Unity of Purpose Initiative
In 1989 a division occurred between Urantia Foundation and its supporters and the leadership and members of the Urantia Brotherhood (which became the Fifth Epochal Fellowship), which has had far-reaching repercussions. In 1996, the Trustees of Urantia Foundation issued an appeal for unity and cooperation among those interested in The Urantia Book. In the following months and years, Urantia Foundation has made consistent efforts to foster such unity and cooperation.
Beginning in 1996, as part of a strategic planning process, the Foundation, through brainstorming sessions and focus groups, conducteasurveys of reade-rs both with and without affiliations to various organizations, to solicit feedback on issues relating to Urantia Foundation. Urantia Foundation invited the Fellowship leadership to meet with them with the theme of "Understanding," with an aim to reduce any lingering antagonism. The stated goal was to "re-humanize one another and expand our understanding of one another's actions, motives, and values," guided by the analogy given to us in The Urantia Book of the caveman and the sabre-toothed tiger (p.1098:2). Since 1997 Urantia Foundation has providedreferrals to readers and study groups without regaraio'organizational affiliation so long as a group indicates it is focused exclusively on study of The Urantia Book.
In January 1998, Urantia Foundation formalized its policy of support for unity and cooperation among reader and reader groups, which was soon followed by an invitation extended to two long-time Fellowship Executive Committee members to join the Board of Trustees of Urantia Foundation. Efforts have continued, including a full issue of Urantian News devoted to promoting unity and teamwork among readers based on trust and respect for one another. The Matthew Project came into existence from among dedicated readers with various affiliations who joined together to work toward the success of this revelation.
We are pleased to see these efforts to bring about greater unity among readers continuing. The following two open letters were circulated in recent months. The August 27 letter below is from three of the four Trustees who served on the Board of Urantia Foundation in1989 when the former Urantia Brotherhood dissolved its formal relationship with Urantia Foundation. It came in response to a letter from 19 members of the 1989 General Council of the former Brotherhood, which is also reproduced below.
We appreciate their efforts to repair the damage of the past. May we all find greater love and understanding for one another as we seek, each in his own way, to find and do the will of the Father as best we understand it.
Letter from the undersigned Trustees of the 1989 Urantia Foundation Board of Trustees:
Dear Fellow Readers of The Urantia Book :
We welcome the May 8 letter signed by 19 elected members of the 1989 General Council of the former Urantia Brotherhood. As three of the four Trustees of Urantia Foundation who served during the traumatic events of that summer and fall, we join them in expressing the hope that mutual respect and unity of purpose will prevail throughout the global community of readers.
In reviewing the half century since The Urantia Book was first published, it is important to bear in mind that the Foundation's executive and managerial responsibilities make itfundamentally different from social and fraternal organizations such as the former Brotherhood, the Fellowship, and the International Urantia Association. Nonetheless, the patterns of close cooperation and overlapping leadership that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s often left the impression that the Foundation and Brotherhood shared equal responsibilities in charting a path toward eventual acceptance of the teachings by all fellow humans and in pursuing their common goal of upholding the revelation. In the ensuing decades, this pervasive misunderstanding contributed to a significant increase in tension.
For example, the original five Trustees believed that "Urantia" and the concentric circles symbol could be useful inidentifying the inviolate text of The Urantia Book; and that idea has continued to be an important element of the Foundation's long range strategy. During the 1970s, Foundation legal counsel urged that the Trustees take a series of steps to ensure that the registered marks remained valid and effective. This included requiring that each Urantia Society enter into a Confirmatory Agreement - a formal, legally binding document that authorized it to use the marks in specific ways. In these and other regards, however, the Foundation's pursuit of appropriate goals was sometimes accompanied by unnecessary abrasiveness and unfortunate personal friction, and there were good reasons for concern about that.
When the crisis erupted in mid-1989, the Trustees were immediately confronted with a swirl of conflicting information and advice. Under emotionally charged circumstances, like those that undermined relationships among leaders of the Foundation and former Brotherhood, human actions and decisions can never be perfect. We do not claim that ours were. In retrospect, there might have been additional steps we could have taken that would have persuaded the former Brotherhood not to go forward with public actions that we were compelled to consider as attacks on the Foundation and fundamental challenges to its policies, reputation, credibility, and vitality. And if such actions had been avoided, we might have been able to find ways to reduce long-standing tensions so as to prevent the separation that fall. Unfortunately, each of these last two sentences is merely a "might have been," for we cannot change the past and will never know for sure.
Since the crisis reflected U.S. patterns of personal interaction and group dynamics that are far from universal, many readers elsewhere found the 1989 events difficult to understand. But readers in other countries mainly pursued their own paths, and for many years the unexpected disruptions among Americans seemed to have little impact on them.
Although there were regrettable rifts in longstanding friendships, after the separation the Fellowship was free to run its internal affairs entirely as it wished. The Foundation, recognizing a clear need, established the International Urantia Association (IUA) to provide a framework within which its supporters could pursue their own social and fraternal interests. This was entirely natural, and the IUA now operates in sixteen countries and on five continents.
In the intervening years the Foundationhas devoted considerable resources to translations, and it continues to do so. Six translations of The Urantia Book are now available (Dutch, Finnish, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish), and seven others are on track for publication within the next two or three years (Estonian, German, , Italian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish). In addition, nine other translation projects are in their early or intermediate stages (Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Farsi, Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Polish).
Despite the mistakes of the past, or perhaps even because of them, more and more readers are coming to understand that our over arching goal is not just the dissemination of a book, but the spiritual, social, economic, and political transformation of all mankind. The revelators have challenged us—and our successors and heirs—to foster such an all-embracing spiritual renaissance that the people of Urantia will eventually overcome the consequences of the epochal errors that marred earlier ages and handicapped all subsequent generations, including our own (e.g., the Caligastia rebellion, the default of Adam and Eve).
On page 315 of The Urantia Book, a Mighty Messenger tells us:
Time is the one universal endowmentof all will creatures; it is the "one talent" intrusted to all intelligent beings. You all have time in which to insure your survival; and time is fatally squandered only whenitis buried in neglect, when you fail so to utilize it as to make certain the survival of your soul. Failure to improve one's time to the fullest extent possible does not impose fatal penalties; it merely retards the pilgrim of time in his journey of ascent. If survival is gained, all other losses can be retrieved.
These sentences are addressed to the individual, but their underlying message can also be applied to the overall situation of readers in the United States. From 1989 onward, there have been recurring frictions and tensions that have impeded certain forms of cooperation, but personal growth and the work of study groups have been largely unaffected. The limitations of social and fraternal organizations thus kept us from "improving our time" to the fullest extent possible, but that was essentially a delay and was certainly not fatal to the goals of the revelators. In compensation, experience over time has helped broaden perspectives and deepen understanding, thus enriching the store of wisdom that all of us can draw on as we address the challenges of 2003 and the years to come—in full awareness that we cannot relive the events of 1989, nor revert to the original organizational patterns that led to the crisis that summer and fall.
Readers of the teachings need not see alike and should not waste time or energy on a futile quest for uniformity. In answering a provocative question from James Zebedee, Jesus said he had "come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God" (as the Midwayer Commission states on page 1591 of The Urantia Book). Jesus later assured James, "you may enjoy all of this profound spiritual unity in the very face of the utmost diversity of your individual attitudes of intellectual thinking, temperamental feeling, and social conduct" (page 1592).
We see no reason for group bitterness or a lack of spiritual brotherhood among readers in the United States. We commend the desire of the 19 elected members of the 1989 General Council to overcome any residual friction that may still cause tension. The time for healing old wounds is long overdue. We believe that possible joint projects or other forms of practical cooperation could make useful contributions to the long range task of rebuilding respect, confidence, and trust, but we are well aware that any such decisions would have to be made by individuals and groups who are acting on their own initiative and at their own pace.
On May 2, participants in a meeting at Foundation headquarters sought to update the Foundation's strategic plan for the next three to five years. After agreeing that distribution, dissemination, protection, and translation of the teachings remain essential tasks, they adopted an overall theme that they hoped would unify all efforts: "Love and respect for others are essential to the success of the Urantia revelation, which illuminates the uniqueness of individual personality and the creative spiritual values that result from the Father's indwelling presence. Our decisions and actions will reflect this spirit of loving friendship and cooperation."
As Trustees of Urantia Foundation who experienced the traumatic events of 1989, we commend these inspiring ideals and hope that in the future, readers in the United States and throughout the world will pursue mutual goals by carrying out a wide range of positive projects, acting in the spirit of cooperation and teamwork that honors our joint destiny and the Father's creative intent.
Hoite C. Caston, K. Richard Keeler, Neal Waldrop
From the undersigned members of the 1989 General Council of Urantia Brotherhood:
Dear Urantia Book Friends:
Sometimes the future is changed by actions which ripple unexpectedly through time. The actions in the late 1980's that led to the separation of Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation, the two organizations which were the original vehicles for supporting the fifth epochal revelation on our planet, have clearly caused that kind of ripple. The facts of the separation can be debated, yet with the benefit of time and experience, the meaning of the separation has become clear. It has been as if a knife were thrust into our small community of readers leading to discord, dissent, and mistrust.
The destiny of our planet is to move ever upward toward harmony and unification. The energy circuits, the Spirit of Truth, our Thought Adjusters, and many other spirit influences are all beckoning us toward unity. Our souls crave unity. Yet, we can no longer hold hands together with some of our fellow Urantia Book readers because those who were once friends are now foes. We have followed the paths of those in earlier epochal revelations to fragmentation and sectarianism.
And when we try to tell the story of the separation to those who know nothing about it, the story is hollow. It is not filled with the goodness and spiritual fragrance of God-knowing individuals. One of the saddest facts of the separation is that mistrust has been spread throughout our world community. Like a virus, the two organizations create dissent where people hunger instead for the truths and hope of the better world that we understand from The Urantia Book.
Many individuals have played a role in creating the separation. Most did not act out of maliciousness nor intent to harm, but out of a sense of responsibility to the Urantia revelation. Well intentioned people did what they believed best. But their best was just not good enough. We know that now.
We have laid blame on the organizations responsible for the separation for altogether too long. Blame will not allow our comrrtunity to heal. The acceptance of responsibility by the individuals who had a partincreating and perpetuating this separation can begin the reconciliation process. This process would not be easy and would take the efforts of many to form a common ground. And this would be only the beginning of our journey towards community.
The following members of the Executive Committee and General Council of 1989 have committed to a process of rebuilding unity in our community. Even though we believe we made in good faith the best decisions we could in 1989, they were never intended to cause the dissolution of the formal relationship between the Brotherhood and Foundation. Thus, we accept responsibility for the role those decisions might have played in that separation. With the benefit of nearly 14 years of hindsight and experience, we regret the impact these events have had on the development of a necessary, vital, and living unity of purpose in our community reflective of the best of the revelation. We hereby invite all who have had a role in the creation or perpetuation of this separation to join us with prayers and a renewed faith that unity can and will emerge. We also urge the current leaders of both organizations to meet and dialogue about recreating unity throughout our community.
But someday the true believers in Jesus will not be thus spiritually divided in their attitude before unbelievers. Always we may have diversity of intellectual comprehension and interpretation, even varying degrees of socialization, but lack of spiritual brotherhood is both inexcusable and reprehensible. ~ (p.1866:3)
The undersigned 19 elected members of the 1989 General Council of Urantia Brotherhood have chosen to be signatories to this statement With one vacancy, two graduations, and two who could not be contacted, 31 members of the 1989 General Council considered this statement (seven chose not to sign and there was no response from five).
Stephen Dreier*, David N. Elders*, Anthony R. Finstad, Scott M. Forsythe, Polly Friedman, John W. Hales, Gard Jameson*, James G. Johnston*, MarilynnJ. Kulieke*, Eileen Laurence, Peter Laurence*, R. Steve Law, James McNelly, Larry Mullins, David Robertson, Mo Siegel, Brent St. Denis, Paul Snider, Melissa Wells
*Executive Committee Member
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