REPORT TO THE MEMBERS OF Urantia BROTHERHOOD
on the SPECIAL MEETING OF THE GENERAL COUNCIL
September 16-17, 1989
Dear Fellow Members of Urantia Brotherhood:
As you know, precipitated by the resignation of three of the five trustees of Urantia Foundation in late June (Gloriann Harris, Frank Sgaraglino, and Helena Sprague), a Special Meeting of the General Council was convened by the Executive Committee to discuss the impact of this action on the relationship between Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation. This Special General Council meeting followed by two months a similar meeting of the Executive Committee to address this same issue. What follows is our report to you of the substance of these meetings and a summary of the actions taken.
The relationship between Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation has been a topic of discussion since before the formal institutionalization of the two organizations in the 1950s. As in human and societal evolution, an organization, as it grows, changes in the way it functions. Thus, in order to present this special meeting in the broadest possible context, this report will briefly describe the origin and history of the organizations leading up to the current actions of the General Council. Additionally, the pattern of evolutionary growth is also used as a framework to interpret these facts.
Notwithstanding that history is rarely pure fact, information from documents of record will be used when possible to convey the evolution of the relationship between Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood.
From its inception as an independent organization, Urantia Brotherhood has been closely intertwined with Urantia Foundation. They both have had their offices at 533 Diversey Parkway, the headquarters of both organizations. Additionally, the purpose of Urantia Brotherhood as outlined in its Constitution was drafted in parallel with the principal object of Urantia Foundation as set forth in its "Declaration of Trust creating Urantia Foundation."
The major differences between the organizations result from contrasting emphases on the various objectives stated in the documents of origin of the two organizations. The principal object for which the Foundation was created is similar to that of the Brotherhood: "...the promotion, improvement, and expansion among the peoples of the world of the comprehension and understanding of Cosmology and the relation of the planet on which we live to the Universe, of the genesis and destiny of Man and his relation to God, and of the true teachings of Jesus Christ; and for the inculcation and encouragement of the realization and appreciation of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man--in order to increase and enhance the comfort, happiness, and well being of Man, as an individual and as a member of society, through the fostering of a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology which are commensurate with Man's intellectual and cultural development." It is in the Concordant Objects for wh ich the Foundation was created that the contrasts arise: "...to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of The Urantia Book and to disseminate the principles, teachings, and doctrines of The Urantia Book" (p.4,5 "Declaration of Trust").
The Constitution of Urantia Brotherhood states, "The purposes of Urantia Brotherhood are the study and dissemination of the teachings of The Urantia Book; the promotion, improvement, and expansion among the peoples of the world of the comprehension and understanding..." Again, it is in the method of accomplishing these purposes that differences in the two organizations can be seen: "...by fostering a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology which are commensurate with Man's intellectual and cultural development, through the medium of fraternal association, ever obedient and subservient to the laws of this country and of all countries wherein Urantia Brotherhood may extend." (p. 2, Constitution of Urantia Brotherhood; emphasis added to indicate differences in the organizing documents).
Although the organizations have some commonalities regarding their documents of origin, they have been structured quite differently. And these structural differences reflect the differences of method by which they operate. The Foundation, which was established in 1950, consists of five trustees who serve as life long members. When there is a vacancy on the board, the remaining trustees by majority vote elect a successor to fill the vacancy. On the other hand, Urantia Brotherhood was formed as a democratic and independent organization in 1955 with a thirty-six member General Council as its highest governing body. These Councilors are elected by delegates from each Urantia Society at the Triennial Delegate Assembly (TDA), which is held every three years. The term of service for each Councilor is nine years; vacancies are filled at Council meetings until the next TDA. The Executive Committee, a group of fourteen Councilors, is elected from and by the General Council to manage the! aff airs of Urantia Brotherhood in accordance with the Constitution and By-Laws.
The basic structural differences between the Foundation and Brotherhood were not accidental, according to William S. Sadler, Jr., one of the original trustees of Urantia Foundation. According to Sadler in a 1958 memorandum on the functional relationship of the Foundation and Brotherhood, the Foundation and Brotherhood started out conceptually as one organization, the Brotherhood, which included the custodial responsibilities for The Urantia Book and the "religio-social" functions of the association of individuals who were committed to its integration into their lives. Because of the dissimilarity of these two functions, it was decided that custodial responsibilities would be best served using the structure of an appointive body whose responsibilities were imposed upon it and that the "religio-social" functions would be best served by a self-governing body which would reflect the purpose and desires of its members. This required functional separation resulted in the formation of two independently constituted organizations: Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood.
While these organizations were in their infancy, the clear separation in function was not apparent. Key individuals in each organization had input into both organizations. There were only a handful of copies of The Urantia Book disseminated, the majority of readers were located in the Chicago area, all five Urantia Foundation trustees served on the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood, and the work of the organizations was done by volunteers at 533 Diversey Parkway. The major activity of the early years was to get The Urantia Book into the hands of increasing numbers of people so that the revelation could begin its worldwide mission.
As time passed, The Urantia Book became more widely distributed, and readers who were interested in organizational affiliation began to hail from throughout the United States and the world. They had not been involved in the mysteries of the revelatory process and did not necessarily view the organizations or the role of The Urantia Book on this planet in the same way as those who were at the time leading the central organizations. A new stage in the evolution of the organizations was beginning, one which was characterized by the struggle between centralized and decentralized organizational functioning: we versus they. This struggle is well-documented in the minutes of the Executive Committee.
As external pressures to provide broader services and organizational involvement continued to become more intense with the growth of the membership beyond its initial Chicago environs, the relationship between Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood became increasingly stressed. The historical relationship of the two organizations made a true separation of functions difficult. if separation of function of these sister organizations were to be achieved, who would set the direction for the outworking of the purposes of the organizations which were created to respond to the thrust of the revelation? Should it be the Foundation, the official custodian of The Urantia Book? Should it be the Brotherhood, whose primary purpose involved the evolution of a worldwide fellowship of men and women committed to the study and dissemination of the teachings? Or should it be both organizations, each operating in its own sphere of functioning?
One example of this growing tension between the activities of the two organizations was an increased awareness that perhaps an individual should not serve as both a Trustee and Councilor. Dual organizational service eventually ended. A second example resulted from the growing needs of the office. The staff changed progressively from a volunteer to a paid staff which was hired separately by Urantia Brotherhood and Foundation. Staff loyalty increasingly supported one organization or the other. Despite shared office space at 533 Diversey Parkway, the Foundation had a more visible presence there than did the Brotherhood; in fact, the sign on the outside of the building reflected the presence of only the owner, Urantia Foundation.
Without clear functional differentiation, the decisions about who should steer the course of the organizations' work on behalf of the revelation became more and more difficult, with the protective, custodial purposes entrusted to the Foundation clearly dominant. The dynamic tension of the pre-Foundation and pre-Brotherhood years continued to be played out years after the creation of separate organizational structures.
A key event occurred in the early 1970's with the additional trademark registration of the Concentric Circles Symbol, which had only been registered as a service mark before. At the same time there occurred the initial registration of the word "Urantia" as a trade and service mark of Urantia Foundation. The declared intent of the Foundation and their attorneys at this time was that these symbols would serve as a means to identify the original text of The Urantia Book after the copyright expired in 2030. Although Urantia Brotherhood had been using the Concentric Circles symbol and the word Urantia since its formal inception as an organization in 1955, Urantia Foundation and its attorneys required in 1974 that Urantia Brotherhood sign a "Confirmatory Agreement." This agreement was apparently intended to formalize the terms of the Brotherhood's past use of the registered marks and to set forth the structure for future use. After the refusal of several Urantia Societies to agree to the representations made in the "Confirmatory Agreement", a "Licensing Agreement" to govern each Society's use of the registered marks was drawn up and executed by each society separately.
Although the value of the trademarks as identifiers of the original teachings is inarguable, it is clear in retrospect that this trademark registration, the associated Confirmatory and Licensing Agreements, and the requirements of law regarding the preservation of trademarks, had four potentially significant, though perhaps unintended, effects which have added markedly to the stress between the organizations. First, it partially defeated the initial founding effort to separate the work into two autonomous organizational entities; second, it caused Urantia Foundation to believe it had a veto power over Brotherhood activities based apparently upon the fact that the laws governing trademarks required the registrant to monitor their use; third, the use of separate licensing Agreements with constituent Brotherhood Societies seemed intended to sever the inherent organizational integrity of Urantia Brotherhood; and fourth, experience has shown that it set up an almost inevitable conflict between the seemingly valid use of the marks as trademarks to identify The Urantia Book as well those organizations directly associated with it and the also valid use of these same marks as symbols of the living and revelatory truth the book contains (it is certain that the readers of The Urantia Book believe that the Concentric Circles Symbol is "....the material emblem of the Trinity government of all creation...." and that "Urantia" is the universe name for our planet).
In 1983, a further heightening of tension between the Foundation and Brotherhood was brought about as a result of the "World War III" messages purported to come from superhuman sources and received by Vern Grimsley. As a result of this situation, Thomas Kendall, then president of Urantia Foundation, was removed as president and then as Trustee by his fellow Trustees. Martin Myers was elected at that time as president of the Board. Inasmuch as certain members of the General Council had been associated with Vern in his activities (and despite the fact that this was true as well for many of the Trustees), doubts were expressed by some of the Trustees about the trustworthiness of some of the members of Urantia Brotherhood and their activities. This mistrust has been expressed to members of the Council ever since, often in the form of comments about such issues as conflicts of interest and ethics within the Brotherhood.
Another event which added increased stress to the relationship between the organizations occurred in August, 1987. In reaction to a proposal for a test marketing study which the Brotherhood planned to recommend to Urantia Foundation for its consideration (consistent with the Brotherhood Corporation's responsibilities as Sales Agent for The Urantia Book), the Trustees sent a letter to the General Council which in part stated:
In the event any licensee or agent of Urantia Foundation should undertake, sponsor, or induce another to undertake or sponsor such a study or activity, the Trustees will consider such undertaking as ground for appropriate action including but not limited to the revocation of the license authorizing the use of the Foundation's registered marks, the word "Urantia" and the Concentric Circles Symbol in conjunction with the authorized activities of the licensee. It will also be grounds for the revocation of the Sales Agency Agreement whereby Urantia Brotherhood Corporation acts as agent of Urantia Foundation in the distribution of The Urantia Book (excerpted from a letter from Urantia Foundation dated July 28, 1987).
This letter made it clear that Urantia Foundation intended to use the trademarks as a way to influence the decisions/actions of Urantia Brotherhood.
In a responsible effort to respond constructively to Foundation criticisms, the General Council began a process of self-examination. Topics such as ethics, conflicts-of-interest, the purpose of the Brotherhood, and the relationship of the Brotherhood and Foundation were discussed regularly. The Council formed an Administrative Committee to oversee office functioning. It established a Sales Agency Oversight Committee to help oversee the sales agency efforts to provide a professional sales agency function. It also set up a committee to help develop a code of ethics for individuals serving on the General Council. Whether these initiatives have yet succeeded, they represent an honest effort on the part of the Council to monitor its own activities.
The Brotherhood also made consistent efforts to involve the Foundation in the development of its projects. The design for the Resource Guide for Secondary Works was the result of a joint Brotherhood/Foundation committee. A mailing list subcommittee including Brotherhood and Foundation members was formed to help develop a consistent policy which could be applied to mailing list use. The Area Coordinator program was reviewed by the Foundation and their suggestions were incorporated into the program. Joint solicitation letters and other letters sent out by the Brotherhood were reviewed by the Foundation and its attorneys. A request was made by a Trustee of Urantia Foundation (Martin Myers) to review both the procedure used to adopt and the substance of an amendment to the removal provisions of the By-Laws and Constitution of Urantia Brotherhood. Hundreds of hours (by Foundation and Brotherhood personnel) and substantial Foundation legal fees went into this review.
Also, in 1988 a central office services arrangement proposed by Urantia Brotherhood was established for a three-year trial period during which time office staff from both organizations were used by each organization to complete the work in the office. It was intended that a central office might serve to break down accumulated Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation barriers; to improve communication between the two organizations; to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the office by enabling staff members to utilize their strengths; and to illustrate a shared unity of the two organizations.
These events suggest that many efforts were being made by Urantia Brotherhood to work together with Urantia Foundation toward our common goals. Sometimes working together meant that Brotherhood plans and priorities needed to be changed. As a consequence of the Foundation letter in 1987, working with the Foundation had necessarily become a high priority for the Brotherhood and this priority became reflected in the way our decisions were made and implemented.
Nevertheless, despite this apparent effort at a closer working relationship, friction between the two organizations continued to increase during the past two years. A significant expression of this tension was apparent in a Brotherhood letter sent to Urantia Foundation President, Martin Myers, from Brotherhood President, David Elders, to the effect that Foundation methods to achieve its goals were not always consonant with those goals nor with the spirit of the teachings of The Urantia Book. In February of 1989, Foundation President, Martin Myers, terminated all personal communication with Brotherhood President, David Elders. This was apparently in response to this letter sent privately by David Elders to the Trustees which also stated his perception that honest dialogue critical of the Foundation or in disagreement with Foundation actions was simply no longer possible due to the attitude of the current Foundation president.
Most significantly, members of the General Council and Executive Committee became increasingly frustrated by what they perceived to be a lack of cooperation by the Foundation in completing those tasks which were joint efforts. Several letters of request written from the Brotherhood to Urantia Foundation elicited no response. Urantia Brotherhood was asked to direct all correspondence to the trustees of Urantia Foundation through its president. The "Resource Guide for Secondary Works" is still not available despite three years of effort. The pamphlet entitled, "Study Groups: Ideas and Suggestions," offered as part of the solicitation mailing in 1987, is still not approved by the Foundation. The language in solicitation letters being jointly written by the Brotherhood and Foundation is subject to rigorous scrutiny by Foundation attorneys apparently to reflect increasing concern about written references to the religious and/or spiritual purposes of Urantia Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has willingly raised funds for Urantia Foundation yet it has had no detailed information as to how this money was being spent. The Brotherhood was asked not to give Area Coordinators mailing list information that would have enabled them to improve communication with readers in their areas; instead, all mailings for an Area Coordinator were to be handled from the central office. It was required by the Foundation that Brotherhood stationery could not be used by Area Coordinators except in a very limited way. A request concerning the sale by Urantia Brotherhood of the CONCORDEX and PARAMONY was made three years ago and has not yet been responded to officially. A two-year old request for the development of a Brotherhood funded audio-version of The Urantia Book also remains without response. These are just examples of the kinds of requests made of Urantia Foundation and its response (or lack thereof) over recent years.
Individually, Urantia Foundation could most likely justify each of its requests and responses to the Brotherhood from its own philosophical viewpoint, just as Urantia Brotherhood could justify its own based on the needs of societies, study groups, and readers in the field. What has been most problematic to the Brotherhood is the frequency of requests made by the Foundation for the Brotherhood to act in certain ways, the inability of the Brotherhood to respond to the readership in a timely way that satisfies their needs, inadequate communication patterns between the two organizations, increasing isolation of the Trustees (especially the president), the apparent unwillingness of the Trustees to use communication or education to explain the philosophical context for their actions, an apparent refusal to consider opposing viewpoints in their decision-making process, and increasing concern that the means chosen by the Trustees to achieve their purposes often seem inconsistent with the values derived from the teachings of The Urantia Book. If Urantia Brotherhood is to fully realize its originating function as a separately-constituted, democratic organization, then to what extent can and should its group process decisions be subjected to review and revision by another organization, especially one whose membership is closed and which is seemingly impervious to external comment or accountability?
EVENTS OF THIS SUMMER
It was in this atmosphere that matters came to a head early this summer. The incident which triggered the latest series of meetings and correspondence was actually a Foundation matter. This event was the resignation of three of the five Foundation Trustees in late June and early July, 1989 (Foundation employees Scott Forsythe and Mike Painter subsequently in September, 1989). While this was a Foundation concern, members of the Executive Committee felt that the ramifications of this event could be far reaching. It had been through two of these Trustees, Frank Sgaraglino, who had been appointed Foundation liaison with Urantia Brotherhood, and Gloriann Harris, who was also Director of Office Services, that the majority of ongoing communication had been sustained since January. Consequently, the Executive Committee met in special session on July 17, 1989 to discuss and respond to this occurrence.
The unanimous action resulting from this meeting was a letter sent to Trustees and General Councilors in which the Executive Committee clearly defined its perceptions of the organizational behavior on the pan of Foundation President, Martin Myers, which was deemed harmful to the work of Urantia Brotherhood. The letter further stated that this behavior would no longer be accepted as a factor in Brotherhood decision-making or actions. This prompted letters from Urantia Foundation, and several personal statements from both individual Trustees and Councilors, discussing the contents of the letter and questioning the motives of many involved in the discussion and related matters.
At the initiation of the Executive Committee, the General Council met in special session on September 16-17, 1989 to discuss the action of the Executive Committee and to decide a funkier course of action. At this meeting the General Council questioned both the resigned Trustees and Foundation office staff, discussed many issues related to these resignations and the Foundation/Brotherhood relationship, and considered the necessity and appropriateness of the action of the Executive Committee. The following resolutions were passed at this meeting:
The General Council supports and affirms the action taken on behalf of Urantia Brotherhood by the Executive Committee at its meeting of July 17, 1989.
The recent culmination of events affecting the relationship between Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation has led the General Council to embark on a course of action which redefines that relationship. We therefore resolve to evaluate our organizational goals and plans and to institute such measures as to affirm our existence as an independent, autonomous organization, operating on the basis of group wisdom, and in keeping with our highest understanding of the teachings of The Urantia Book.
Be it resolved that the fund raising function of Urantia Brotherhood pertain only to the raising of funds for Urantia Brotherhood.
Be it resolved that the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood immediately and responsibly re-establish a separate office services operation/staff.
The General Council directs that the officers of Urantia Brotherhood formally request from Urantia Foundation a lease at 533 Diversey Parkway for the entire first floor and basement (or other adequate and appropriate space) and the placement of "Urantia Brotherhood" interior and exterior signs in order to facilitate the social/fraternal work of Urantia Brotherhood.
The General Council directs the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood to proceed to take any and all actions necessary to effect a smooth working transition of headquarters office operations in all pertinent areas and to work harmoniously with Urantia Foundation whenever possible. The General Council also requires a written report at its next meeting as to any actions and/or decisions taken on this matter.
Be it resolved that Urantia Brotherhood use its mailing list in any manner it deems appropriate.
Be it resolved that the General Council of Urantia Brotherhood affirms the principles for which Urantia Foundation was founded and the purposes we share in common, as stated in the Declaration of Trust.
Attached to this report is a copy of the letter that was sent to Urantia Foundation as a result of the General Council meeting.
In the evolutionary process there inevitably comes a time when the conditions are right for a change which will steer the course of destiny into a new direction. Just as in human evolution, single-celled animals divided into two-celled animals, then into multiple-celled animals, and finally after millions of years of evolution into the highly complex physical, mental, and spiritual organism of human beings, so can a human organization such as Urantia Brotherhood move from a small group of readers located in Chicago, Illinois to a highly complex worldwide network of readers which crosses the boundaries of nationalities and cultures and is united by a common purpose. And all of this is possible because God has chosen progressive evolution to be a pattern in the universe.
Based upon the many historical factors which led up to this current organizational situation, it would seem clear that the intended separation of the functions related to the out-working of the revelation on the planet has been thwarted by a combination of organizational elements. Perhaps the most significant of these is the possibly unintended consequence of the seemingly inherent conflict between the legal and materialistic use by Urantia Foundation of the Concentric Circles Symbol and word "Urantia" as trademarks and their continuous use since 1955 by Urantia Brotherhood to signify the constituted study, dissemination, and fellowship activities of the Brotherhood as well as their value to the readers and believers of The Urantia Book as symbols of the living truths contained in the revelation. When fully twenty years after the founding of the organizations it was decided by the Trustees to utilize these marks as registered identifiers of the original text, and when this app! roac h was combined with the Foundation's concentration on its protective responsibilities in conjunction with the laws governing maintenance of these trademarks, it led the Trustees in the direction of attempting to sanction and control any actions of Urantia Brotherhood which involved the use of the marks (virtually all Brotherhood activities). This tendency seemed to be funkier exacerbated by the organizational behavior of President Martin Myers, whose isolation and inability to work harmoniously with others made it impossible for inter-organizational cooperation, fair group process, honest self-criticism, and respect for the integrity of the constituted autonomy of Urantia Brotherhood to properly function in the achievement of Brotherhood purposes. In essence, the original intent of the founders who grappled with this issue 50 years ago--that of separation of function--has been stymied by a combination of impersonal and personal factors.
The seeming conflict between the use of the Concentric Circles Symbol and the word "Urantia" as materialistic trademarks and their use in symbolizing the revelatory truths described in The Urantia Book (these symbols serve to link us individually and collectively with our Trinity government) in a way stands for what seems to be at the heart of the relationship problem between Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation. In fact, it is the very same issue which the founders of the two organizations resolved by vesting the different functional responsibilities in two separate and autonomous organizations: that of the apparent incompatibility of the protective, custodial function and the fellowship ("religio-social") function. Protection may require the use of tools such as control, sanction, and the law; fellowship can succeed only by expressing values reflective of the teachings of The Urantia Book. The inherent gap between these two functions can only be bridged by honest, resp! ectf ul, open, and trusting relationships between the bodies vested with these respective responsibilities. If the leadership of ether organization defaults in the interpersonal requirements of building and nurturing the type of relationship required to blend these functions in a constructive manner, the relationship will fail. This is as true for the relationship between organizations such as ours as it is for a relationship between any two individuals.
The members of both the Executive Committee and the General Council, after openly and honestly evaluating the circumstances which led up to this current situation, together reached a conclusion which is apparent in the letter sent to the Trustees on September 21, 1989 (enclosed). In essence, the Council concluded that Urantia Brotherhood's purposes could only in the end be achieved by basing our organizational integrity on the building blocks dearly intended in our founding: to function as an autonomous and duly constituted, democratic organization in a manner wholly consistent with the principles and spiritual values expressed in the teachings of The Urantia Book. This approach would not be antagonistic to the principles and purposes for which Urantia Foundation was established; however, any relationship between the organizations would necessarily require that both parties come to view the other as respected and respectful, trusting and open partners in the work associated wi! th the revelation. This would mean more than ever that we would view ourselves as stewards not owners, and that while we would be responsive to and supportive of the goals and purposes of any organization with which we were associated, we would no longer enable or respond to organizational behavior which we, in proper group process, deemed to be contradictory to either the spiri tual values we would seek to blend into our organizational activity or our ability to utilize our constituted group process to achieve our goals.
In keeping with the values of our stewardship role and our desire to be open as we serve the needs of the readership and our members, we are committed to providing you with adequate information concerning the decisions we have made these last several weeks. To that end, we are attaching a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the members of the General Council and urge you to make personal contact with them if you feel a need to discuss these issues further. Additionally, while we have no intent to politicize this issue, and would like to have all of us focus on the true service opportunity before us, we believe it is our duty to make the written materials pertinent to our decision making available to you on request. If you decide to study this written material, it is especially important that you place what you read in the larger context which this report intends to provide and treat the information with discretion and in a manner consistent with the principl! es and values derived from The Urantia Book and to which we have collectively deepened our commitment. We hope you will agree with our conclusion that we cannot achieve our purposes unless we together come to base all of our decisions and actions on these values and principles.
We ask that you join us as partners in the continued evolution of Urantia Brotherhood as a fellowship of religionists who desire to operate wholly on the basis of group wisdom and in keeping with our highest understanding of and faith in the teachings of The Urantia Book.
Yours in the spirit of fellowship,
The Officers of Urantia Brotherhood On behalf of the General Council
General Council Roster September 21, 1989 Letter to Trustees
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship