Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
There was a time when a person of color could not become an Odd Fellow. There was a time when a person who was disabled could not become an Odd Fellow. There was a time when a woman was prohibited from joining a Lodge of Odd Fellows. Thankfully, society (and Odd Fellows) evolved, and those discriminatory policies are no longer in the “rules” of this Order.
Yes, Odd Fellowship does evolve – slowly to be sure, but inevitably. If you doubt that change happens in this Order, you need only look at some recent changes to be assured that we do evolve and change as a fraternity. For example, there was a time when a person had to be 18 to be an Odd Fellow. That rule was changed just a few years ago to allow persons who are 16 to join a Lodge of Odd Fellows. The Initiatory Degree has certainly evolved over time. And throughout Odd Fellowship, all Lodges and Encampments were within the last two years required to adopt a non-discrimination policy which prohibited discrimination against a wide swath of humanity. The concept is that Odd Fellows – in order to elevate the character of humanity – cannot be seen as discriminating against members of our human family.
Notwithstanding the progress in our rules and laws, there remains a glaring dichotomy (indeed, an inconsistency) that serves only to reduce the pool of our potential new members, create an element of confusion in the public eye, and exclude good men and women from our membership. On the one hand, our Odd Fellows’ websites tout our Order as “non-sectarian”, and our non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on religion. Yet on the other hand, our Order requires members to professes a belief in “a Supreme Being”, and our ritual is heavily Judeo-Christian. Not only are these approaches inherently inconsistent, but they distance us from a large part of the world’s population. Buddhists, for example, do not believe in a Supreme Being – so we have effectively cut off over one billion human beings from our Order. Buddhism is an extremely moral religion that teaches self-awareness, compassion, righteous interaction with other people and with nature. Buddhists would make great Odd Fellows, as would followers of Confucianism, and other faiths that do not necessarily worship a Supreme Being. Some traditions of Hinduism do not ascribe to the philosophy of one Supreme Being, and so that would cut off nearly another one billion human beings from our Order.
Do Odd Fellows truly believe in friendship, love, truth, faith, hope and charity, and the need to elevate the character of humankind in a world of universal justice? Do Odd Fellows truly believe in the non-discrimination clause adopted by every one of our Lodges, Encampments and Cantons throughout the Order? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then Odd Fellowship will truly become a great tent – a fraternal order open to all people of good moral character. Filling our ranks with new members will be an easy endeavor. Membership growth will be the norm, not the exception in our ranks. Odd Fellowship will be a beacon for the future of our planet.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California