Updated: October 16, 2020
Rick Boyles is a Past Grand Master of California (IOOF), one of the founding members of Dedicated Members for Change (DMC), and a Brother who has written many articles for this DMC Newsletter. Here is another submission by Rick which I think you will find both interesting and informative. Rick explores the question: “Do you believe everything you read about Odd Fellowship?”
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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The Internet is full of informative articles, entertainment avenues, and provides many hours of enjoyment and interest to all of us. However, it can be dangerous as well. The problem, with all forms of media, is that we tend to accept what we see or read as truth. But, just like everything else, we need to look at things with a modicum of caution. Of course, politics shape articles, but also optimism and pessimism about every other subject as well. Recently, I read an interesting article released earlier this year, which had some wonderful photos of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), and yet quoted some weird statistics. It said that we have 600,000 IOOF members in the U.S., along with 10,000 lodges. Of course, this is incorrect and hugely inflates our numbers. Sovereign Grand Lodge quotes our membership in the U.S. for year ending 2017 at approximately 29,000 Odd Fellow members with 1,157 Odd Fellow lodges.
How can the article’s information be so inflated? It can easily be this way if the author copied information from an early book on fraternal groups, as there are a number of these, published since the early 1900’s, or it can be as simple as accessing the Wikipedia site, a common source, which uses the same outdated information. The article seemed well meaning so I did not correct the author, nor is it my place to do so, but this lends more credence to the argument that many of us are lulled into a false sense of security within our order. The truth is that we are shrinking quickly and the sooner we recognize this simple fact, the sooner we can work on a possible reaction. If we wait, we are just solidifying the decline. The other question regarding such misinformation is: is it bad? Is it bad to spread the illusion that we are much bigger than we truly are? It would be bad if prospective members join us under that misunderstanding. Since “truth” is a word on our masthead, we should at least be able to accurately describe the actual size of our group. If our order is portrayed as huge with lodges populated larger than marching bands for members, and then we end up holding meetings around small tables it shows a clear willingness to continue with this deception.
Of course there are other examples of information widely circulated and easily dis-proven: some regional articles easily accessed going the opposite direction describe the order as quaint and already essentially defunct, and then discuss the demise of local Odd Fellows groups, so while they may be purely regional articles, they give the impression that the Odd Fellows are defunct nationwide. So, there are both well-meaning articles praising us that inflate our numbers and derogatory ones that deflate our numbers, and each are read worldwide.
There are many more examples of this type of misinformation online, which you can easily find. Does this mean we should sign off the Internet, and return to earlier media forms? Of course not, there has always been false information in media, no matter what format you use. Antique advertising in old magazines and newspapers was essentially released without any ethical boundaries. Smoking was promoted for the health of the smoker. One could purchase a gun or an explosive device through the mail so long as the buyer signed a questionnaire guaranteeing they were over the age of 18, and countless other examples. We can’t police the world but we as an order might try and amend false information, although ideally this should come from a qualified source, such as the Sovereign Grand Lodge. It might be a good idea within our order to appoint someone to peruse the Internet and other mediums to ensure that what is said about us is factual. In the meantime, one might amend the buyer’s motto from “buyer beware” to “reader beware”…
To be frank, the most concerning subject we have right now, is not only our elderly members passing away, but also the retention of new members. I served for several years as a DDGM for my district, and sat in on many initiation ceremonies, but in retrospect, after about 7-10 years, only approximately 10% of these newer members have remained active within our order. There must be a reason for this, and the sooner we correct this issue, the better. False advertising could be an important factor. One might ask why would false advertising matter to a prospective member? Specifically, because if we tell the prospective member our lodge is lively and multi-faceted, and then upon joining they find themselves with 4 other individuals grouped around a table, barely comprising a quorum, or being asked to do extensive duties because there are no old-timers left to do them, they would eventually decide the idea of being a member is essentially punitive. If only a small percentage of members stay attentive and involved over many years, it might be appropriate to examine why this is the case.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Independent Order of Odd Fellows