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President's Annual Report to the General Council, Society Presidents
and Members of The Urantia Book Fellowship

Janet Farrington Graham

August 1999

 

During the past year we have committed significant resources to the staging of our International Conference in Vancouver, B.C. Dozens of Fellowship and IUA members, and unaffiliated readers have invested countless hours working side by side for a single goal: To bring together a thousand Urantia Book readers from around the world. For three years this dedicated team has combed our community for new approaches to study and dissemination of the book and its teachings; for new creative expressions of personal religious experience; for unique and uplifting entertainment by professionals dedicated to the revelation. For three years these readers have set aside organizational differences and embraced each other as teammates and friends. How can such a diverse group work so closely together? And why does The Fellowship value this experience so highly that it becomes the main focus of our organizational efforts during the year preceding every international conference?

There is one statement that can answer both questions: Unity of Purpose.

The only way a diverse group can work together in relative harmony is by recognizing the uniqueness of each individual and the strength of their contribution to the whole. Imagine what kind of conference we would have if every member of the planning team held the same interests and opinions. Imagine how similar each workshop and worship would be if uniformity prevailed. But the purpose of an international conference such as the one staged every three years is to showcase our differences, to experiment with new ideas, to expand our horizons as a community. The planning team knows this intuitively, and so accepts the unique contributions of each member without complaint. "Letís try it!" becomes the battle cry of the creatively committed. How does such a team work in harmony? With a unity of purpose, and a willingness to build upon the strength of diversity.

The Fellowship recognizes the value of such a project. Considering how difficult our social history has been through the years, an international conference seems to be a shining light in our community experience. It is worth the investment in time and money to stage an event that illuminates unity of purpose among a thousand people for an entire week. We come together ready and willing to share ideas, opinions, visions; we come together hungry to celebrate our differences and our similarities, to embrace each other with sincerity and love.

During the past year we have also endeavored to restructure our membership policies and plans to reflect our growing understanding of diversity, and the role it plays in revelation service. We began this discussion of diversity following several cataclysmic events that served to divide the reader community into political camps. We began this discussion of diversity when we realized that assuming a position along partisan lines was inconsistent with the goals of a fraternal organization committed to serving the entire community. We began this discussion when we realized unity was not uniformity and diversity could not be embraced in degrees.

The transition from holding an established political position to seeking an embrace of the whole has been a challenging journey for our organization during the past year, and we are just beginning to test the waters of our resolve. Regardless of pressure, I believe we should not choose sides in battles that set one brother against another, or the community itself against any organization. Nor should we issue statements supporting one political position over another. How can we? If The Fellowship truly seeks to serve the whole, to embrace unity without uniformity, to facilitate the expressions of diversity among the readership, we must hold steadfast to our organizational vision. We must serve all those who seek to study, socialize, and disseminate the FER regardless of political positions or personal religious expressions.

"Jesus prayed for unity among his followers, but he did not desire uniformity. Sin creates a dead level of evil inertia, but righteousness nourishes the creative spirit of individual experience in the living realities of eternal truth and in the progressive communion of the divine spirits of the Father and the Son. In the spiritual fellowship of the believer-son with the divine Father there can never be doctrinal finality and sectarian superiority of group consciousness." 182:1.8

I imagine a time when the revelation will increasingly capture hearts in the east as well as the west. I imagine a time when the revelation will free the imagination of those bound by the fetters of various evolutionary religions. I imagine a time when our members will be so unlike ourselves, so culturally diverse, we will struggle endlessly to understand their unique perspectives and still be required to accept without question that they, too, answer the Fatherís call. There is only one way an organization dedicated to planetary service in the unfolding of a revelation can function successfully in the midst of such truth: with a unity of purpose able to encompass the whole.

This organizational unity of purpose cannot be defined by partisan political views and still be encompassing; it cannot be framed by specific spiritual practices and meet the personal needs of each believer-son. We have come to understand that an organizational unity of purpose is best expressed as a broad philosophy of service, a commitment to help coordinate the work of community members as they gather to study, worship, and serve the revelation together.

We have launched several new programs that are designed to facilitate service and study among our growing body of readers and believers. We have prepared welcoming kits that explain our new programs, and we encourage everyone to review the materials, share them with friends, and join our expanding network of revelation explorers. Our Internet services have grown exponentially in the past year. We offer opportunities for readers to gain information and brainstorm together, and to share their visions and projects with the global community. We will continue working with the interfaith community, sponsoring in-depth topical studies via the Wrightwood series, designing publications that stimulate the imagination, offering services to children and families as they socialize their religion together.

And I hope we will continue to participate in every available forum for the exploration of unity within our community, both as an organization and as individuals. We understand more today than we did yesterday, but we still have a long way to go. We must recreate our selves, our organization, and our community to fully reflect the Masterís teaching if we are to successfully share this revelation with the world.

At The Urantia Book Fellowship we are working to take the Masterís mission to heart: "Whosoever would become great in my Fatherís kingdom shall become a minister to all; and whosoever would be first among you, let him become the server of his brethren."

And we are learning to live his encompassing vision: "Whosoever will, let him come."

 

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The Urantia Book Fellowship