DMC – Odd Fellows World-Wide

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

I am struck by the very first words of the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.   That Constitution, in Article I, Section 1, reads as follows:

The purposes of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are to promote the principles of Odd Fellowship throughout the world and seek to improve and elevate the character of man.

These are noble words, and certainly express a sentiment that every Odd Fellows can and should support.

So, with that as the guiding principle of Odd Fellowship, why is Odd Fellows NOT yet truly a worldwide organization?    The Code of General Laws, the 1984 Albuquerque Compact, and the website of Sovereign Grand Lodge are replete with references to “international” and “worldwide”.    And yet, after centuries of existence, membership in Odd Fellowship is generally concentrated in and confined to England (where it originated), some parts of northern Europe, North America and Australia.   There is a relatively small presence in other parts of the world such as South America (there is a Lodge in Cuba, Chile and Mexico), Africa (there are three Lodges on the entire continent) and Asia (there is a strong presence in the Philippines – but nowhere else in all of Asia).   Odd Fellowship started in England, yet countries of the world that have been heavily influenced, for decades, by English culture (India, Pakistan, and Kenya for example) have no IOOF presence.    There are about 200 nations in the world, yet Odd Fellowship exists in less than 30 of them.

There is a disconnect here.   On the one hand, we have the principles and goals of Odd Fellowship to be international and worldwide seeking to improve and elevate the character of man.   Yet on the other hand, we have huge swaths of our planet where “Odd Fellowship” is non-existent.   Why are there no Lodges in France, Spain, or Italy?   Why are there no Lodges in Egypt, Jordan, or Lebanon?   Why are there no Lodges in India or Pakistan?  Why are there no Lodges in Greece, or Armenia or Turkey?   Why are there no Lodges in Japan, Korea or Taiwan?

I have given this issue a considerable amount of thought, and I am convinced that there is not just ONE reason for the dichotomy.   That said, I am also convinced that a major factor for the failure of Odd Fellowship to exist in most of the world boils down to our ritual.   Simply put:   We have failed to ensure that our ritual is non-sectarian.   Odd Fellowship, is after all, supposed to be non-sectarian.  We are not supposed to elevate or favor one faith over another.    Yet it is obvious that the ritual of our Order is heavily based in the Old Testament – which underlies the Christian and Jewish faiths.   If a person is of a different faith – say, a believer in Islam, or Hinduism, or Confucianism – the ritual of Odd Fellowship may be uncomfortable, at best.   Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the other person for a moment.   If you are a Christian, but the ritual of Odd Fellowship were grounded in, say the Quran or the Vedas, would you be comfortable?    The great truths expressed in our ritual are universal.    Accordingly, there is no valid reason that our ritual should be so sectarian, to the exclusion of other beliefs.   The downside for Odd Fellowship is that we have essentially turned our backs on the majority of the world’s population. That seems particularly short-sighted, and remarkably ironic for an Order that professes to be worldwide.   Nowhere in our laws does it state that we only seek to elevate the character of Christians and Jews.   On the contrary, the laws of our Order state that we seek to elevate the character of ALL mankind.

For Odd Fellowship to truly become an international organization with a worldwide reach, we must become truly non-sectarian.   And that begins with a serious reform of our ritual.  Odd Fellowship should be a place of peace and comfort for all good men and women, regardless of faith or belief.  Then, finally, can we elevate the character of all mankind in peace and justice.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Read the Odd Fellows Code

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Code of General Laws of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F, contains the laws that govern every Odd Fellow and every Grand Lodge, Lodge and other subordinate units in our Order.    It is a massive volume that contains general principles, rules, regulations, and intricate details on all aspects of Odd Fellowship, drilling down even to the description of jewels, regalia and collars.  Change comes slowly to the Code of General Laws – as amendments go through a convoluted and lengthy process requiring super-majority votes by the Sovereign Grand Lodge.  Chairs of certain committees can also postpone and delay proposed changes, which may never see the light of day.

Yet, a reading of the Code of General Laws turns up three thought-provoking laws of which we should all be cognizant.

Odd Fellows Laws Are to be Liberally Construed

One of the most striking provisions of the Code can be found at Chapter II, Section 14, which reads in relevant part as follows:    “The rules and regulations set forth in the Constitution and Code of General Laws shall be liberally construed.  The chief concern shall be following the spirit of the law and the good of Odd Fellowship rather than harshly enforcing rules to the letter of the law.”

This is such an important provision of Odd Fellows law that it is worth it for you to read it again.   Keep it in mind when a member of your Lodge starts spouting “the Code” and telling the members attending a meeting, that something must be done in a certain way because “the Code” demands it.  Well, perhaps it does.   But, perhaps it does not.   The main thing is to follow the spirit of the law and the good of the Order, not necessarily a harsh enforcement of the rules and the so-called letter of the law.   We are, after all, a fraternal order – we are supposed to treat each other with friendship, love and truth.   We are supposed to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the social interaction that Lodge life offers.

Odd Fellows Lodges Cannot Exclude Women

Another provision of the Code of General Laws is not widely known, but can be critically important to every Odd Fellow who believes in equality and fairness.   It can be found at Chapter III, Section 1, specifically defining who is eligible to be a member of an Odd Fellows Lodge, at Section 1, subsection A (4).   It reads as follows:   “Continued rejection of women may result in revocation of an Odd Fellows Lodge Charter after notice and hearing.”

Sadly, there are still Odd Fellows Lodges in 2019 that have no women as members, and have never had women members.   Women have been eligible to join Odd Fellows Lodges for almost twenty years now.   How can there be Lodges in the jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Lodge that still – after two decades – have no female members?     We have certainly all heard the all the so-called “reasons”:  “Women have never expressed an interest in joining the Lodge.”   “Women have never submitted applications to join the Lodge.”  “Women prefer to join the Rebekah Lodge or other such organizations.”    After two decades, these “reasons” are little more than “excuses”.   They don’t hold any water anymore.   And Lodges that have no women as members put their charters at risk.  To state it clearly:   Discrimination on the basis of gender is not allowed in Odd Fellowship.

Odd Fellows Lodges Must be Non-Sectarian

When we joined Odd Fellowship, we were told that it is a fraternal order that is non-sectarian.   Well, is it?   The question is legitimate because the ritual of the Order is replete with hymns and songs and Biblical quotations that are very much sectarian.   But the good news is that Code of General Laws addresses that very point in Chapter IV, pertaining to Grand Lodge Policy.  Section 3 C (2) states the following:  “Lodges may not exhibit in their halls or anteroom any symbols that pertain to any particular faith or creed, but may use music that is generally regarded as religious if it does not cause controversy.”

This is a remarkably important provision of our Code – but I am afraid that very few members are aware of it.   And it is significant for every member of our Order who feels uncomfortable when that member believes the sectarian line is crossed.   If there is such discomfort, it may be regarded in the Lodge as causing “controversy” and if that is the case, then no member should be subjected to it.  A Lodge meeting is meant to be a place of peace and comfort, where members can join together to escape the stress, turmoil and vicissitudes of the outside world.  If a member wants to enjoy a sectarian environment, that member should go to his or her church, synagogue, temple, mosque or meeting hall – not a Lodge of Odd Fellows.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – When was the last time you read your Lodge’s by-laws?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When was the last time you read your Lodge’s Bylaws?

Come on, you can be honest, because the only person who will “hear” your answer to the question is you.    And I don’t mean skim them.   I mean actually sat down and read them word for word, to understand what is contained in those Bylaws?

I suspect the answer to this question (if you are exercising the Third Degree of Truth) is very, very few of you have read your Lodge Bylaws.   And I further suspect that of those few, even fewer have read them in detail, word for word.

This truth is troubling, at many levels.   Other than the Ritual (contained in that “little red book) and the Codes (the SGL Code of General Laws and the Roberts Code of California Law or the Code of your Grand Lodge jurisdiction), your Lodge Bylaws are the most important document in the Lodge.   And in some respects, it can become the most important document because it governs the operation of your Lodge – it is specific to your Lodge.   Yet, in most Lodges, very few members have read their Bylaws, essentially leaving the Bylaws to the two or three members who serve on the Lodge Bylaws Committee.   Technically, every member of the Lodge should have been given a copy of the Bylaws at the time of initiation, and certainly every member of the Lodge is entitled to see the Bylaws and have his or her own copy.

Why are the Bylaws important?

The following is a non-exclusive list of issues that are typically dealt with in Lodge Bylaws;

*  The dates and times, and locations of your Lodge meetings.
*   Who may call a special meeting, and how is it noticed.
*  The special functions and duties of your Lodge officers, over and above the duties spelled out in Code.
*  How often and when officers are elected (most Lodges elect annually, but a few elect semi-annually).
*  Compensation or reimbursement for officers.
*  Quorum requirements.
*  Membership attendance requirements.
*  How abstentions are handled.
*  Rules of decorum at Lodge meetings.
*  Rules that apply to deaths of members and members sick or in distress.
*  Fee structure for various cards.
*  Duties of Lodge Trustees.
*  How are employees hired and fired, and who supervises them.
*  Who has authority to sign contracts and purchase items for the Lodge.
*  Proper handling of funds and signing of checks.
*  Management of Lodge property.
*  Election of representatives to Grand Lodge, and reimbursement for attendance at Grand Lodge.
*  Lodge Committees and responsibilities of Committees.
*  How committee members are appointed, and by whom.
*  Associate Member requirements and dues.
*  Alcohol use in the Lodge Hall.
*  How to amend the Bylaws.

Does your Lodge’s Bylaws contain these items?   Bylaws should be reviewed, updated, and modernized at least once every three years.   Is that being done in your Lodge?

In the meantime, I recommend, as a first step, that you obtain a copy of your Lodge Bylaws.   Hopefully, they are readily available to you on your Lodge’s website.  Read them over.   What you read will inform you, and it may even surprise you.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Negativity Will Destroy Your Odd Fellows Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

For over 10 years I have been writing about our existential need to add more members to our Lodges. Without question, a lodge in a fraternal order must add new members year after year or the lodge will surely diminish and, inevitably, die. But there is one other major lodge killer out there, and I have written about it from time to time. It is just as insidious, and it is just as detrimental to the continued good health and, ultimately, viability of a lodge.

This other lodge killer can be summed up in one word, but it can manifest itself in many different ways. What is that one word? It is “negativity”. And it is toxic to a lodge. If you see it in your own Lodge, it must be halted and the source must be marginalized, and if necessary, invited to change his/her ways or depart the Lodge. Because if the source continues the negativity, the Lodge will surely suffer and the friendship, love and truth to which we aspire will be but an illusion.

How does negativity present itself? Let me count the ways:

Bullying at Meetings. We are all equal. No one should dominate the Lodge, nor should anyone dominate the meetings. Do you have a member who talks on virtually every subject that is raised at meetings? Does that member constantly offer his/her opinion on all subjects and insist that it must be the member’s way or the highway?

Behind-the-back Talk. We are brothers and sisters who are obligated to display friendship, love and truth to each other. If a member has something to say to another member, it must be done kindly, quietly, confidentially and face-to-face. Talking about a member behind that member’s back is unfriendly, and it can be hurtful.

Shooting Down All Ideas. Have you attended a meeting where one or two members essentially say “no” to every new idea, suggestion, or program? Well, they are not the font of all good ideas. Other members are entitled to present their ideas and have them considered openly without Mr. No or Ms. No heading them off at the pass.

Spreading Rumors. Rumors are almost always negative. Spreading those rumors can serve no good purpose, and may be painful to members who are the subject of rumors. The rumors certainly do not foster a feeling of friendship. Lodges are meant to be peaceful places where members can escape the turmoil of everyday life. Continuing to spread a rumor is poisonous to the camaraderie we seek in Lodge life.

Never Letting Go. No one is indispensable. Yet, a few members think that they are. Do you have members who have served as Secretary of the Lodge, or Noble Grand, or Treasurer who simply won’t relinquish that office to anyone else? Holding on too long creates a choke point for the future of the Lodge. Other members – particularly newer members – need to have their opportunity to serve and to lead.

Failing to Practice FLT. And we all know the member who is just not a nice person. He or she may always be looking for ways to critique or to criticize. He or she may never have a friendly smile or a pleasant greeting to another member. One has to wonder why they became an Odd Fellow in the first place. Or what caused them to change over time to become the curmudgeon they are today?

What can be done if some or all of these negative traits are displayed by a member (or members) in your Lodge? The situation may be uncomfortable and even dire, but it is not unsolvable. Step One is for you to directly talk to the person who is showing this negativity. The conversation should not be itself negative or confrontational. And it should be done in private, in the spirit of FLT. Sometimes, this direct and friendly communication works. If it does not, however, then Step Two if for you to take the matter up with the Noble Grand or another trusted and respected elder of the Lodge. And ask that NG or elder to have the conversation with the negative person. Step Three, if none of the other steps achieve results, is to th raise the issue to the level of the District Deputy to provide some intervention, or mediation.

Let’s face it: Our numbers are too few to waste our time and energy on negativity.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Buy a Board for an Odd Fellow

DMC is making a difference. One Lodge at a time. It is my pleasure to publish the letter, below, sent from Lewisburg Lodge 96 from the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. I urge you to read the letter from Lewisburg. This Lodge has decided to open its windows, toss complacency out one of those window, and move into the 21st Century. The journey to change is never easy, but the journey is invigorating and the results are remarkable. This Lodge is adding members and is growing! Congratulations to Lewisburg, and all the other Lodges that have become three-dimensional Lodges. (A three dimensional Lodge is one that honors the history and ritual of our Order, but also reaches out to do worthy projects in the community, and makes sure to organize fun social events for the members. All three elements are necessary for success in this new century.)

If you or your Lodge wish to help Lewisburg Lodge raise funds to pay for the costs of their barn restoration and construction project (they are hoping to raise $100,000 through donations), you can do so by mailing your check (payable to IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96) to the following address:

IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96
10491 River Road
New Columbia, PA 17856

This is an amazing story of grit and progress. Let’s help this Lodge write another chapter.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California


Dave –

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. Our Lodge has been very busy, growing and building! Since we started the journey of revitalization, we now have an historic property, and 1870’s farm. Complete with a beautiful Victorian brick house and a huge barn. We’ve grown from 5 active members to 20 active members…several in the pipe to join…and an Oddziliary! So, in the span of about 2 years, we are doing amazing things with only a handful of members and supporters! We have an outreach PR presentation, are filming a documentary of our journey, and have presented to local groups, the Masons, Rotary, businesses, etc.

We are still in the process of doing modifications to the house to make it ADA compliant, and have started restoring the barn and designing our Lodge for the inside of the barn. We’ve spent close to $100k of our own money just to stop the deterioration of the barn and repair 150 years of weather damage and age. We even preserved and re-built the interior silo – a very rare and historic feature. We have designed the Lodge, and the venue section of the barn, and are now ready to begin construction on that phase. We’ve also got a lot of furniture, a pipe organ, and a complete Bingo set up, and the historic door knockers and wickets from the Allentown Lodge that recently closed. So we are doing amazing things, not only for our Lodge, but the entire organization. We are active in the community, helping people, and folks once again know who the Odd Fellows are! We also have our first female member and teenager since 1844! Now we are getting more women to join and it’s great! We lost several members in the process, but we knew that would happen. Our Lodge is now viable once again and we see a bright and prosperous future!

We are even reproducing beautiful collars to replace the old and worn collars. They make us look great and are real eye-catchers! We just celebrated our 175th Anniversary a few weekends ago with a great ceremony and dedication.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting, and your DMC newsletters really hit home. With purchasing the property, modifying the house, and barn repairs, we are almost our of money. There is no way we will be able to finish the new Lodge and the barn with the remaining funds. So, we approached our Amish builder (God bless him!). He holds a special place in his heart for us, not only because of the work we are doing for others and the community, but, at the age of 10 he was orphaned, and he knows the history of the Odd Fellows. He also sees the income potential of the barn as a venue. We are one of only 2 in the entire region that would be a LEGAL venue barn. Other barns in the area are renting from $4,000-$6,000 for a one-day event….and they are not legal, just wait until someone gets hurt! Not good. So he knows we will be making money in the future. We asked him if he could help us out financially and “pay it forward.” He didn’t even hesitate and said yes! Love the Amish! But, we don’t want him to foot all the costs, nor should he, so we are doing fundraising events and campaigns. One of the campaigns is “Buy A Board.” Folks and corporations can buy a board in the barn and we will laser-etch an inscription on it. See our website for the campaign. We have also reached out to other Pennsylvania Lodges.

Here’s where it really gets interesting… The PA Grand Master wants to see this project complete so we can hold our Spring rally in the barn, and he wants to help! So we began reaching out to other Lodges for financial assistance (donations). Crickets. Really? About that “helping others”, “we are in this together”, “open your hands and hearts”, etc. I am learning that we really are “Independent”. A neighboring Lodge is sitting on over $600k and they are renting space from the Masons. Their average member age is in the 70’s, and they do nothing…meet and go home. Another Lodge just closed and had nearly $700k in the bank! Yet another Lodge is sitting on over $2m. What the heck? They won’t help us? What we could do with even a fraction of their funds! We are working our butts off to make this happen, and other Lodges won’t help! Wow.

A Lodge told us that they would try to get us a sizeable donation. Well, it went to the meeting and got shot down. Why? We were told, “They will never finish the barn”, and …this one really gets me… “They are running it like a business, not a Lodge.” Well, duh, yes we are! I just don’t get it. One would think these other Lodges would want to be a part of a success story, and make our organization great! But, I guess not. It’s a shame.

Your newsletters hit home, and I share them with the movers and shakers of our Lodge, and use the Davis Odd Fellow Lodge as an example of success. But, with the no-help, no-reaching out, and I hate to say it, but selfish attitudes of some of our Lodges I really wonder about the viability of the other Lodges. It is very discouraging that our own Lodges don’t see the future potential and won’t lend us a hand. In spite of them, we will be a tremendous success and we will be THE Lodge in Pennsylvania….and we will continue to collect things from the Lodges that fold (LOL!). We will just have to work a bit harder to get there and we will have to do it on our own.

I wanted to touch base and thank you for all of your advice that you have shared to get us on this road, and thank you for the DMC newsletters! I will continue to use the Davis Lodge as our example of what a Lodge can and should be! We will complete our new Lodge and the barn. We will grow the organization. We will be a success story….heck, we already are!

You can check out our website and see some of the stuff we are doing.

Thank you for everything you are doing for our organization, and the one thing we need in the IOOF…change!


Scott Robinson
Vice Grand
IOOF Lewisburg Lodge No 96

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