from Clyde Bedell to Wilfred Kellogg
Copyright © 1999 C. Barry Bedell; used by permission
Mr. Wilfred Kellogg
October 30, 1933
Dear Mr. Kellogg:
Will you kindly throw this letter into the hopper with whatever other suggestions you may be receiving -- for consideration by Dr. Sadler and the rest of you? I am doing this typing on a borrowed typewriter, I am not a stenographer, and my time is short. I ask pardon in advance for miscues.
Please don't impute to me a desire to see a loose-knit or nondescript board for the U Society. I perceive that precautions must be taken. I too wish to see stable direction of this revelation's distribution. But I feel there must be a middle course which will appear to be fair and defensible. Fair to the book itself, fair to the directors whoever they may be, and fair to the people for whom after all we incorporate -- the part of the public we can interest.
The following points are self-explanatory. First though, I wish to say that unless it would handicap him professionally I believe there are almost inescapable reasons why Dr. William should be on the board -- if indeed he is not its chairman.
WHY SHOULD A SELF-APPOINTED BOARD HOLD OFFICE FOR LIFE?
I believe we cannot warrantedly expect any religious or secular enterprise on earth to be better governed by old men in their dotage than by a board deliberately designed to avoid that possibility. A board for "life" smacks of the papacy -- but has the worse aspect of never being swayed by counsel when one man is won, but only when four or more are won.
The incorporators are placed in the position of saying "We are the only persons on earth qualified to do this job, and the only seven in our lifetime who COULD do it -- but, let the unwashed and misguided public provide the money to do our bidding." The incorporators may be made to appear to place their interest in the society before the society's welfare, inasmuch as they presume no persons so well qualified as themselves will become members of the organization as it grows and develops.
Why should ANY seven of those fortunate to be in on this revelation to date, say that out of the thousands of splendid people we hope to have join us, none can ever qualify so long as the seven may live, to participate finally, actively, and directly in the society's direction?
Jesus took no such water-tight precautions in connection with the dissemination of the new conception of religion. Should we be so circumscribing and narrow in connection with this book? If genuinely aged men can do the job well why not seek some such to participate now?
To me, closing the board as proposed, is entirely out of harmony with the spirit and the breadth of the revelations we wish to see promulgated. It seems inconsistent to me to say in one breath, "This is too vital and important to risk letting the mob have a voice," and in the next, "It will be of so little importance in a few years that the direction of old men will be good enough."
WHAT GOOD REASON is there for doing it?
If it is to keep good and trusted men in, they can reelect themselves every year or five or ten, as may be arranged -- so long as their consciences would permit. If it is to form an inviolate autocracy to keep other good men out, it discredits the incorporators. A conscientious young man would, I believe, refuse to accept life membership on such a board. I would never want inviolate right of tenure to keep me on a body which should occasionally draft onto itself enthusiastic and fresher blood.
Your proposals contemplate provision for "kicking off" unworthy members. That is an admission of human fallibility. A simple provision for "terms of so many years" would obviate all necessity for so deplorable a possibility as you contemplate. Failure to reelect a man would appear more desirable to me than trial and recrimination and bitterness.
The great disseminators of religion have generally been young men. There was some militancy even in Jesus. Venerable men may be splendid for sitting and counselling, but they have never been generally famed for active direction and aggressive enterprise. There should be a little of that always on the board, should there not?
If the "permission is given" we owe it to this revelation to permit it every possibility for wider and more adequate promulgation as the years go by. I cannot prescribe to the guess in the dark that the society's work will possibly be done in twenty or thirty years and that an aged board at that time will be no handicap. We owe it to the revelation to presume work of its dissemination may be even more important to be directed by strong and sure hands then than now.
We deliberately deny some hardihood and sincere heartfelt devotion to the revelation for a future date -- when we deny its board the opportunity to grow and keep alive and active -- which the revelation itself has in itself. That's poorly said. I mean, the revelation is a great potential all in itself. It is young and new and vital and alive. Its growth and acceptance may be dependent on the vitality and aliveness, the great devotion and sincerity and stamina, of the man who directs its distribution.
Should we deny the book a board kept always partially vital and refreshed? If we believe the work will be completed (I don't) before the first board becomes impaired and befogged by too much living, why incorporate? If we incorporate to provide a continuing entity to the society, why not provide that the entity be a vigorous one as well as illustrious, sincere, dignified -- and whatever, or whatever the case may be?
The Supreme Court was not incorporated -- or elected -- or sponsored -- by itself. The Supreme Court is a receiving and digesting body. It has never advertised or tried to sell or distribute a decision. Our society's board should be a disseminating and radiating body.
Please don't believe I want to see it a cheaply commercialized thing. But the preaching of John the Baptist -- and of Saul to nearly all the Greeks -- was warm, alive, vigorous, aggressive. I am afraid I weary you. Let me more briefly come to the other point.
WHY DENY A VOICE -- TO SOME EXTENT AT LEAST -- TO THE PEOPLE WHO PAY? TO THE PEOPLE WHO MUST CARRY THE WORD ON? TO THE PEOPLE FROM WHOM WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE -- THE REVELATION IS MADE -- THE PUBLIC WE CAN INTEREST?
It seems hardly fair to ascribe religious perception to those who would join us and then to call them a mob unfit to participate even indirectly in the choice of men who will direct further efforts to get more people like them to perceive. It seems hardly fair to say, "Give us your money, but not your opinion. You can practice this religion in your own sphere, but we don't think you have enough of it to help elect a minority of our directors."
It rather appears to me that to refuse supporting members some voice in naming directors directly or indirectly is subversive of a lot the world has learned politically, economically, and spiritually. After all too -- we are seeking live, thinking, dynamic people to embrace this book -- not sheep.
Disseminators of a new revelation might be warranted in leaning over backwards in taking precautions to avoid appearances of an unwarranted "divine preceptorship." I feel it is a little specious -- or something of this kind -- to extend a "Jesus book" while saying, "We must protect ourselves against pollution by association of your choosing."
Do we wish to say, "You are spiritual enough to see this book should be disseminated, but your are not spiritual enough to see that one man can do a better job than another of disseminating it." It hardly seems fair to me to impugn today, the motives of the people whom we will have won to this book five or ten years from today.
After this inviolate board begins to die off, will we not have to turn to people such as we propose barring for a long period of years? If we say, "The job will be done then," it might be remarked that Jesus started a dissemination 2000 years ago which isn't done yet. Nor did he appoint a closed regimen to carry it along. Although a certain group of believers did. I am sorry I am so verbose.
Let me start to stop. Without jeopardizing the interests of the society, or lessening the protection you wish it afforded, terms could be made for stated periods, with power of re-election in the hands of the board. Thus you would cause each director to face squarely at the termination of a term the question as to his fitness, and the possibility of some new adherent who might serve better. You would secure the security you wish. You would eliminate a good share of the possibilities for regret.
Next, why have the entire board from any one source? Or elected in any one way? Dr. Sadler's thought that the council might name a few directors would solve most of the objections which occur to me in connection with denying the membership a voice.
Is the following worth thinking about? Three incorporating directors to serve until the book is about to be published, or is published? Then, upon publication, let them start terms of six years. Then, at the start of those terms, let them name three more directors to serve for two years each. And let the council concurrently, and upon its election, name three directors to begin terms of fours years each, one of whom would be chairman of the council. Then as terms expired, the directors would name a new directors' director, and the council, the council's directors, always for 6-year terms.
Perhaps a few things might be said in favor of having each group of three named above, including a 2-year, a 4-year, and a 6-year director. And as each term expired, the new term would be for 6 years. Thus, instead of a group of three from the council expiring together, one would expire each two years, et cetera.
Had I not made so sudden a departure from New York, I would have sent this to you sooner. All best wishes, and be sure I have confidence that your final decisions -- be they one way or another -- will work out. Somehow they always do.
The Urantia Book Fellowship