DMC – Odd Fellows Five-Year Plan (2011)

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Attached is a document you may not have seen before. It is the 5-year Plan adopted by the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL). If you have never seen this 5-year Plan, you might rightfully and righteously wonder: Why haven’t I seen this plan before? But putting that rather basic question aside, let’s explore what this Plan says, and what it doesn’t say.

By way of preface, let me say that it is perfectly appropriate that a Plan was developed. An organization as large and sprawling as SGL should have a plan. And I commend SGL for the foresight to have one.

But, I must also say that I am immediately struck by the vagueness and generalizations contained in the plan. Take a look at the plan yourself, and see if you agree. In most respects it is as plain as vanilla and as nourishing to the Order as tapioca. A plan that says “Improve Communications” doesn’t tell us much. And very little is added by saying we must improve communications both “within the order” and “outside the order”. Well, yes. That’s a good thing. But saying we must improve communications gives us little insight into how. And the only suggestion ventured by SGL is to “foster public awareness of the order.” OK. And again, how?

“Apply positive action to contribute to the quality of the order.” What does that really mean? How does that translate into action? It’s almost as if SGL hired a facilitator who sat with some SGL leaders in a room and asked folks to throw out some good words that the facilitator could put on a sheets of butcher paper stuck to the wall with blue tape. How about “action”? No, let’s make it “positive action.” Well what about positive action? Someone else suggested we should “apply” it. To what, someone else asked? Let’s apply it so that it can “contribute” to something, someone else suggested. How about “the order”. Gee, guys, I like quality. Good, good. Let’s apply it to the quality of the order. No, not quite. Let’s apply it to contribute to the quality of the order. Hey, that’s great. Let’s go with that. And we should encourage the member of the order to “active participation.” Yes, agreed. We don’t want inactive participation. Members should participate, but it should be active.

Ultimately, in the 21st Century, no 5-year Plan can avoid technology, and the SGL 5-year Plan does make the obligatory reference to it. The plan encourages the use of social networking. Good plan. But how? Again, the Plan offers little in the way of clues. To be fair, the Plan does says we should employ the latest technology in communications. But this Plan was in effect in 2011-16 and here we are three years later in 2019 with any number of Lodges that have no technology, no presence on social media, and minimal use of email. And why do most Lodges still use minutes that are handwritten in a book, and then read verbatim at meetings? That’s the way it was done in the 19th and 20th Centuries. How have we not progressed in our 200th year?

Toward the end of the SGL 5-year Plan, I read a line that stumped me. I actually read this line several times: “Involve all ages and life issues.” Why does the Plan speak in tongues? I certainly can understand the desire to “involve all ages”. (Although the plan leaves us guessing as to “how” we accomplish this all-age involvement.) But what is meant by “life issues”? Does this mean the SGL urges the Lodges to include members who are gay or transgender, or members who are not Christian or Jewish, or members who are poor or homeless? Does this mean that SGL wants us to reach out to those who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, poor and homeless? Does this mean that SGL will finally raise the red flag on Odd Fellows Lodges that have not yet admitted even one woman some two decades after Odd Fellows Lodges opened membership to women? A little explanation would go a long way.

Finally, the 5-year Plan seeks to “Promote positive attitudes.” Well, who can argue with that. Positive attitudes are better than negative attitudes. Good is better than evil. Happiness is better than sadness. And, apparently, pablum is better than a real plan that addresses real issues facing our Order (e.g. how about a real plan to reverse the decline in our membership).

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Five-Year Plan (2011)

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