During the first week in July 2002, 770 individuals assembled in Estes Park, Colorado for The Urantia Book Fellowship’s International Conference. In addition to Urantia Book readers from all over North America, in attendance were participants from South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
The newly printed, indexed Uversa Press edition of The Urantia Book made its first public appearance at the conference, an event celebrated at a “Book Launch Party” held at the bookstore on site. Over 500 copies were sold to conference participants. The Book Marketing Committee headed by Brian Smith has successfully pitched The Urantia Book to a major distributor as a result of which we are likely to see the book appearing in stores throughout the U.S. in the near future.
The General Council (GC) met immediately following the conference and the Executive Committee (EC) met twice during the conferenceand once after the GC meeting. The GC elected Bill Rocap from Connecticut to fill a vacancy on the Council and Rebecca Kantor from California to the chairmanship of the Interfaith Committee. The group also welcomed Thomas Orjala of Idaho who joined it for the first time after his election at the last mid-year meeting. All seats filled by the Council will be up for election by the Triennial Delegate Assembly (TDA) next summer. Two constitutional amendments were passed by the GC, one changing the name of the Charter Committee to “Membership Committee” and the other providing for a new type of group affiliation, “Affiliated Organization”. The latter amendment formalized constitutionally an affiliation category that had been available for a number of years through an administrative process. Three groups have to date been granted this affiliated status, The Korean Outreach of South Korea, The Longs Peak Faithers of Colorado and Casa de FAD of Brazil.
A great deal of time was spent during the GC meeting on the TDA resolutions (more on this later). The other main items discussed by the GC were the marketing of The Urantia Book and progress on office reorganization and virtualization. The EC discussed these issues in greater detail, revisiting budget allocations for book marketing, analyzing progress on the system for responding to telephone inquiries, reviewing the mail forwarding system, updating information on web-based database implementation and maintenance, and rechecking the timeline on the building sale.
The TDA met on Sunday just prior to the beginning of the conference. Attended by delegates and alternates from ten out of eighteen societies, this was the third and final meeting of this TDA, which, with the encouragement of the General Council, had decided to reconvene annually instead of adjourning at the conclusion of its triennial meeting held in the summer of 2000. The purpose of convening annually instead of only once in three years was to afford greater opportunity for society input into the governance of The Fellowship.
While a discussion of the resolutions of this delegate assembly is beyond the scope of this letter (This information is available through other mechanisms, including The Fellowship’s web site www.urantia-book.org.), as one of several Executive Committee members who observed the meeting, I would like to offer my personal observations and comments: 1 – As mentioned earlier, only ten out of eighteen societies were represented; 2 – Six of the 14 participants present (delegates and alternates), were at the assembly meeting for the first time, which means that there was not much continuity within the delegate body; 3 – Most of the delegates were uninformed with respect to the way The Fellowship conducts its business and over half of them had never observed a General Council meeting; 4 – Almost none of the delegates came to observe the General Council meeting held on Friday evening and all day Saturday after the conference; 5 – While some of the delegates appeared to represent their societies, others seemed to represent their personal point of view only. (Each society will receive meeting minutes and copies of the resolution on the SocAdmin email list.)
Having said this, not for a moment do I feel that the experiment of having the TDA meet annually was a failure. To my mind, it provided us with experience on the basis of which we can improve the process and insure that societies, indeed, have greater and more meaningful impact on The Fellowship. I hope that the next TDA will decide to reconvene annually following its triennial session as this TDA had done. I think it would be constructive for societies to engage in a serious discussion as to whether their delegates are supposed to represent the collective view of their members or are they suppose to be free agents representing their individual viewpoints – either approach is legitimate, but needs to be arrived at consciously. Each society also needs to consider that if its delegate is to be effective, that individual needs to be reasonably familiar with The Fellowship’s constitution and with the way the organization works. Remember also that the next TDA will be electing at least sixteen of the 36 General Councilors, twelve on the regular triennial rotation and four to vacancies resulting from resignations.