Private Letter from Meredith Sprunger
Evaluating the State of the Urantia Movement
May 14, 1991
I am glad to respond to your question as to how I view the Urantia movement in the light of some of our current problems. Having the good fortune to receive a copy of The Urantia Book a couple of months after it was published, I have been privileged to be involved in the spread of it teachings in our society for the last thirty-five years. Irene and I spent many weekends as guests of Dr. Sadler and Christy and had an opportunity to learn of events leading to the publication of the book and the organization of Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood.
The Foundation and Brotherhood were designed to be separate and independent organizations with synchronized and supporting relationships. On numerous occasions we were read papers which they received, giving instructions regarding developments which might evolve and individuals who might arise to subvert the purposes of the Fifth Epochal Revelation by getting control of the book and use it for their own selfish purposes. In discussing this possibility, we always assumed this threat would come from outside of the Foundation and Brotherhood. But, amazingly, the two individuals who have made concerted attempts to gain control and power over the book ad its supportive organizations have come from the inside!
For over twenty years the Urantia movement grew harmoniously and prospered. Then following the death of Dr. Sadler, legal minds within the Foundation devised a technique to control the entire movement. The word "Urantia" and the Concentric Circles were registered as commercial trademarks and Urantia Societies were "licensed" to use them. Immediately, there was dissension in the Brotherhood. Most societies, however, signed the agreement believing the spiritual integrity of the Foundation trustees would prevent any misuse of this power.
Very soon thereafter a subtle change appeared in the thinking of some Foundation trustees and Brotherhood members. Instead of the original polity of the two organizations as being independent but mutually supportive entities, a new polity and history was quietly put in place: Urantia Foundation was the founder and licenser of Urantia Brotherhood. In the minds of certain Foundation trustees, the Brotherhood became a licensed subsidiary of the Foundation. Not only was this contrary to the original design structured by Dr. Sadler and the leaders of the Forum, [but now] the stage was set for autocratic control by the Foundation president.
In 1989 after three Foundation trustees resigned because they could not keep their spiritual integrity under the leadership of the Foundation president and when the Brotherhood Executive Committee after many attempts to achieve a working relationship with the Foundation president, finally told him they would no longer tolerate his autocratic domination of Brotherhood activities, the Foundation president terminated their licensing agreement and asked them to move their offices from 533 Diversey. As a result, the Brotherhood moved their offices to 529 Wrightwood Ave. and changed their name to The Fellowship (for students of The Urantia Book).
This is clearly no longer a spiritual stewardship of the Fifth Epochal Revelation by the Foundation but a struggle for power. The trustees are using evasion and falsehood to maintain that power. For years they asked for donations for religious purposes; now they are saying they are not religious and The Urantia Book is not a religious book. This is fraudulent! In the latest edition of Bowkers Books in Print they claim The Urantia Book was written by the Foundation staff! In court statements this spring they, by evasion, deny its revelatory nature, claim it is not a religious book, and assert that it is "a work for hire!" They maintain that William Sadler, Jr. authored parts of The Urantia Book! Bill was given permission to compile the Table of Contents; he wrote none of the book. In this denial of the very essence of what The Urantia Book is, it appears that the Foundation has defaulted in their spiritual trust and responsibility.
In addition to this denial of the spiritual nature and origin of The Urantia Book, the stoppage of the sale of books to most of the distributors throughout the country, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars suing friends of The Urantia Book while not taking action against J.J. Benitez, who for years has been violating the copyright in Spain, suggests the current leadership of the Foundation is more interested in the exercise of power over the movement than a concern for the integrity of the text or the dissemination of its teachings. It could be that those who have so eagerly used the legal sword to achieve their purposes may also fall by this same sword. Whenever legalism attempts to curb the freedom of spiritual power, legalism always fails.
Those societies and members of the Fellowship who desire to follow this power oriented leadership of the Foundation certainly have the freedom to do so. I'm confident the spiritual purposes of the Fifth Epochal Revelation will overcome any roadblocks placed in its way. The potentials of the Urantia movement have never been better. We have escaped attempts at charismatic captivity and legalistic-autocratic control. The freedom of the spirit working through the dynamics of participatory democracy will lead us in creative ministry. Let us have the courage and stamina to turn from those who would waste our energies in controversies and dedicate ourselves to the joy of spirit-guided service.
Meredith J. Sprunger
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship