Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Last week I forwarded to you the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) 5-year Plan which, in my opinion, left much to be desired. If you have been reading my articles for the past decade you know that I don’t just critique, I also offer positive alternatives. So, in the spirit of such positive alternatives, here are my own suggestions of elements for a 5-year Plan for SGL and the future progress of our Order.
1. Membership. The first priority of any Plan for our Order must begin with the issue of membership. In a fraternal order, there is no more important issue to the well-being of the fraternity than ensuring a steady influx of new members. With such a steady influx, the fraternity’s future is secure. Without it, the fraternity will diminish and pass into history. There are literally hundreds of fraternities that have popped up, flourished, diminished and passed away in the history of the United States. And this is a concern even to our great Order. Even though we have been in existence in North America for 200 years, the decline in our membership over the past 60 years should be of primal concern to every brother and sister, and certainly to the leaders at SGL. So what’s the solution? Well, the solution to halting the decline and increasing membership is right before us, if we just take the time to see it. In my opinion, we should identify the 10 or 12 Lodges in our Order that have shown great and sustained growth in membership over the last decade. While most Lodges have been declining in membership, these 10 to 12 have been gaining members. These Lodges have discovered the “best practices” for growth. Analyze what these 10-12 Lodges have done and provide a listing of their methods and methodologies to all Lodges. These 10-12 Lodges are clearly doing something right, and we should share these “best practices” far and wide in our Order.
2. Representation. Brothers and Sisters in our Order are not fairly represented at SGL. Every Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction of SGL receives, essentially, the same number of voting representatives. While this sounds fair on its face, it is objectively not fair. There are jurisdictions with less than 300 members that receive about the same number of votes as jurisdictions with thousands of members. Therein lies the inequality. We must afford more recognition to jurisdictions based on their population of members. Now, to swing the pendulum completely in the other direction would also create unfairness. What I propose is that every jurisdiction would retain at least the number of representatives that they currently have (e.g. no jurisdiction’s representation would be cut), but the larger jurisdictions would receive 1, 2, or 3 more representatives based on their membership numbers. This would create a fairer system of representation and would reward jurisdictions with growing membership.
3. Modernization. Students of the history of Odd Fellowship know that the Ritual of this Order has not remained in stone. It has changed over the years. As we enter the 21st Century, it’s time to modernize the Ritual again. Our Ritual contains important teachings and great truths. Yet, it contains stilted phrases from another era, passages that are offensive to protected classes of people, and verbosity that must be curtailed. For example, the obligation in the Initiatory Degree is lengthy, exhausting and repetitive. It could easily be shortened and streamlined without any loss of content. The oath taken by the President of the United States is 35 words in length. Does the obligation taken by an Odd Fellows really need to takes hundreds of words?
4. Non-sectarian. Odd Fellowship professes to be non-sectarian. Sooner or later this Order must come to grips with the reality that we are not. The ritual is replete with Judaeo-Christian content. But the world is not just composed of Jews and Christians. Have we turned our backs on those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, etc? How can we say we are non-sectarian when we quote only the Holy Bible, but not the other great works of faith? How can we require only the Holy Bible in the Lodge Room? And Odd Fellowship (which professes to be non-sectarian) requires belief in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”. Yet there are other religions – such as Hinduism – which believe in many deities. Are we saying that members of the Hindu faith need not apply? And is that being non-sectarian?
5. Merger. Odd Fellowship is broken into too many pieces. We have Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Encampments, LEA, PM and LAPM. Dividing us into these fragments, while our membership declines makes little sense. One of the symbols of Odd Fellowship is the bundle of sticks – it is an appropriate symbol to express the strength of togetherness. Once, a Century ago when our numbers where ten times larger, these branches made sense. In the new Century, the divisions make little sense. We need to be one Order with many degrees. Accordingly, plans must be made for the PM and LAPM to merge together; then the Encampments and LEAs, and finally Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. Separate, but equal units for men and women make no sense in 2020. Better to have one Order – one Lodge – with many degrees.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California