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Richard Keeler

By Richard Keeler, Trustee, Urantia Foundation, Evanston, Wyoming, United States

Editor’s Note: This article was written in the mid-1990s, and finding the information still relevant, we decided to share it with you in this issue.

William S. Sadler, Jr., the first president of Urantia Brotherhood, spoke these words to the General Council of the Urantia Brotherhood in delivering the “President’s First Triennial Report (1955-1957).

“What is the Urantia Brotherhood―another sect? This question has been put to the writer of this report more than once. To this question, a negative answer has always been given, ‘No, the Urantia Brotherhood is neither a church nor a sect. It is simply a social group which has a religious objective.’

“[One reads on page 1487 of The Urantia Book] that ‘religious peace—brotherhood—can never exist unless all religions are willing to completely divest themselves of all ecclesiastical authority and fully surrender all concept of spiritual sovereignty. God alone is spirit sovereign.’ The modern world hardly needs another church, another sect. At the present time, we suffer from a plethora of churches and a multiplication of sects.

“But, if we are not a church, how then do we differ from a church? If we can clearly see how we differ, then perchance we can maintain such differences. And, if we can maintain these differences, then we may be able to preserve our organization as a distinctive Brotherhood; we may be able to avoid a possible evolution in the direction of a church.

“There are three main differences between the Brotherhood and a typical church: We claim no spiritual sovereignty; we claim no exclusive path to salvation; we claim no ecclesiastical authority. So long as we do not claim these things we can hardly become a church.

“But even if we are not a church, even if we never become a church, is it also true that we are not a sect? A reader of The Urantia Book could be a sectarian religionist; he or she could be a religionist who is primarily dedicated to the propagation of The Urantia Book. Would such a dedication, however, be a valid dedication? The writer submits that such a dedication is not valid as a primary dedication. Such an exaltation of a most worthy secondary dedication to primary status could well transform a religious reader of the book into a sectarian reader―a reader who has allowed the importance of The Urantia Book to take precedence over the importance of God.

“How then can we, as readers of The Urantia Book, avoid not only churchification but also sectarianization? The writer believes that both of these unfortunate developments can be avoided if we are careful in distinguishing between Means and Ends. This is another way of saying that we should be careful not to confuse our secondary loyalties and our primary loyalties. The writer would accordingly submit for the careful consideration of the Brotherhood the following philosophy of action:

“God is the only true End. Our primary spiritual loyalty and dedication is to the Universal Father and to Him alone. When we encounter some spiritually hungry brother, our first objective is to bring him closer to his spiritual Father. This we may attempt with, or without, the book. All other things are secondary and subordinate to the acquisition of this one ‘pearl of great price’―the realization of sonship with God.

The Urantia Book as a Means to the End. The book itself is not an End―it is a most important Means to an End. It is designed to bring God closer to man and to bring man closer to God. We may minister to our spiritually hungry brothers with or without the aid of The Urantia Book. But if the book ever becomes mandatory in our ministry, then have we truly become sectarian. Our primary objective, as readers of The Urantia Book, is the service of God, and the book is an important Means to that great End. Here we should make a vital distinction between that which is value and that which has value.

“Neither is the Urantia Brotherhood, nor membership in it, a true End. The real function of the Brotherhood is also the function of a Means to accomplish a desired End. The structure of the Brotherhood is to the spiritual experiences of its members as the river banks are to a river; it is true that no river can be had without its banks―but neither should the banks be confused with the flowing river. The Brotherhood is designed to promote the book, and the book is designed to bring God and man closer to each other.

“If we can clearly separate Means and Ends, if we can always subordinate Means to the true End, then we shall continue for a very long time as a real Brotherhood. And we shall avoid becoming merely another church or another sect in the world of the twentieth century―a world which needs neither a new church nor a new sect.”

On another occasion, Bill Sadler, Jr., said that “we need another religion like we need a hole in the head.”

Dr. William S. Sadler in his treatise “Consideration of Some Criticisms of The Urantia Book” said that “The Urantia Book does not aim to contribute to the creation of a new galaxy of saints or to the organization of a new church.”

Later in the same treatise, Dr. Sadler said that “it is not the purpose of The Urantia Book to start a new church. The book condemns sectarian religions. The book is a gift to all religions, including Christianity.”

Said Bill Sadler, Jr.:

“This book is not religion. This book is a cosmology, a philosophy, a metaphysics, a theology. Anything which is in written language is not religion. It’s intellectual. That should be very, very clear. But this book is attempting to make an intellectual approach, a philosophic approach to the religious nature of man. And if you encounter a person who is not philosophical, don’t rub his nose in Part I of the book and the Foreword; give him the spiritual heart of the book. I don’t think he has to know anything about the Trinity of Trinities to qualify for the first mansion world. It says that you have to accept sonship with God. That’s all.

“This book is a tool. Use it when you need it, but if you don’t need it, in heaven’s name, don’t bring it into the picture. It’s sort of like a guy that’s using a pitch fork, and he finds it such a handy tool that he takes it with him wherever he goes, including to a tea party.”

I agree with Dr. Sadler and Bill Sadler, Jr. We must not become a church.

In Oklahoma, where I grew up, a minister delivering a sermon was droning on in a theological baritone when he heard someone snoring. Spotting the sonorous slumberer―an elderly gentleman with his wife seated at his side―the preacher said crossly to the woman, "Wake up that man."

She replied, "You wake him up. You put him to sleep."

Our mission is not to put people to sleep but to wake them up to the enthralling truths of the fifth epochal revelation.

I believe that Urantia Foundation is commissioned to publish, translate, protect, and disseminate the greatest and most thrilling book in all of human history. We must not drift into the doldrums of "churchification." We must not become "God's frozen people," slumbering in a stupor of self-satisfied self-righteousness.

Since The Urantia Book was published in 1955, our early leaders encouraged many young students of the Urantia Revelation to express their "evangelical enthusiasm" by promoting the spiritual message of the book without publicizing the book itself. This is an important mission which will not only help to foster a planetary spiritual renaissance, but which will also lead many individual truth seekers to The Urantia Book "as we pass by."

So let us maintain person-to-person introduction as our top priority.

Consider the following mathematical analysis. If there were only 100 students of The Urantia Book today, and if each of those persons introduced the book to only one other person per year, and if each one of them introduced the book to only one other person a year, every man, woman, and child on earth would have been personally introduced to The Urantia Book within only 30 years.

This is the quiet, unspectacular, but enormously effective spread of the teachings of The Urantia Book.

Let us create fraternal associations, not ecclesiastical institutions; let us build personal relations, not churches. And in the presence of our brothers and sisters, let us salute each of them and salute the fragment of infinity, spark of divinity, and ember of eternity within them.

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