship Journal will be to promote the discussion of theological, philosophical, and polity ideas associated with "An Appropriate Symbolism and Socioreligious Expression of the Fifth Epochal Revelation." We will encourage a discussion of all aspects of this theme.
We recognize that intellectuals, idealists, and free-lancers are uncomfortable with institutions. They have a constructive role to play in this discussion by keeping the "institution-oriented" thinking and planning spiritually sensitive and honest. We look forward to a lively and enriching discussion of the socioreligious potentials of the fifth epochal revelation. KENTON E. STEPHENS 1928 - 1997
We mark the death of yet another Forum member and distinguished servant of the Urantia revelation.
A third generation student, Kenton Stephens began reading the papers as a young teenager. The nephew of two former Urantia Brotherhood presidents, Warren and Alvin Kulieke, he succeeded Alvin, Dr. William S. Sadler, and his own father, Edgar, as chairman of the Education Committee. He served on that committee for 19 years; on the General Council for 17 years, until 1979; and on the Executive Committee for four years. The idea for the first Summer Study Session, in 1963, was Kenton's brain child, and he organized the first ever summer session held away from the Chicago headquarters at Kendall College, Evanston, Illinois, in 1974. Upon the death of William S. Sadler, Jr., Stephens was appointed Trustee of Urantia Foundation and served for eleven and a half years, from 1964 to 1975.
During several of those years, Dr. Stephens led a double life as Superintendent of Schools in Oak Park, Illinois. It was a socially turbulent period, and integration was achieved despite protests, barricaded streets and ongoing media attention. In 1975 he accepted a two-year post as Special Assistant in the office of the Secretary of Education in the Gerald Ford administration, and moved to Washington, D.C.
Although Kenton had devoted his earlier career to education, he eventually left the field and entered upon a succession of small business ventures. In recent years, he enjoyed a third career as Equal Opportunity Specialist with the Internal Revenue Service in the Boston area. He retired earlier this year and died August 25, 1997 of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Claire, their children, Peggy, Kenton, Jr., and Douglas, and seven grandchildren.
Texas' Lone Star Round-Up Conference
Plenty of free socializing and fellowship time was built into this conference, a joint undertaking of the Houston, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth groups. The theme focused on the three essentials of the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus explained them to the apostle John on page 1585. Each Texas location led workshops on one of these three essentials. A worship service was held Saturday night, followed by a meeting to discuss plans and improvements for future Round-Ups.
The resolve to make this an annual event was unanimous. It was decided that planners should investigate other locations in the central Texas area that would include camping facilities and more affordable accommodation for families. The structure will remain similar with all three areas contributing in a team effort. Austin will spearhead plans for the '98 conference, with Houston leading the one in '99.
THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION
by Peter Laurence, Armonk, NY
It was in 1902 that William James first published the classic series of lectures that described his studies of religious experience. James made it clear that he was interested only in first-hand religious experience, in contrast with religion that "has been made...by others, communicated...by tradition, determined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit." He felt that "It would profit us little to study this second-hand religious life. We must...search rather for the original experiences which were the pattern-setters to all this mass of suggested feeling and imitated conduct." (William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York: The Modern Library, 1936, p.8)
I draw attention to this distinction because there has been a surge in the desire by readers of The Urantia Book to establish forms of expression that embody the potential for becoming yet one more religion made by others, communicated by tradition, determined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit. I use the word "potential" in the hope that there may be ways of avoiding the pitfalls into which so many religious traditions have fallen, and in the brief space allotted I'd like to raise some issues to help focus the process of exploring those pitfalls.
1. There are existing religious expressions that have been developed in response to revelatory texts. Consider for example the various forms of Islam that hold the Qur'an in common, or the formation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with The Book of Mormon as a centerpiece. What can we learn from these expressions? Are there qualities to emulate? Are there things to avoid? Surely an understanding of the history and present reality of religion is a helpful prerequisite to the creation of new forms.
2. Initial forms of expression created by readers of The Urantia Book seem to follow those closely identified with traditional Christianity (the use of the term "church" for example). If this trend continues, what does it say to people who identify with other than Christian traditions? Is the Christianity of the past two thousand years the best model for new religious expressions informed by The Urantia Book?
3. One reason that has been given for creating religious expressions that focus on The Urantia Book is the need for a closer sense of community among readers. The pattern throughout history, however, is that such endeavors have had the tendency to form "in-groups." While the in-group may experience a closer sense of community, it often separates itself from others who don't share the same beliefs or forms. In-groups characteristically become religious institutions dedicated to their own self-preservation. Are we creating community or separation?
4. Religious institutions are tempted to use political processes to diminish the power of "breakaway" groups within their own tradition. Two current examples of intra-faith power struggles are between factions in the Russian Orthodox Church (New York Times, October 12, 1997) and between Orthodox Jews and the rest of Jewry (New York Times, October 15, 1997). Readers of The Urantia Book are clearly not immune to intra-group tensions. How can we avoid having the emergence of new religious expressions add to current divisions?
The limits of this article do not permit the development of further concerns, but there are many other questions that might be raised in this context. I hope that these few will provide at least one small step toward careful consideration of the social outworking inspired by The Urantia Book.
WHAT'S NEW ON THE WEBSITE?
The Fellowship website is under continual development. The project to digitize, format and publish the significant historic and conference documents of the first half-century of the Urantia movement continues. To find out what has been published most recently, go directly to http://urantia-book.org/whatsnew.htm. Currently being published in the archives are the Annual Reports of the committees, the Executive Committee newsletters, and a new series of illustrations for The Urantia Book by Cal Feldman.
List Your Events
A "Current Events" section of the website is available for you to promote local conferences and even study group events in your area. Send announcements to firstname.lastname@example.org and find them published at http://urantia-book.org/news/. Articles from the Mighty Messenger may also be found at this address.
A Service of
The Fellowship for Readers of The Urantia Book