EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND GENERAL
TO: Members of Urantia Brotherhood
Here is my report to you on both the Executive Committee and General Council meetings which took place just outside Chicago over the weekend of January 28-31, 1988. These meetings were scheduled over the same weekend in an effort to reduce meeting/travel time and expenditures for all the participants, and especially those who live outside the Chicago area. For your information, the Executive Committee met Thursday, 8:30-11:00pm and Friday all day until 5:00pm, reconvening briefly Sunday afternoon. The General Council meeting ran from Saturday morning at 8:30am through 5:00pm and Sunday morning until noon.
In addition to these two formal meetings, a inter-organizational dialogue meeting was held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, January 27-28, 1988 between representatives of Urantia Foundation (Martin Myers, Gloriann Harris, and Frank Sgaraglino) and Urantia Brotherhood (Marilynn Kulieke, Steve Dreier, and Dave Elders) in an effort to clarify issues of concern and broaden lines of communication. I will attempt to summarize these meetings in a meaningful and understandable manner in this report, follow- ing the basic format used in the past. I will begin by listing those specific actions taken at both formal meetings, and end with an overall discussion of the report by Marilynn and Steve of their dialogue meeting and the ensuing discussion of these issues at the General Council meeting.
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Special Announcement: The Roundatable Discussion between representatives of those organizations involved in work related to The Urantia Book, while fully approved by the Executive Committee, will not take place until after September, 1988 due to the already heavy spring schedule which includes: three society charterings, worldwide conference activity, sales agency trips to the London Book Fair and American Booksellers Association Conven- tion, and planning for this year's Triennial Delegate Assembly. Further information will be forthcoming once plans have been finalized.
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SUMMARY OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ACTIONS
After opening the meeting with silent time to allow each of us to make contact with our Father, the minutes of our November, 1987 Executive Committee meeting were read, corrected, and approved. Specific actions taken at this meeting are detailed below.
1. Three new members-at-large were welcomed into Urantia Brotherhood:
Carlos Zapata, Bogota, Colombia; Stephen Minton, Glendale, Arizona; and, Cecilia Ann Bendell, Pialba, Queensland, Australia.
2. Approval was given to hold the 1990 General Conference at Snow Moun- tain Ranch, Granby, Colorado, July 20-26, 1990. A Conference Program chair will be selected at the May, 1988 Executive Committee meeting.
3. The planned Urantia Brotherhood Retreat will be held at a facility in Charleston, West Virginia over the weekend of September 23-25, 1988. All sitting General Councilors, retiring General Councilors, and Foundation Trustees, and all their spouses will be invited to this program.
4. The Executive Committee approved the central office proposal presented by Mike Painter and Vin Myers to purchase jointly with Urantia Foundation the necessary equipment to establish an in-house printing operation. This commitment will require the expenditure of $25,000 from existing Urantia Brotherhood capital funds, with pay-back from printing savings estimated at three(3) years. Prior to the end of 1988, the Executive Committee will decide whether and how these funds would be returned to the capital fund. The Director of Office Operations was instructed to implement the purchase once concerns about employee safety and insurance impact were satisfied.
5. The Executive Committee unanimously approved the recommendation of the Charter Committee that society charters be granted to three applicant groups who have met all requirements. Each would be chartered in time to send delegates to this year's Triennial Delegate Assembly. After receipt of their charters on the dates noted here, these societies would be:
Pilot Light Urantia Society of Seattle March 5, 1988
Heart of America Urantia Society of Kansas City March 12, 1988
Urantia Society of Greater New York April 17, 1988
The following actions were taken when the Executive Committee reconvened on Sunday after the General Council meeting:
1. It was agreed that the Judicial Committee would be charged with the task of fully re-evaluating the removal procedure in the Constitution and By-Laws, with the purpose of making recommendations for revisions which the committee feels would result in the adoption of the best procedure possible. This evaluation would be aided by the work product developed to date as well as by the input of the Trustees and the opportunity to consult counsel (both Foundation attorneys and/or outside counsel).
2. The Executive Committee charged the chairman to appoint prior to the May meeting a committee to continue the dialogue with Urantia Foundation begun so successfully in late January.
3. It was agreed that the Executive Committee would establish an ad hoc committee to develop a "Code of Ethics" for organizational decision-making which would help insure that our actions on behalf of our organization are at the highest possible level, thereby leaving a legacy of high integrity for the workers who come after us.
4. The charter fee for new society charters was set at $250.00
Committee Activity Summary/Other Business
For the most part, the balance of the Executive Committee meeting was devoted to a report on the Brotherhood/Foundation dialogue which took place on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Since the report was given again at the General Council meeting, it will be summarized under that heading below. The only other items covered at any length during the EC meeting were:
1. Marilynn Kulieke presented a summary of the Brotherhood Survey now that it is nearly in final and reportable form. It was agreed that after the finishing touches are put on this excellent research document, it will be shared with our reader community in some form via the Bulletin.
2. John Hales reported that Urantia Foundation has approved our sales agent proposal that representatives attend both the London Book Fair in that city in late March and the American Bookseller Association (ABA) Convention in Anaheim, California in May. The purpose of both events is to continue the process of developing broadened, strengthened, and more personal business relationships with all elements of the book industry to help insure the steady expansion of Urantia Book availability worldwide.
SUMMARY OF GENERAL COUNCIL ACTIONS
The primary purpose of this special meeting of the General Council was to facilitate a general discussion of our sales agency relationship with Urantia Foundation, and to hear a report on the meeting between the rep- resentatives of both organizations, scheduled in response to specific Executive Committee direction at the November, 1987 meeting (see item 7, last EC Letter). The only action items on the agenda at this meeting were handled as follows:
1. Betty Zehr of Waverly, New York, was elected to fill the vacant four (4) year term on the Education Committee.
2. The proposal to open General Council meetings to observers was tabled until a future meeting of the General Council, when it was felt more time could be devoted to its evaluation.
SUMMARY OF GENERAL COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FOUNDATION/BROTHERHOOD
Beginning with its letters to Urantia Brotherhood just prior to the General Council meeting last summer, the Trustees of Urantia Foundation have expressed their desire to communicate to the Council their concerns in several areas. In an effort to facilitate a clearer understanding of these concerns, it was agreed that a meeting between several members of each organization would be a healthy starting place. Consequently, on the evenings of January 27 and 28, Marilynn Kulieke, Steve Dreier, and myself met with Martin Myers, Gloriann Harris, and Frank Sgaraglino in Martin's home. This discussion is briefly summarized below.As we now understand these concerns, primarily as the result of what Marilynn Kulieke and Steve Dreier described to the Council as an open, honest, and frank discussion, they seem linked to a common principle: Urantia Foundation, as part of its trust, is deeply committed to the long-term protection of the copyright of The Urantia Book and to the maintenance of the integrity and reputational excellence of the marks and symbols associated with the book, which marks will serve far into the future to identify both the authentic, original material and those organ- izations created to utilize these same marks in carrying out this trust. The discussion helped to make clear to us that the use of these marks to identify Urantia Brotherhood and its constituent societies is considered a fiduciary trust not unlike that of Urantia Foundation in terms of insuring that our actions and behavior charge these symbols with ethical and personal standards which reflect on all levels the essential excellence of the teachings they symbolize.
Some of the specific areas of concern elucidated by the Trustees were:
1. The need for Urantia Brotherhood to follow carefully the procedures set up in the Constitution for group interaction so that true group wisdom is facilitated and so that standards of excellence in organizational behavior are left as legacies for those who serve after us in functional roles. The emphasis here was that if we were not attentive to required procedure, especially as concerns the passage of Constitution or By-Law changes, we might leave a deficiency in our Constitution which could hamper Urantia Brotherhood in the future. In other words, one of our primary organizational responsibilities is to eliminate any gaps between how we act and how we say we act.
2. In its role as Sales Agent, Urantia Brotherhood is just that--an agent of the principal, Urantia Foundation, publisher of The Urantia Book. As such, while it is entirely appropriate for the agent to make recommend- ations to the principal, it (the agent) also has the obligation to be responsive to the principal's business plans, strategies, and quiding philosophy. The Trustees felt that in broadly publicizing its testing and pricing recommendations and intentions, the Brotherhood was placing undue popular pressure on the careful, considered decision-making procedures used in these areas by the Trustees to insure that any decisions of this sort are evaluated from the broadest possible short and long term perspectives and are not simply the product of majority vote.
3. Together with the Trustees we discussed what is meant by ethical standards, and how certain types of organizational behavior, in those organizations using the symbols and marks, can negatively affect the integrity of these marks and their future utility in clearly identifying the original, authentic teachings. We all agreed that it was and is appropriate for any organization using the marks to accept as a privilege the responsibility of reflecting in every way possible the ethical excellence of the teachings these groups represent (The Urantia Book). These high standards might include an unfettered commitment to the work of the organization, without conflicting outside interests, during the term of service in a Brotherhood office; a greater acceptance of the fiduciary responsibilities of the Brotherhood during the term of service; the willing and active recognition that gossip, disparaging and demeaning commentary, and personal criticism are simply not acceptable expressionsof the standards for interaction which are so clearly defined in The Urantia Book, and which can certainly be associated with the Concentric Circles symbol, the badge of our Creator Son. These observations did not seem intended to stifle honest, critical, and healthy debate, but rather, to raise the level of that debate and couple it with a heightened sense of respect for the participants, the recognition of the relativity of each opposing viewpoint, and the willingess to accept and operate by the group decision (even if counter to one's own), at least while part of the group.
ADDITIONAL SUBJECTS EXPLORED BY THE GENERAL COUNCIL
In addition to discussing these comments, the Council also spent time on two other items both directly related to the above:
1. Sales Agency Relationship with the Foundation: In order to provide for a deeper understanding of this relationship among Councilors, an ad hoc committee chaired by Chuck Burton conducted a workshop-type program to facilitate the exploratory process. This program enabled small groups and then the entire Council to project the consequences of possible decisions we could make ranging from continuation of the current relationship to resigning as sales agent altogether. While there was no action intended or possible at this meeting, I believe that the general consensus was that that at this early stage of the evolutionary process of the outworking of the revelation on the planet, we needed to deepen our commitment to working harmoniously with Urantia Foundation, and that that was the real issue to be dealt with, the sales agency issue being secondary. We agreed that we would do more work on this as a Council.
2. The removal provision in the Brotherhood Constitution and By-Laws:
In the context of the dialogue with Urantia Foundation, especially as it concerned their view of the need for the Brotherhood to carefully follow its own Constitutional rules in processing actions directly affecting or changing that Constitution, we asked that the Foundation attorneys be present for a portion of the Council meeting to deal with questions on the procedures used and content of the amendment to the removal provision passed by the Council several years ago. Everyone present seemed to benefit from this interaction by deriving both an enhanced understanding of the general risks involved in not following our own procedures, and a much clearer appreciation of the fact that decisions and recommendations made in any area should be based upon complete, objective, and factual information, and not simply on opinion. As a consequence, it was agreed in the Council and subsequently acted upon by the Executive Committee that the Judicial Committee would be charged with the task of re-evaluating the removal procedure in order to make appropriate recommendations to insure that it is the best possible. To aid in this process, the Foundation has given us access to their attorneys for consultation purposes.
It is no secret that there has been some degree of organizational tension between Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood over the last several years. Perhaps awareness of that tension, in the rumor-mill if nowhere else, has generated some concern in the reader community, and even some measure of disillusionment. I hope that what you are about to read will alleviate some of that concern by giving you another perspective on the profound value inherent in that tension which is serving to move us ever closer to the type of unselfish cooperation which must characterize our organizational as well as personal interactions, if we are to succeed.
Organizational activity, seemingly by its very nature, is often character- ized by a gravity which can reduce even the best of intentions to the lowest common denominator of personal interaction. But, and this to me is important, this gravity (the group equivalent of individual ego?) cannot only be countered, but in fact, can be mastered by a conscious and ever- deepening commitment to the truth of unselfish cooperation between sons and daughters of our common Father. Ironically, because of this gravity, organization can be simultaneously a spiritually risky undertaking AND a glorious opportunity to manifest the spirit's presence even in an often trying human activity.
If we can agree that one of the primary goals of life experience on our birth planet is to learn how to cooperate with others, not because of perceived need or bargain, but based only on the joy of unselfishly giving a measure of personal sovereignty to the service of our friends, then the difficulties encountered in organizational activities are to be welcomed with thanks for the underlying opportunities they conceal.
History forces us to consider the notion that the sectarian dynamic, present in some form in all walks of life, speaks clearly of the failure of unselfishness. When faced with the need to truly compromise, not on principles or ideals, but on ideas, strategies, and descriptions of truth, it would seem that humans have all too often taken the path of going their own way so that no one has to relinquish very much. Certainly we should not allow historical inertia to dull our determination to see that our organizational relationships are as characteristic of the principle of unselfish cooperation as our personal relationships are.
The General Council meeting last month was, in my opinion, extraordinary. As a group we struggled with pointed, serious criticism of our ways of acting. Had the members of the Council been less deeply committed to use the principles in The Urantia Book as a blueprint for living, some might well have followed historic, human precedent and gone their own way. But instead, there was general acceptance of the validity of the criticisms, requiring us to act with responsibility to raise both our sights and our performance. And, most important, from my view, each and every member of the Council who was present deepened his/her commitment to clearing the air and building a relationship with our friends, the Trustees of Urantia Foundation, which will leave an enduring legacy and an inspiring example for those who come after us.
The true measure of who we are and how far we have come shows most clearly in adversity, not when everything is smooth and simple and going our way. The issues now openly on the table between the Brotherhood and Foundation are only that--issues. We need to deal with them, humbly and unselfishly, to test our commitment to and manifest the fruits of those fifth epochal principles which outmatch the problems. We have been given a gift, and perhaps now we can envision it more clearly than we did before. I, for one, am thankful for the gift and for being there when it was opened.
In deepest friendship,
David N. Elders, President
A Service of
The Fellowship for Readers of The Urantia Book