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Meredith J. Sprunger
|Editor's note: Between 1956 and April of 1997, Rev. Meredith Sprunger focused his ministry efforts on interfacing The Urantia Book with mainline Christian theologians and clergy. This is the most comprehensive, sustained experimental effort conducted by any reader of the book. Meredith says, "Although success has been limited, it is somewhat surprising that we have experienced little or no criticism or rejection. It is probably due to the maturity, tolerance, and love of Christian leaders that we have had warm and pleasant relationships with our church colleagues."|
|1. I began by bootlegging concepts from The Urantia Book in preaching
and teaching, introducing individual ministers to the book, conducting
a Clergy Study Group, and introducing hundreds of college philosophy students
to The Urantia Book. This summarizes my activities for the first twenty-five
2. I retired from Indiana Institute of Technology in 1977 to begin my real, long planned outreach ministry. On April 17, 1979 we organized the Christian Fellowship of Students of The Urantia Book as an aegis for outreach ministry.
A. I used the ministry of Jesus as a model: First he went to Annas, who was at the top of the theological political power structure of Judaism. We started our ministry by sending letters with a pamphlet and an offer of a loan book to two professors in each of over 80 mainline theological seminaries. They were about as interested as Annas--only two even answered my letter. The same offer was made to 90 Campus Ministers in the State of Indiana and 5,000 letters were sent to the members of the American Philosophical Association with similar results. A few of us on November 25, 1985 made a presentation of The Urantia Book at the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion (college teachers of religion) with little or no interest shown in the book.
3. On 5/17/79 I wrote "Interface with the Church." This paper outlines my own preparation for interface ministry with the church and the objectives of the Christian Fellowship of Students of The Urantia Book.
4. On 6/1/79 I wrote "On Introducing The Urantia Book to the Christian Church." This paper presents a rationale for an interface ministry to the church.
5. On 2/4/80 I wrote Dr. Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School offering him a loan copy of the book. He replied, "Through the years different folk have sent me The Urantia Book, I've taken a few running jumps at it, found my understanding thin and my curiosity quickly waning. Thanks for the offer."
6. In 1980 I sent letters with pamphlet and offer of a loan book to around 85 theological professors in the American Association of Theological Schools. I received two responses. (It was the period of the Jim Jones debacle.)
7. On 3/10/80 I wrote "A Synoptic Introduction to The Urantia Book." This paper was prepared for discussions with ministers covering the following areas: An Overview, Revelation, The Doctrine of God, Cosmology, Christology and the Plan of Salvation, The Church and the Kingdom of Heaven, and Prayer and Worship.
8. On 4/10/80 I wrote "Universe Christology: A Transplanetary View." This paper uses contemporary theological writing to support the Christology of The Urantia Book.
9. On 12/21/80 I wrote "The Atonement Doctrine." This paper anticipates criticism of The Urantia Book's view of blood atonement held by conservative Christians.
10. We sent letters to the mainline ministers of Muncie, Indiana on 1/6/81 inviting them to a review of The Urantia Book at Ball State University. The few who attended wanted loan books. Called on several professors who showed interest.
11. In January of 1981 we started a student discussion group at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. Spoke to students in Dr. Mark Sheldon's philosophy class.
12. Letters were sent to the mainline ministers of Indianapolis on 1/26/81 inviting them to a review of The Urantia Book at the Indiana Interchurch Center. The half dozen ministers who attended wanted loan books. Called on several university professors; some asked for loan books.
13. During the year I gave reviews of The Urantia Book to a Sunday School class at the First Christian Church of Fort Wayne and the men's group at the Unitarian Church.
14. Wrote "The Church: Problem or Potential?" on 5/5/81. This paper which uses Urantia Book concepts has been presented at workshops in several churches.
15. On 9/17/81 I wrote a letter to the Spiritual Counterfeits Project magazine correcting errors in this fundamentalist review of The Urantia Book. The editor offered to dialogue but failed to do so.
16. In late 1981 we sent around 40 letters with pamphlet to local ministers stating that we would call for an appointment. Sixty percent did set up an appointment and almost all wanted loan books.
17. A donor offered to finance Urantia Book Research Grants for college students in late 1981. We decided against it, not liking the idea of paying people to read the book.
18. We sent 83 letters with pamphlets and return cards on 1/9/82 to local mainline ministers. The return was minimal.
19. Ninety letters with pamphlets and return cards were sent on 1/15/82 to the Campus Ministers of the State of Indiana. The response was poor.
20. On 5/28/82 I wrote "The Urantia Book and Christian Fundamentalism." This paper attempted to speak to the fundamentalist's reservations about reading The Urantia Book.
21. "Outreach Ministry" was written 5/31/82. It presents levels of ministry in sharing The Urantia Book with our Christian culture.
22. "Principles of Ministry" was written 6/1/82. It presents spiritual principles of ministry to the church and society.
23. "The Future Development of the Christian Faith" was written 8/1/82 and has been presented in several church workshops.
24. On 1/7/83 I published a 29 page "Brief Summary of the Religions of the World." We need familiarity with and appreciation of all religious groups.
25. Between 1983 and 1985 we sent 8,000 personal letters with pamphlet and return card to the ministers in the United Church of Christ. Four percent asked for loan books; around 90 purchased or were given books. A report of this project entitled "Mainline Clergy Response to The Urantia Book" was published 1/1/86.
26. I presented the paper "The Urantia Book and Religious Studies" on 11/25/85 at the American Academy of Religion meeting at Anaheim.
27. We sent 5,000 letters and a copy of "The Urantia Book and Religious Studies" on 4/30/86 to members of the American Philosophical Association asking if they would be interested in participating in research on The Urantia Book. Around ten expressed interest in such research.
28. During the year we contacted ministers who had purchased Urantia Books-asking if they would like to belong to a Clergy Network interested in studying The Urantia Book? Thirty-three have asked to be members of the Network and seventeen have asked to be on our mailing list. On 11/5/86 we sent our first Clergy Network Newsletter.
29. After receiving substantial editorial aid from long-term readers, we finished "The Gift of Revelation" on 6/4/87. This is a forty page summary of The Urantia Book designed to help busy ministers and academics to get a reasonably accurate picture of the cosmological, philosophical, and religious teachings of the book. To date, it has not been published.
30. On 9/10/87 I sent a letter and appropriate materials to the chairman of the Church and Ministry Committee of the Northeast Association of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ supporting the application of a minister for membership in the Association who was being questioned about his interest in The Urantia Book. The committee was favorably disposed to his membership in the Association.
31. During the fall of 1987 an announcement of the "Christian Fellowship Prize in Religious Research" was sent to the departments of philosophy and religion in 2200 colleges in the United States. The project was unproductive from a measurable point of view. Only four papers were received.
32. I gave a talk on The Urantia Book to the adult Sunday School of the Leo United Methodist Church on 12/2/88. The response was positive and around twelve books were sold.
33. In the spring of 1989 we organized a committee to begin planning for the publication of The Spiritual Fellowship Journal in 1991.
34. In 1962 we started a Urantia study group composed of faculty members, students, and community people. We became a Urantia Society in 1969.
35. In 1964 I accepted a second position as pastor of Plum Tree United Church of Christ, some thirty miles south of Fort Wayne. This congregation was a former Christian Church whose theology reflected a fundamentalistic position. During the next 15 years I discovered that using appropriate language and frames of . reference, the truths of The Urantia Book were welcomed with joy and enthusiasm. I was even able to introduce the book to a few of the congregation.
36. During 1986 we went a step down the theological-academic hierarchy and wrote 8,000 personal letters to United Church of Christ ministers and all of the United Methodist ministers in the State of Indiana enclosing a pamphlet and offer of a loan book. Approximately 4% of these ministers asked for loan books and many purchased their own copy. From this group we formed a Clergy Network and initiated The Spiritual Fellowship Journal. Many of these ministers use The Urantia Book as a resource in preaching and teaching but do not feel free to mention it publicly.
37. Beginning in 1991 we have sent copies of The Spiritual Fellowship Journal to all of the ministers in the United Church of Christ, all of the Unity ministers, and thousands of Disciples of Christ ministers. The Journals include a cover letter and subscription card. We were asked to give a review of The Urantia Book at the Northeast Association of United Church of Christ ministers meeting in February of 1995.
38. At the invitation of the pastor of Grace St. John's UCC, Dr. James Westpfahl, I started the Explorer's Sunday School Class in October of 1993 that studies papers in The Urantia Book. Although the class is small, we have great discussions. The class members are dedicated and enthusiastic about the teachings of The Urantia Book.
39. After eleven years of publishing The Spiritual Fellowship Journal and the contact of thousands of mainline ministers, it is obvious that it does not meet a need in their spiritual pilgrimage. A new paradigm of reality in religion takes generations to work its way into the culture. Even in the field of science, as Thomas Kuhn documents in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, most of the older generation do not make the transition to new discoveries.
We are searching for the spiritually wise outreach plans for the future.
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship