Updated: August 2, 2021

It’s time the Independent Order of Odd Fellows revamp its degrees to fit society’s pace, which is efficient and to-the-point. The early American Odd Fellows understood this concept of making adjustments. Each time it was a challenge, but, each time the members were smart enough to know adjustments had to be made.

In the 1820’s the Odd Fellows established their unique work. In later years, in the 1840’s they made sure they eliminated any and all aspects of the Masonic mentions in their degrees; after all the Masons and Odd Fellows are not the same. Neither is better than the other or worse. One has been less likely to change but, both have declined in membership.

In 1835, the first improvements were made to the degrees. In 1845, the second set of improvements were made to the ritual. Down to the words in a single sentence, all were scrutinized. In that same year, the signs used in the unwritten work were also changed. Even two new signs were added for the degree of Rebekah, being the hailing sign (originally called the Hailing or Sea sign) and sign of recognition. In 1851, the degree of Rebekah, drafted by Schuyler Colfax, “was intended as an honorary degree for Scarlet members and their wives.”

The degrees and rituals continued to be adjusted over the years. More changes have occurred than the membership realize. What we have today is definitely profound and definitely biblically derived and should be retained in essence; however, changes are needed. This, of course, is easier said than done.

Changes to the degrees continued on a regular basis; each time such change proposals were never easily accepted, but they were made regardless. Degrees have been combined, passages have been removed and added. As some codes had been changed, the ritual and the degrees have been altered, too. Newer or those members who are unaware changes are a regular occurrence in the Odd Fellows, should realize these changes are a normal to the Order.

The beginning of the Sovereign Grand Lodge’s (SGL) Five-Year Plan has effectively begun. With the Ladies Auxiliary Patriarchs Militant falling by the side, the plan has started. Next, the Encampments face elimination; this could be voted upon this August. It was going to be presented and voted upon in 2019, but it was decided to wait and re-discuss the terms of the Five-Year Plan and then vote.

As you can see, we are facing the loss of certain relished degree work and those principles that come with those degrees of all branches.

As our various grand bodies face elimination with the recent proposals by SGL and the societal evolutions effect the necessity of such fraternal groups, and the overall decline in membership, we must put our collective minds together and present sensible alternatives and improvements desirable for the majority of members.

One suggestion stands out more than any other, which has gained a level of positive feedback and could make the Order more attractive to potential applicants. It suggests merging all of the entities of Odd Fellowship (LAPM, LEA, PM, Encampment, Jr. Theta Rho, Rebekah) into the Odd Fellows Lodge and implementing all of the degrees of these entities into the Odd Fellows Lodge. Then, a member, after attaining the Initiatory Degree, would be permitted to choose whatever degree experience that member wishes. Such member could choose to go further in the Odd Fellows, while attaining necessary degrees, and then further choose to receive the other degrees within the lodge – all and any degrees from one single Odd Fellows lodge. With this design, none of the degree work would be lost forever, as inevitably those other grand bodies will cease.

This would lead into a more attractive one-dues payment to a lodge as well. This would prevent a member who already belongs to these different groups from having to pay a small fortune to belong to every group. It would streamline a great deal of paperwork and multiple dues cards, etc.

F – L – T

Peter Sellars
Past Grand Master, Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

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