Dear Fellowship Members,
Publication of the Executive Committee Letter was suspended some time ago under an assumption that adequate information was being provided by other Fellowship publications. That assumption seems to have been mistaken. Many members have asked that the Executive Committee Letter be reactivated as a vehicle for informing members in a timely way of the actions of the Executive Committee and/or the General Council, and of other matters of organizational concern. This letter responds to those requests.
The Executive Committee Letter provides a brief report of current business. Members desiring a more detailed account of any of the matters reported are encouraged to contact the Fellowship office, or any member of the Executive Committee and/or General Council.
Publication of The Urantia Book
The Fellowship plans to publish The Urantia Book in April 1996. It is typeset in a two column format and incorporates a reference system to locate passages of the text by citing paper, section and paragraph. Notation is also provided to allow readers to easily cross-reference to the pagination of the 1955 public domain printing of The Urantia Book.
The book will be soft covered, 6 1/2 by 9 1/4 inches in size, and contain approximately 1900 pages. Two different cover designs will be produced. One is intended to appeal to bookstore browsers; the other is more conservative and was designed with experienced readers in mind. In addition, a small number of hardbound copies will be published.
This edition reproduces the 1955 public domain text of The Urantia Book except for the correction of spelling and typographic errors. These corrections are fully documented in a separate pamphlet, available on request. The plan to include a topical index has been postponed since it will not be ready in time for this printing. An index will be included in subsequent printings.
An initial printing of 15,000 copies is planned. Pre-publication sales to individuals already exceed 1000, and an additional 4500 copies have been ordered by large quantity purchasers.
Publishing The Urantia Book has been a complex and demanding experience. There has been much to learn. Many decisions have been required on matters large and small, with dozens of readers contributing their time and expertise to the process. As of this report, there are still a number of details that need to be settled. The final result will be a high quality, low cost reprinting of The Urantia Book. In addition, the knowledge and experience gained in this effort will further improve quality and reduce cost in subsequent printings, both of the English-language text and of translations.
Fellowship Amicus Brief in the Foundation - Maaherra Lawsuit
At its meeting of February 2,1996 the Fellowship General Council, by a vote of 18 to 15, approved a proposal to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the appeal of the Foundation - Maaherra copyright lawsuit. The Foundation's appeal seeks to nullify the circuit court summary finding that invalidated the renewal of copyright in The Urantia Book thereby putting the book into the public domain. The Fellowship brief asks the court to sustain the lower court decision.
The close General Council vote on this matter reflects the controversial nature of the decision. In the past the General Council voted to remain organizationally uninvolved in the Foundation - Maaherra lawsuit. Various considerations related to the Fellowship's planned publication of The Urantia Book are the primary reasons for this change in policy.
This filing is a one time event. There are no plans or expectations for further legal involvement on the part of the Fellowship. The brief makes the court aware of the existence of the Fellowship and of the interests of the Fellowship in the outcome of the appeal.
In content, the Fellowship brief challenges the legal validity of much of the evidence presented by the Foundation in support of its claim of copyright. Virtually all of this evidence is a disputed recounting of various traditions about the origin and management of The Urantia Book. While these traditions are significant to many readers, for legal purposes they constitute hearsay and are therefore inadmissible as factual evidence. In addition, the Fellowship brief demonstrates that even if the Foundation's disputed accounts of these oral traditions were admissible as evidence, they would still not support the Foundation's copyright claims.
In the several hours of formal discussion that preceded the vote, many different views, for and against the filing of a brief, were presented. A fair account of these many views cannot be presented in this report. Members who wish to have more information are encouraged to contact any General Councilor. Additional written materials are available on request from the Fellowship office. These include some further explanation and copies of the relevant legal briefs, if desired. The total of this material exceeds 100 pages.
Some members have expressed concern that a policy decision of this kind should not be made by the Executive Committee and/or General Council until the societies and members-at-large have been consulted and given an opportunity to offer their views. Others feel that a member referendum should be required for actions of this kind. In this case the short filing deadlines set by the court limited the period in which action could be taken, and therefore the matter was handled by executive decision. Subsequently, these deadlines were extended by several weeks, giving the General Council an opportunity to discuss the matter before a final decision was made.
The Fellowship's decision-making process is defined by the Fellowship Constitution. It is vested in the General Council, a group of 36 members elected by societies at the Triennial Delegate Assemblies. As discussed elsewhere in this report, this body may soon be expanded through direct election by individual societies. Even so, the process will remain representative; there are no constitutional provisions for direct involvement of the entire membership in decision-making.
Society Representation on the General Council
The General Council approved a proposal to give each Fellowship society the right to elect one member to the General Council. The proposal requires a society to have 10 or more active members to be eligible to elect a councilor. These councilors would be added to the 36 elected by the Triennial Delegate Assemblies. Since there are 18 Fellowship societies, the size of the General Council could expand to 54 members.
An amendment to the Fellowship Constitution is required to put this proposal into effect. That could take place at the August 1996 meeting of the General Council in Flagstaff, Arizona. However, there has been some concern expressed that the proposal involves matters of local society autonomy. If that is assumed, the proposal cannot be put into effect for another year, until it is approved by the 1997 Triennial Delegate Assembly. The Judicial Committee does not believe the proposal infringes upon local society autonomy.
The Judicial Committee has sent a questionnaire to each society asking for opinions on the matter. Additional copies of this questionnaire, along with copies of the proposed amendment, are available on request from the Fellowship office. Societies are strongly encouraged to respond to the Judicial Committee questionnaire as soon as possible. These responses will determine whether the proposed amendment can be enacted this summer, or must wait until summer 1997.
General Council, Executive Committee and Standing Committee Elections
John Hay, chair of the Special Projects Committee, has resigned from the General Council to attend to personal business. The General Council and the Executive Committee both passed resolutions thanking John for his many years of devoted service to The Urantia Book and to those who read it.
At its meeting of Feb. 2, 1996, the General Council elected Brian Smith to fill the General Council seat vacated by John Hay. David Kantor was elected to chair the Special Projects Committee, thereby becoming a member of the Executive Committee. Lila Dogim resigned from the Education Committee and was elected to a vacant position on the International Fellowship Committee.
international Conference 1996 - August 3-8, 1996 in Flagstaff, Arizona
Registration response to IC96 has been excellent. To date, approximately 1000 individuals have indicated their intention to attend. Many have complimented the IC96 planning committee on the quality of its conference plans and informational materials. IC96 will incorporate and add to all the features of previous conferences. In particular, a major effort is being made to provide a quality conference experience for all children, from toddlers through teens.
A large registration is expected, with housing provided on a first come, first served basis. Early registration is strongly advised. A substantial early registration discount is available for those who register by March 15, 1996.
Relationship between The Fellowship and Urantia Foundation
There has been no significant interaction between the trustees of Urantia Foundation and officers of the Fellowship in the last few months. Perhaps that situation will improve as some of the current dividing issues become facts of the past. In any case, the officers of the Fellowship would be happy to meet with the trustees to discuss any and all matters of concern, and to search for ways to foster unity and cooperation while celebrating diversity.
On a brighter note, there has been meaningful dialogue between some members of the IUA (International Urantia Association) and some Fellowship members. They are developing a number of cooperative activities, some of which will be presented at IC96.
The Fellowship and the Foundation separated in 1989, after 35 years of close association. A period of confusion followed that still leaves much unresolved. Many readers who take an active interest in organizational activities, from both the Fellowship and the Foundation, are not content with the current situation. They want to see a greater sense of unity, fellowship and cooperation between these two groups.
A return to the familiar models and assumptions of the past is unlikely. Unity must be found in association with the newer and evolving ideals which are modifying and replacing older traditions. The future belongs to those individuals - whether from the Fellowship, the Foundation or elsewhere - who will work to foster unity and cooperation among all groups of readers in the midst of the increasingly diverse social response to The Urantia Book and its teachings.
My apologies to those who have missed the Executive Committee Letter. You can expect to receive it at least quarterly from now on. Your early registration for IC96 is most appreciated as it greatly facilitates the complex planning process. I hope to see you there, if not before.
Steve Dreier President
"Man can never wisely decide temporal issues or transcend the selfishness of personal interests unless he meditates in the presence of the sovereignty of God and reckons with the realities of divine meanings and spiritual values. " - The Urantia Book (Paper 99, section 7, paragraph 4)