August 16, 2000
Dear Fellowship Member:
As you know, it has been the custom of the Executive Committee of The Urantia Book Fellowship to periodically send letters to the membership in order to keep you abreast of developments or activities that may be of interest to you. As the newly elected president of the Fellowship, it is my pleasure to perform this task at this time. In the future, you may be receiving such letters from other members of the executive committee as well as from me. My intent here is to fill possible informational gaps and to focus on some items that in my view are important. I make no attempt here to cover an exhaustive list of items, for information reaches you in other ways, including through the Fellowship’s newsletter, the Mighty Messenger. Since I consider effective communication to be of paramount importance to our health as an organization, I would be interested in your thoughts as to how we are doing in that department and how we can improve. You can write me at the Fellowship office or write your comments to the Mighty Messenger.
During the last week in June, about a hundred Urantia Book readers gathered on the campus of Elmhurst College in Elmhurst Chicago for the Fellowship’s Summer Study Session. Some of the participants were also society Delegates who took part in the Triennial Delegate Assembly (TDA) and some were General Councilors who took part in the Fellowship’s annual General Council Meeting, both meetings having been scheduled to coincide with the summer conference. The TDA elected 16 individuals to vacancies on the General Council out of a field of 26 candidates. As you might imagine, the election process was long and arduous, since the delegates had the difficult task of picking and eliminating candidates from a group of individuals all of whom were highly qualified. The delegates also debated a large number of resolutions, of which five were passed and presented to the General Council. While the TDA meets in closed session and the substance of its deliberations remains secret, a number of delegates made some very positive remarks about the manner in which the proceedings were conducted.
One highly significant resolution passed by the TDA was the decision not to adjourn at end of the meeting but rather to recess until next summer when the group will meet again and continue its deliberations. This event is unprecedented in the forty-five year history of the Fellowship, all previous TDAs having disbanded at the conclusion of their triennial meetings. It is my hope – and I know that here I speak for the rest of the General Council – that local societies will take advantage of this mechanism to increase their input into the work of the Fellowship.
Another significant TDA resolution was one requesting that the General Council “appoint a small task force to deal with Foundation issues, leaving the Fellowship free to focus on service and outreach ministry.” Interestingly, the General Council deliberated this very subject and reached a decision consistent with the spirit of this resolution prior to its consideration of the TDA resolutions. The Council directed the Executive Committee to appoint a small team empowered to negotiate with Urantia Foundation, to make decisions relative to the relationship between the two organizations and to reach binding agreements with the Foundation without additional consultation with the Council or with the Executive Committee.
Since much of what was discussed at the General Council meeting concerned inter-organizational issues, often with possible legal implications, substantial portions of the meeting were not open to observers. This group of General Councilors, embodying a broad range of viewpoints, grappled with some difficult issues and often engaged in passionate discourse. Yet the deep respect and trust the members had for each other was manifestly apparent and the sense of unity and resolve in the room seemed palpable. I felt encouraged then as I do at this writing about the potential of this group to solve some extremely difficult problems through group wisdom.
The General Council will convene again at its mid year meeting in February, 2001. The Executive Committee agreed to hold that meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Doreen Heyne, the Fellowship’s new Secretary General has been in contact with readers in the area who are in the process of helping to secure accommodations and plan for a social gathering to include as many of the local reader community as will come. In addition to its February formal meetings, the Fellowship plans to hold an open, interactive informational session for all those who are interested. More specific information about this event will be made available at a later date.
The five-member team appointed by the Executive Committee immediately after the conclusion of the General Council meeting included Steve Dreier, Marvin Gawryn, Marilynn Kulieke, Dan Massey and myself. As of this writing, Steve Dreier has resigned in order to devote more time to scholarly pursuits and was replaced by David Kantor. The team’s overall objective is to reach an agreement with Urantia Foundation on the basis of which true cooperation and coordination between the Foundation and the Fellowship can ensue. The team’s immediate task is to respond to a lengthy list of complaints from the Foundation alleging copyright and trademark violations, most of which are web related and some of which are highly technical. As it deliberates, the team takes into account a set of guidelines given to it by the General Council at its last meeting. The team has retained legal counsel in order to insure that its responses to the Foundation are within proper legal boundaries. It is expected that the Foundation will receive the Fellowship’s response at about the time you read this or shortly thereafter.
The next Fellowship Summer Study Session is planned for the second week of August 2000 at the University of California in Santa Cruz. Lee Smith, the new Chairman of the Education Committee who resides in the area, is working on site coordination and is enthusiastic about the accommodations and the great view of Monterey Bay from the site.
Some of the Executive Committee’s more mundane current activities include a reassessment of our office needs in order to provide for more effective and efficient staffing. Raising funds in order to increase the scope and effectiveness of our outreach and dissemination efforts is also one of the less glamorous yet essential activities that require a great deal of attention, particularly that of our Finance Committee. Incidentally, The Fellowship web site continues to be our fastest growing outreach tool, recording approximately 2,000 hits per day.
I hope you find this letter useful. I firmly believe that because the Fellowship’s mission is the dissemination of The Urantia Book and its teachings, it is our responsibility as members to keep each other informed about our activities as they relate to that mission. We can all learn from each other and coordinate our efforts in ways that will enhance the efficacy of our outreach efforts as societies, as study groups and even as individuals. The better we communicate and coordinate among ourselves, the more effective will we be in bringing the revelation to the rest of the world. Clearly, the bulk of the responsibility rests with those of us who were elected to serve – the thirty-six General Councilors and, among them, the fourteen members of the Executive Committee. Yet all of these people need your participation and input. Tell us what you are doing; tell us what you think we should be doing; get involved. “Come work with us,” is the Fellowship’s call to action – action that only you are capable of performing in your own unique way.