Odd Fellows in 10 Years – Part 1

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

This newsletter is the first of a three-part series, predicting the future of Odd Fellowship. What will this fraternal order look like in 2029 – 10 years from now? In this first part, we will look at the changes that can be expected at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level. I entitle this segment: “Sovereign Grand Lodge – Resolve to Evolve.”

I will not repeat the statistics that have brought us to this point, other than to remind everyone that membership in our fraternal order has been dropping pretty steadily for over half a century – it is an unsustainable mathematical calculation. Simply put: If we continue to operate in the same way as we have over the past 50 years, we will cease to be a viable fraternity. Either we change, or we diminish.

The first change that has to occur is, perhaps, the most important. We must ensure that women are treated equally in this Order. This only makes sense as women comprise one-half of the population of the world. The Order had taken its first critical step in this direction when it opened Odd Fellows Lodge membership to women in 1999. Twenty years later, in 2019, the Order took a further important step when it elected the first woman to serve as Sovereign Grand Warden. This member will become Sovereign Grand Master – a first in the 200-year history of Odd Fellowship in North America. These are important steps – but the Order has a long way to go. Men continue to overwhelmingly dominate the ranks of voting representatives at Sovereign Grand Lodge.

The second major change that must occur has, gratefully, already started with the adoption of a five year plan at Sovereign. The days of “separate-but-equal” branches of our Order are remnants of another age, and need to be phased out. To be very frank, in the 21st Century, separate branches and units that are set up for “men” and for “women” are a relic. The five year plan is a critical aspect of the evolution of this Order.

Third, some of the Branches simply do not resonate with the young men and women in the coming generations. As an example, the LEA and LAPM find their memberships dropping like stones – young women of today do not want to wear World War I nurses uniforms, nor do they want to wear long white dresses. It’s a throwback to the early 20th Century. Young men and women of the 21st Century want to join organizations that work to protect the environment, educate children, reduce poverty and commit a wide range of social needs. Less important to them is sitting in a room in designated chairs reciting ritual.

Fourth, the voting representation at Sovereign Grand Lodge is dominated by small jurisdictions to the detriment of large jurisdictions. A jurisdiction with 200 or 300 members is afforded virtually the same voting power as a jurisdiction with thousands of members. This is both undemocratic and unfair. Voting representation at Sovereign Grand Lodge should more closely reflect the number of members in a jurisdiction.

Fifth, the Order must become truly non-secular. For Odd Fellowship to reach worldwide and to be inclusive of all humankind, it must revise its ritual to not put one faith over another. This secularization of the Order can be very nuanced and subtle, but it is there and it is an impediment to growth of the Order.

Finally, discussions at Sovereign must be brought to the light of day. Too many bills and resolutions never emerge from committees. New ideas are shuttled to committees and, essentially, die in committees. Very little debate occurs on the floor of Grand Lodge Sessions. This gives power to a very small number of committee chairs, to the detriment of the body of representatives, as a whole.

Next week, the focus goes to Grand Lodges – the subject: “Grand Lodges – Not So Grand Anymore.”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

 
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