Confidential Memo from Urantia Brotherhood
to Trustees of Urantia Foundation
February 1, 1989
533 Diversey Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
February 1, 1989
Trustees of Urantia Foundation
533 Diversey Parkway
Chicago IL 60614
After a significant amount of reflective thinking and soul searching, and finally propelled by an incident which happened this weekend, I find that I must write you on a subject which troubles me deeply. This is, without question the most difficult task I have undertaken in my four years of service as President of Urantia Brotherhood. While the decision to proceed with this letter is mine alone, I have done so with the full knowledge and support of other officers of the Brotherhood, and after consultation with Steve Dreier, a trusted friend and fellow member of the Executive Committee. You all know that for the last four years I have worked as hard as I could to improve the relationship between our organizations based upon my belief that not only was a mutually respectful relationship ideally consistent with the very principles of the teachings our organizations profess to represent, but also because I believe it to be of practical necessity for us to achieve our purposes.
Moreover, in that process, I have worked to develop enduring relationships with most of you, and especially with Martin with whom I felt I must be able to work most closely. As you know, that friendship is seen by many people in the field as simply a way for Martin (and/or the Trustees) to control Urantia Brotherhood. That, in itself, does not bother me because up until this weekend I had experienced this friendship as both genuine and sincere. However, I and I believe you as Trustees as well, need to honestly consider the possibility that Martin's personal behavior towards other people has become a liability in the work our organizations are charged to do both separately and together. Two summers ago, you wrote to the General Council and stated quite forcefully your belief that some of our actions and the behavior of some of the members of Urantia Brotherhood were detrimental to the trade and service marks you are pledged to uphold as tools to identify both the original text of The Urantia Book and those organizations created to serve the purposes of the Revelatory Commission.
Though painful to some, I believe that the vast majority of General Councilors agreed with most of your observations and set out to correct the errors you pointed out to us; and, I believe we have made significant strides in those areas. But effort on our side alone is no longer enough. Urantia Foundation, too, must be willing to accept valid criticism and consider the possibility that individual behavior and your chosen style of achieving your objectives, may have become a significant factor in undermining the integrity of the marks we both cherish as identifiers of the original text and organizations and as symbols which stand for the most sublime of the teachings we represent. Urantia Foundation, as it makes the difficult decisions which the more protective requirements of its trust demand, should be enhancing its reputation--among its friends and supporters at least--as a stalwart, moral, and principled defender of the future course of the revelation on this planet. Instead, your reputation is faltering, a fact which eliminates from your arsenal of tools the critical moral imperative inherent in your responsibilities, leaving you only with intimidation and legal action to achieve your high purposes.
The risk in this, and the reason why it needs to be addressed, is that while you are busy preserving the trademark value of the marks, the behavior of your most prominent Trustee is so affecting the way in which Urantia Foundation is seen in the field that it is slowly draining those same marks of their ability to symbolize (not identify) the high standards of the teachings. I used to believe that Urantia Brotherhood could balance that approach with a more open, honest, caring, trusting, and interactive, fellowship style. But, I now see clearly from the growing negative attitudes (among friends) toward both our organizations that the separation that we see between our organizations is simply not seen in the field. This means that we each need to pay attention to both WHAT we do and the WAY in which we do it.
Thus, just as you suggested that we needed to balance our development as a fellowship organization expressive of the very best qualities of the teachings possible with a higher standard of attention to the proper process of constitutional behavior, I believe that Urantia Foundation, too, needs to balance its determination to achieve its protective goals with an increased commitment to high principles of interpersonal relationships which exemplify the very best in the teachings. While I believe that the qualities Martin brings to Urantia Foundation have contributed mightily to the achievement of your protective objectives, his pattern of personal behavior in dealing with others, and in influencing the choice of means used to reach your necessary ends, have become, in my opinion, an unacceptable burden on your (and our) ability to accomplish the larger goal which we share in common and which is stated in your Principal Object and in our Constitution.
This past weekend Martin sent me a Fax regarding a trip which he, Quin Fraser, and I were supposed to make to Finland in mid-February to discuss the translation and other matters. When I called him back Sunday evening to say the memo was fine and to discuss the details of our trip, he once again began to characterize Joel Rehnstrom as an obstructionist and untrustworthy, and told me that he (Martin) would not let Joel use their friendship in any way to support his (Joel's) candidacy for Society President. He further told me that he suggested to Joel that he (Martin) could work best with Marja Olamo. I, in return, commented to Martin (as I have before) that the election of officers was THEIR business and we had no place becoming involved in it, and that we needed to avoid even the appearance of manipulation.
His response was to yell and swear at me and hang up. Ten minutes later he called back, and again with anger and swearing told me that I was not going to Finland and to cancel my trip, that the Trustees would not be coming to the Roundtable, that I was to stay away from CUBS, that there would be no audio version of the book, that I was not to talk to Frank Sgaraglino again behind his back, and then he hung up again. Ten minutes after that he called again, and are telling Marta to 'put David on the phone,' proceeded again to shout and swear about my (and Frank's) deceit and attempts to prevent HIM from doing HIS work, that I was wrong to resist him on the Removal Amendment, and that he would never speak to me again. My only response during these calls was at the end of the third to say, "Please don't ever call and speak to me like this again.". He hung up. A bit later there was another Fax of the letter he must have sent to Finland, with the reference to my going edited out.
Martin has acted this way with me before, and, because I felt we were friends, that we all have warts, and because I felt that we needed to keep focused on the larger picture, I put up with it. However, I will not do so from now on. That is not because I was in any way personally harmed by his outburst, but rather, I have come to see it as behavior which is absolutely inconsistent with the principles we profess to stand for, and because it is a pattern of behavior which is increasingly undermining our ability to do our work properly.
I have been wrestling with this issue steadily for the last several months and do not write either precipitously or in anger. We have a serious problem which needs to be addressed. Martin brings fine qualities of commitment, dedication, history, and analytical thinking to this work; however, his increasing disregard for the value of personal relationships in solving problems is no longer consistent with what we need to achieve.
There is no reason why we cannot be both tough and fair; both dedicated and open; both clear-thinking and compassionate; both just and loving; both personally accessible and discrete; both ends and means oriented, and all at the same time. We all have faults, and I admit to many failings. However, when the personal traits become the stamp of an organization, and if this stamp is debilitating rather than uplifting, then those with the moral and fiduciary responsibility for the organization's welfare need to deal with it.
So that there is no mistake in your minds with regard to my motives, I am not writing simply because Martin yelled at me; that has happened before. Rather, I am writing now because this is the most recent piece of a pattern of behavior which I now see clearly is causing harm to the organizations we have all dedicated so much to. If you need more information, I will gladly discuss with you either personally and/or in writing some specifics with regard to CUBS, Finland, the Removal Amendment, and the mis-treatment of others. I am not an enemy of this work and I am confident that you all know that. But Martin's willfulness, as is shown in his most recent behavior toward me, to assess the worthiness of others simply on the basis of agreement or disagreement, is no longer (If it ever was) either an ideal or practical way to do our work. Out of a sense of respect and caring (and maybe other reasons), I believe all of us who have worked closely with Martin have attempted to work around this problem.
I now feel that we are not only doing the organizations a disservicee by continuing in that approach, but we are also cheating Martin as well. A tremendous burden of responsibility has fallen for many years on his shoulders alone, which is perhaps unfair to him and which has no doubt contributed to his anger, his isolation, and his unwillingness to trust those who disagree with him. You may feel it is not my place to comment. However, I do so now, after long consideration, because I believe that Martin's behavior is affecting the work Urantia Brotherhood needs to do, it obviously affects my work as its elected President, and because I will no longer be silently complicit in allowing this to continue, since we are no longer dealing just with strategy, but with principle. I will gladly discuss this with any of you at your convenience, and that includes Martin.
David Elders, President
Because of its sensitive nature, copies of this letter have been sent only to the Trustees and Trustee Emeritus of Urantia Foundation, and it has been discussed in confidence with several officers of Urantia Brotherhood and with Steve Dreier.
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship