Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
We have come to a place – at least in California – where the vast majority of Odd Fellows understand that we must evolve and change our Order to survive in the 21st Century. Continuing to function in the same way will inevitably lead to the same result: declining membership and closed Lodges. We can accomplish most of the needed changes at the Lodge level, and a few of the needed changes at the Grand Lodge level, but some changes – indeed, the most significant changes – can only happen at the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) level. For example, Odd Fellows have the longest, most anachronistic, and most convoluted oaths, affirmations and obligations on the planet – to modernize and shorten them requires a change at SGL. There are many, many other changes that are desperately needed, but can only occur at the SGL level.
Yet, the SGL is structured to resist change and preserve the status quo. That status quo is slowly choking the life out of this Order, as we continue to show net losses of members year after year after year. New members provide the oxygen a fraternal order needs to survive. Yes, we gain some new members every year, but we lose more than we gain through deaths, withdrawals and resignations. It’s a completely unsustainable equation.
There are many reasons why SGL is resistant to change, and in fact, is sometimes an impediment to it. But probably the single greatest constraint is the very structure of SGL. In short, it is currently structured much like a Senate, and it should be structured more like a House of Representatives. Logically, why should a jurisdiction of less than 100 members have the same voting power as a jurisdiction with 500, or 1,000, or 2,000 members? Recently, I was chatting with Past Sovereign Grand Master Jimmy Humphrey who related to me visits he has made to other jurisdiction’s Grand Lodge Sessions where less than 15 voting representatives attended. Contrast that with California’s recent Grand Lodge Sessions where over 200 voting representatives were present. Yet these two jurisdictions, under the outmoded rules of the SGL have essentially equal representation at the SGL Sessions. This is simply unfair and inappropriate. And it creates a huge impediment to structural evolution in the Order.
Last November, I wrote a resolution to change that structure, and I am delighted to say that this resolution (denominated “Resolution #2”) was passed on May 14 at our recent Grand Lodge Sessions – with an overwhelming “yes” vote. The vote tally showed 155 representatives voted “yes” and only 14 voted “no” – that is, over 90% of our representatives support this change. And it is not the intention to diminish the representation for any jurisdiction – but rather, to increase the representation of all. No jurisdiction would lose their two representatives – but the larger jurisdictions would gain one, two or three. This approach is based on the concept that: “A rising tide raises all boats.” Now that California has passed the resolution, our Grand Lodge Representatives Rod Metoyer and Paul Pike will be drafting legislation to present to SGL, and will be working with other like-minded jurisdictions of all sizes to join us in this approach, ultimately, jointly sponsoring a proposal to SGL.
The resolution passed by California is re-printed below.
F- L – T
Jurisdiction of California
GRAND LODGE RESOLUTION
Submitted by Grand Master Dave Rosenberg
SUMMARY: A Grand Lodge Resolution instructing the Grand Representatives to submit a Bill to Sovereign Grand Lodge to Amend the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Article IV, Section 1, relating to the apportionment of Grand Representatives.
TITLE: Amendment to Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, increasing the number and altering the apportionment of Grand Representatives.
WHEREAS, the membership of Grand Lodges and Grand Encampments varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; and
WHEREAS, the structure of the Sovereign Grand Lodge does not substantially account for the variation in memberships between the Grand Lodges and Grand Encampments; and
WHEREAS, allocating Grand Representatives to more accurately reflect membership is a more equitable system which recognizes that jurisdictions with large memberships should receive proportionately greater representation at Sovereign Grand Lodge; and
WHEREAS, limiting our smaller jurisdictions to only one Grand Representative does not provide for adequate or diverse representation for those smaller jurisdictions; and
WHEREAS, restricting the General Military Council and the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies to only one Grand Representative each deprives those bodies of fair and diverse representation; and
WHEREAS, the number of Grand Representatives diminishes year after year, causing the Sovereign Grand Lodge to reduce its capacity to represent the diverse and varied membership of Odd Fellowship, and reduces the ability of younger leaders in our Order to assume positions of responsibility at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Grand Lodge of California, in session, instructs the Grand Representatives to draft a bill to be submitted by the Grand Representatives to the Sovereign Grand Lodge to amend the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Article IV, Section 1, relating to the apportionment of Grand Representatives. The current language of Article IV, Section 1, reads as follows:
“Each Grand Lodge with a combined membership of 1,000 or more members, based on regular and non-contributing members from Odd Fellows Lodges, Junior Lodges, Rebekah Lodges and Theta Rho Girl’s Clubs; each Grand Encampment with a combined membership of 1,000 or more members, based on regular and non-contributing members from Encampments and Ladies Encampment Auxiliaries; is entitled to two Grand Representatives. Those with less than 1,000 members are entitled to one Grand Representative. The General Military Council is entitled to one (1) Grand Representative. The International Association of Rebekah Assemblies is entitled to one (1) Grand Representative.”
The submitted Bill shall delete the above current language of Article IV, Section 1 and shall replace that language as follows:
“Each Grand Lodge with a combined membership of 499 or fewer members, based on regular and non-contributing members from Odd Fellows Lodges, Junior Lodges, Rebekah Lodges, and Theta Rho Girls’ Clubs is entitled to two Grand Representatives. Those with 500 to 999 members are entitled to three Grand Representatives. Those with 1,000 to 1,999 members are entitled to four Grand Representatives. Those with 2,000 or more members are entitled to five Grand Representatives. Each Grand Encampment with a combined membership of 299 or fewer members, based on regular and non-contributing members from Encampments and Ladies Encampment Auxiliaries is entitled to one Grand Representative. Those with 300 or more members are entitled to two Grand Representatives. The General Military Council is entitled to five (5) Grand Representatives. The International Association of Rebekah Assemblies is entitled to five (5) Grand Representatives.”
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Grand Representatives shall comply with the Constitution of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Article XI, relating to amendments to the Constitution, as follows:
A Bill to amend the Constitution shall be timely submitted by them in writing, in duplicate, to and for the consideration of the 2016 annual session of the Sovereign Grand Lodge.
They shall obtain the sponsorship of this Bill from Grand Representatives of at least two other jurisdictions, in addition to the Jurisdiction of California.