Tidings – March 2017
In This Issue
The following is an account of the Transition to Unity meeting held in October last year by a joint committee of representatives of Urantia Association International and the Urantia Book Fellowship. Included is an initial report written by one of the participants, followed by the proposal both parties agreed upon and presented to their prospective organizations. Following that is an announcement written by Chris Wood informing us of the decision made by the Fellowship’s General Council after its members were presented with the proposal. The date stamps indicate the chronological order of the various announcements.
General Report, November, 2016
On October 3-5, 2016, representatives from the Fellowship and the Association met in Chicago, USA to discuss the possibility of unity between our organizations. This meeting was approved by the Association’s International Service Board and Representative Council, and the Fellowship’s Executive Council. Chris Wood, Merindi B, Rick Lyon, Share Beasley and Susan Owen represented the Association. Michael Challis, Paula Thompson, Steve Dreier, Janet Graham, and Geoffrey Theiss represented the Fellowship. Janet had to leave early so John Hales replaced her on the second day.
The meeting began at 7:30 pm Sunday October 2nd after a delicious dinner prepared by Jen Siegel. Dana Brademeyer introduced us to a strategic thinking method using small group discussion. The stage was set by framing our discussion from the planetary government’s perspective. Our first discussion assignment was framed as follows: We were a group of student visitors to Urantia from other planets, and the planetary supervisors have asked us to advise them on outcomes we would like to see from this organizational unity meeting on Urantia. The outcomes of this assignment formed the basis for the discussions the following day.
Two videos were viewed during the meeting which informed our discussions. They are worth viewing. Links:
Dr. Russel Ackoff on Systems Theory
Clay Shirky on Institutions versus Collaboration
We discussed what unity might look like and what actions and activities might move us towards that goal. Our discussions were open, friendly, and respectful and lead to the Unity Proposal and recommendations shared below.
The next step in the unity process is for the General Council of the Fellowship and the International Representative Council of Urantia Association to consider the proposal and agree to move forward with the unity process. If this occurs, then small teams will begin work on developing a detailed plan and working out the fine details of uniting our groups. When these small teams are done with their work, formal resolutions along with the plan will be presented to our governing groups to be voted upon. We believe this work can be completed within one to two years.
In the meantime, we encourage the entire Urantia community to engage in discussions about the Unity Proposal presented below. Urantia Association of the United States has already held two Zoom meetings for the leaders of the Local Associations to discuss this proposal. Members of the Association team attended both meetings, and Michael Challis, Steve Drier and Geoffrey Theiss of the Fellowship attended the second Zoom meeting where they answered many questions from attendees.
Everyone is encouraged to join both the Association and the Fellowship, to serve on the committees and leadership councils of each group, and even for entire Local Associations and Societies to formally join the other organization and work as one. Joint service projects at the local and individual levels are also encouraged.
Our unity meeting and discussions were successful because we were open, honest, free from judgement, and dedicated to do what was best for the Fifth Epochal Revelation. We pray that the entire Urantia community will approve of our efforts and work together toward a united future of service.
Unity Proposal, November 2016
(co-authored by representatives of the Association and the Fellowship at the Unity Meeting, 3-5 October, 2016)
Both the Association and the Fellowship representatives at the meeting unanimously agreed they desire to transition to unity.
- The Fellowship suspends publishing the Uversa Press version of The Urantia Book.
- The Association amends its Charter and Bylaws documents to remove wording relating to Urantia Foundation and replace it with a policy.
Short term (6-12 months):
Greater collaboration – Wherever possible, at local, national and international levels, committees will be encouraged to work together on numerous projects. Some examples of this could be (note, list is not exhaustive):
- Shared conferences and events
- Consolidated and collaborated committee functions
- More dual memberships (individuals and/or local groups)
A different narrative – Leaders of both the Association and the Fellowship work to produce a new and different narrative. A narrative focusing on unity, combined effort, and shared mission. The new narrative could be communicated through a separate “unity newsletter,” at meetings, successful unity stories in our newsletters, perhaps a “unity blogspace,” and perhaps common use of the tag #urantiaunity.
Exchange students – Two members of the Association could be invited to join the General Council (as observers) and two members of the Fellowship could be invited to observe the ongoing electronic meeting of the Representative Council, and/or observe the International Service Board meetings. In addition, members of each organization who may hold dual membership are encouraged to run for a position in either organization. The Fellowship has already invited dual members to run for two open seats on the General Council.
Mapping of local groups – A combined “map” of local societies and associations could be put together to foster cooperative efforts. The local groups could then pair-up to produce shared projects.
Personal reconciliation – It is recognized that persons are not organizations, and do not speak for their organizations. Both organizations encourage any individual involved in past conflicts to seek reconciliation and healing at a personal level.
Medium term (1-2 years):
The Fellowship will consider joining Urantia International at the National level. The Association will consider an exception for a second national in North America. If approved, the President and Vice President of the Fellowship would join the Representative Council, and its members would be eligible to serve on the International Service Board and its committees.
Urantia Association International will look to change its name to Urantia International.
Collaboration between local groups, committees and projects will continue to develop during this period.
Further ideas were discussed for the longer term but no recommendations are being made now to allow for the short and medium term recommendations to evolve.
(end of Unity Proposal)
Update 10 March, 2017
by Chris Wood, President of Urantia Association International
In February the General Council of the Fellowship met and deliberated on the Unity proposal that came out of our joint meeting of 3-5 October, 2016. The members of the General Council decided that at this time it would be unwise to attempt organizational unity. Instead, they passed a resolution calling for greater cooperation between our organizations in order to increase spiritual and social unity between our members.
Those of us who promoted organizational unity are of course disappointed. We had the choice for our North American community to either join together as we move forward on the same road, or to move forward separately on parallel roads. Nonetheless, we are all moving forward in the same direction to serve the students of The Urantia Book and promote its teachings.
Our North American community is more spiritually and socially united now than at any point in the last 25 years and I believe that as we continue to bond our groups will naturally come together.
President, Urantia Association International
The Pay-it Forward Conference Model
Last summer, Lone Star Urantia Association was tasked with hosting the first united conference between Urantia Association of the United States and The Urantia Book Fellowship. This was a challenge of unknown proportions simply because we had never attempted it before! But they were ready and produced a wonderful event that will propel our community forward for years to come.
One of the challenging questions was simply: What to do with any leftover conference funds? Traditionally within the Association, the hosting group would decide on how these funds would be distributed, but because of the unique nature of this conference a new framework was adopted: instead of splitting the excess between the Fellowship and the Association, all leftover funds from this North American conference would be forwarded to international conferences in Europe and Latin America.
In September, Budapest hosted the first United European Conference bringing together students from more than 20 countries and starting a new tradition of yearly European events. The North American donation was used to bring in students from Croatia, Ukraine, Russia, and young and new readers from across Western Europe.
In October, Bogota hosted the first United Latin American Conference, bringing together teachers and leaders from Central and South America. The North American donation was used for students from Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, as well as dozens of local students from Bogota. Representatives of every country present met to determine goals for the Latin American community and to select leaders to help guide those goals. And a new tradition of tri-annual Latin American Conferences was born.
But the North American gift did not stop there! Both the Bogota and Budapest conferences actively raised funds for a conference in Accra, Ghana in February, our first attempt at a multinational conference in Africa. All leftover funds from those two conferences have been forwarded to the Ghana event which aims to bring together students from coastal countries from Nigeria through Liberia.
One conference in the United States has gone on to fund more three conferences on three different continents. Are we looking at a future model of conference funding?
None of this would have been possible if LSUA, UAUS, and the Fellowship had not stood together and volunteered to turn over the leftover funds to international conferences. It set an example on how we can bring together students from across one country, and showed how we can make our world a little less isolated than it was a year ago.
Urantia Association International
Anton Miroshnichenko, the Ukraine
Urantia DACH held its annual meeting from 4 to 6 November 2016 in Frankfurt, Germany. It was the 10th meeting of Urantia Book readers in Germany and the second meeting for the new Urantia Association, “Urantia DACH.” Urantia DACH became official as a Local Association at this latest meeting. A short informal ceremony was held as the Chartering Agreement was signed by Christian Ruch, the President of Urantia DACH, and Urantia Association International’s President, Chris Wood. (“Urantia DACH” embraces the regions of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. DACH stands for: D=Deutschland, A=Austria, CH=Switzerland; “Dach” is the German word for “roof”.)
We spent a day and a half studying and discussing Papers 99 and 100 of The Urantia Book.
Almost all of the discussions were held in German and any key ideas were translated for Chris and me into English. All participants were quite active in the discussions—it seemed to me that the conversations were very deep and productive.
On the first day Chris was asked to speak about Urantia Association International and answered questions. On Saturday and Sunday evenings we socialized at the hotel’s cafe. In
general, the meeting left a warm impression. The nature of the conference resembled more of a working meeting without too much planning or additional activities.
It is very encouraging to see the opening of a new Association that will serve this very important region of the world in these trying times. The immigration crisis was quite noticeable in this big European city of Frankfurt. Many of the participants at the meeting feel that the crisis is extensive enough to change Germany significantly in the future. It has highlighted the need to actively promote The Urantia Book in Germany and plans are being made for a library placement project.
Urantia Association International
Chris Moseley, UK
Fourteen devotees of the Urantia revelation gathered on 28th January at a hotel on the old site of Croydon Airport, south London, for a rare chance to meet with Pato Banton and his musical and life partner Antoinette Rootsdawtah. Pato and Antoinette were visiting Britain, and in fact the next day they were moving on to his former home town of Birmingham to host another meeting with readers. This gathering was something of a cross between a study group and a miniature conference, with the added spice of Pato’s and Antoinette’s music. Pato is always an effective evangelizer of the Revelation through his infectious music. We don’t see them often in Britain, as their music takes them around the world and they live in Southern California these days.
We began by going around the table describing how the Urantia revelation came into each of our lives. Most of us already knew each other, but it is always affecting to hear and compare our individual stories of how it came to touch us – and besides, this was an international gathering. There were some European readers present. In that sense, this was a bit of milestone in the British Urantia movement: the net was cast wider than the UAIUK can usually reach. Pato’s own story of his own personal and spiritual path was a pretty harrowing one, starting off from disadvantages most of us in the room could never dream about.
Part of the programme was the study of three papers: 33 (Administration of the Local Universe); 48 (The Morontia Life) and 170 (The Kingdom of Heaven). Pato is an effective study group leader, asking penetrating questions, and more importantly, provoking them. The heavy cerebral study was leavened with a convivial lunch of hotel finger-food, and songs from Pato and Antoinette (with recorded backing), which had us all up on our feet and at least swaying, if not downright dancing.
Preaching to the converted in a hermetically sealed environment – that’s how it might have looked to a bystander: but no, not quite. Pato has taken to heart Jesus’ injunction to constantly make a new friend at every opportunity, and the hotel staff member who served our tea and coffee – Lenson Rodrigues if I heard his name right – was asked by Pato to introduce himself and describe his own spiritual path, and then, to join us in prayer and worship. It was a touching moment to see Lenson becoming one of us, for however short a time.
Antonio Roque, who has now started convening a weekly on-line study group in Britain, and our UAI Conference Chair Antonio Schefer, are to be thanked for co-ordinating this meeting with Pato and Antoinette. I hope this is the start of a new trend!
Gaétan G. Charland
Hello to study group hosts and participants. In the November edition of Tidings, I wrote an article on Study Groups and Young People which attracted the attention of a few readers. I have obtained permission from these readers to publish their comments so you will have the opportunity to read what they have said about this topic. Please feel free to respond to those comments or to any articles I write, or have written about study groups that are published in this newsletter.
There is a great need for spiritual nourishment in this world. For The Urantia Book to succeed in its mission “to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception” [Foreword 0:0.2, page 1.2] many more study groups are needed. But it is also necessary for study group hosts to stay focused on the goals of striving to make study groups effective tools in the training of leaders and teachers, and assisting students in learning how to integrate the teachings of The Urantia Book into their lives.
In my own desire to increase the effectiveness of the study group that I have been hosting for many years, I have introduced a variety of reading and studying techniques in an effort to insure that the interest of new and old readers alike would not falter. While I have not always been successful, I have learned many lessons that have kept the group strong all these years.
We have developed a new innovation for our group due to the fact that there are numerous reasons why people cannot attend, not the least of which is that the winter in Quebec can often make travel hazardous. Therefore we have made our group accessible via a teleconferencing program called Zoom. Mind you, it’s not a full-fledged online study group where anyone from around the world can join, but occasionally we have visitors who want to see what a study group is like.
For this experience, the only things needed are a computer with a camera and microphone or a tablet that can sit close to the area where the group is meeting and, of course, a subscription to Zoom which is simple to arrange and not very expensive. I have a subscription that I could share with anyone who may be interested as long as you do require a meeting at the same time as ours. This is a great way to attract new members to your group. It offers them a way to participate if they are too far away to travel to any groups. It can also be a good introduction to a study group while being minimally intimidating to some new readers.
In this day and age with online virtual study groups, there are really no reasons why any reader cannot participate in a study group. The Study Group Directory itself lists 74 virtual groups in different languages as well as 368 regular study groups. The Study Group Directory’s team has managed translations in five languages in addition to English. Your browser’s default language is automatically displayed if it is supported, or you can select a language from a pull-down menu. If your group is not yet listed in the directory, please list it so readers in your area can find you.
As for young readers, we are still contemplating on how to help them create their own study group, or at least attract them to the existing one. The Study Group Committee is working to create a survey that will be sent to every reader on our database asking them a few questions about their interests and ideas about study groups. If you have any suggestions about the type of questions we should ask, please let me know.
Enjoy your study group!
Gaétan G. Charland
Study Group Chair
Urantia Association International
Charles, USA & Indira, Venezuela
Below are a couple responses to the articles that were published by Gaetan Charland, the Association’s Study Group Chair in the November 2016 Tidings concerning the subject of young Urantia Book readers in study groups.
“After my return from the Budapest conference, I was contacted by one of our members asking me about the different study group models I know of, because from what this reader said in her message, it was her opinion that the younger generation is less prone to joining study groups the way that most are currently structured….
“If you are a young reader and would like to help us find answers and solutions to what I’ve mentioned here, please contact me at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org”
(click here for full article)
Response from Charles Smith,USA:
Hello. My name is Charles Smith, but most people call me Chuck. I have been asking myself that same question for the past few years ever since the starting of The Urantia Book study group I am a part of. It is as if young people my age, I am 34, simply don’t care about anything spiritual anymore.
I attend a United Methodist church and the same problem exists there as well. There are very few young people in church. Children, yes. Young people, say, 20 to 40, no. As a matter of fact, I know of only one other person in the church even close to my age. The same problem exists in every other church around here.
Compounding the problem is another one. Is the interest superficial? In the case of the other person I mentioned, the answer is yes. She wants to know no more about the Christian/Methodist faith than the preacher preaches about and what is taught in Sunday school. She has no interest in reading or studying the Bible for herself. Taking her as an example, if we find young people to join us in Urantia study groups, will they only be interested in what they learn at the study group? Or will they be willing to actually read The Urantia Book, the source document of our faith, and then be willing to actually study it? I personally despair of finding young people interested in such a project. First of all, The Urantia Book is 2100 pages, not a short simple read like the younger generation is used to. It takes patience and persistence in order to get through The Urantia Book once, let alone study the text as it should be studied. Add to the equation the intellectual stamina you have a very difficult problem. I’ve found that a good dictionary kept nearby is needed a lot when reading The Urantia Book. Anyway, those are my observations and concerns. Hope this helps.
Response from Indira Rodríguez, Venezuela:
Greetings! My name is Indira Rodríguez. I’m 23 years old and I’m from Venezuela. I have been a student of The Urantia Book for three years. I read with great interest the article in the November Tidings where you wrote an article about young readers.
In addition to reading for three years, I participate in a project to raise donations for Urantia Book related activities and I am currently undertaking projects in my country and city to encourage the creation of study groups and the organization to form a Urantia Association in Venezuela.
I only know one young man, apart from me in Venezuela who studies the book; he is 19 years old. But in Latin America I know more. I cannot speak for all the young people I know, but I can talk about what they themselves have talked about and about my point of view.
In October, I had the honor of participating in the Latin American Conference in Bogota, Colombia. Of all the participants, only 3 were young, of which I was the youngest. That has left me very pensive until this moment. Several people at that conference encouraged me to start work on attracting young people to The Urantia Book, which I had already thought of doing since I began reading. But I would ask myself, what about young people who are not interested in revelation?
Each country has its own customs and traditions, which also includes young people. A common factor that I would like to highlight is that there are many young people worldwide who are interested in the spiritual; the awakening of consciousness and detachment from the system in which we are immersed. I started that road when I was 16 years old.
In Venezuela there are not many study groups; in Caracas, the capital where I live there is no study group. For some months now I have been meeting with some students of the book who are working on the projects mentioned above. I have researched how study groups are handled, I have talked to people who belong to study groups, and have even participated in some virtual ones. The conclusion I have come to is that there are many young people who are not prepared to open themselves to the information contained in the fifth epochal revelation. Many young people are going through a detachment to institutionalized religions, and unfortunately because of that, many decide to abandon their faith too.
Of the young people I know who are readers of the book, the majority do not participate in study groups. Each has his or her own personal motive, but the general rule is that they have felt, to a lesser or greater degree, contempt or some kind of rejection. For my part I think that young people usually have a different dynamic than the adults, they are a different generation. Once someone told me “among young people they understand” and I think it is partly right. I do not know if I am wrong, but I think it may be a good strategy for young Urantia Book students to be encouraged to look for ways to encourage other young people to both read and attend study group meetings. Youth groups can be created where they feel comfortable and confident to express ideas and questions.
I hope my opinion can contribute something for the expansion of the fifth revelation in the world. It goes without saying that I am here to help.
With lots of love from the Caribbean
The Representative Council of the Association held elections in January of this year to vote for 7 positions on the International Service Board (ISB). Here are the results of the election:
President: Chris Wood (re-elected)
Chief Financial Officer: Bradly Tharp (re-elected)
Membership Chair: Luis Garcia- Bory (replaced Anton Miroshnichenko)
Conference Chair: Antonio Schefer (re-elected)
Education Chair: Jeannie Vasquez (replaced Sheila Keene-Lund)
Translation Chair: Gabriel Rymberg (replaced Chris Moseley)
The newly elected ISB members assume their new position on April 1, 2017.
In addition to the ISB elections, Travis Binion was re-elected as Chief Judicial Commissioner. On December 18, 2016 the RC confirmed Joyce Anderson as the third Judicial Commissioner to fill a vacancy, joining Travis and Benet Rutenberg.
The Association proudly welcomes Luis Garcia- Bory from Mexico living in Switzerland, Jeannie Vasquez from Uruguay, and Gabriel Rymberg who lives in Israel to the ISB and we thank them for their willingness to serve and their untiring loyalty in their work for the Association.
Our heart-felt gratitude and best wishes go to our outgoing members: Anton Miroshnichenko from the Ukraine, Sheila Keene-Lund from the USA and Chris Moseley from the UK, who have volunteered untold hours of their time to serve on the board for the last 4 to 8 years.
New ISB Members:
Luis Garcia Bory
Mark Kurtz, USA
Space is still available at 2017 Southeast Urantia Gathering at the Alabama 4-H Youth Center, Columbiana, Alabama (USA).
The deadline for registrations is March 15 but late ones may be accommodated up to March 25 with an additional fee of $25.
Registrations can be sent to our mailbox or via email. Please visit the website at http://www.southeasturantia.com/2017-gathering.html for more details on the gathering and for registration information.
Check out Urantia Association International’s Events Calendar at http://urantia-association.org/events-list. Upcoming events can be viewed in a List or Calendar view.
Urantia Book reader events provide opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas and concepts presented in The Urantia Book and help to facilitate a personal commitment to the ideals of spiritual living. We hope you can make it to some of these events and experience the joys of meeting and studying with fellow readers.
If you’re planning a Urantia Book reader event in your region and would like help in promoting it, please send us your information and we’ll consider it for our Events Calendar.