Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Deputy Grand Master Peter Sellars has been a staunch member of DMC since the very beginning and has been a leader in this Order for many years. He is a progressive voice, calling for needed change in Odd Fellowship. He understands that this Order must transform itself to become relevant in the 21st Century, and must evolve to survive. His own Lodge in San Francisco – Yerba Buena #15 – is a model of growth, progressive spirit, fun, openness, inclusion, and active community involvement.
He has written a no-holds-barred article for the DMC Newsletter, below.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
THE ANALYSIS OF THE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE
I understand my audience to be members of the Dedicated Members for Change, but I am hoping some of you are receiving the DMC messages because you wish to keep tabs on “the other side.”
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has been on a path of self-destruction for decades. For some members this statement makes no sense and they are oblivious to the pending demise.
There are several different factors affecting our Order in a negative way. For the naysayers, they would say articles such as these destroy our Order. But, if anyone actually believes that pointing out the facts is somehow causing our decline or “destroying the Order”, that notion is wrong.
Successful organizations constantly talk about the issues and analyze the numbers, especially the deficits and liabilities. We understand the deficits, which is the decline in membership; however, we tend to shy away from the liabilities. Our liabilities are the poor characters inside the Order, whom we have failed to improve – the same ones we refuse to address, correct, or expel.
There are those of us who have been in this Order long enough – and worked hard enough for the Order, who shall speak out and write the truth. We shall express ourselves in any manner we feel fit, as long as we speak the truth. Nothing and no one can stop us from speaking the truth.
The first truth is, as a whole, our Order is in serious trouble. The reasons:
1. It is afraid to make changes or just simply do what is right because some bully in the lodge intimidates the rest of the members.
2. Some members are so poorly brought up, they bring racism into our Order or refuse to modernize and get rid of racist terminology in the Encampment’s Golden Rule Degree. If we were a legitimate corporation and had racist comments in our literature, we would remove it, immediately. Why does this Order insist on keeping – or “laying over a resolution for one year” – to remove offensive language? Remove it today, now!
3. We have had members swear at other members, assault other members, intimidate other members, and manipulate other members.
4. We have had members who embezzle or control the funds of the lodge. Believe it or not, I have been to lodges where the treasurer refuses to write a check because “the budget is set”, ignoring the wishes of the membership. Even to the point of getting upset, like a spoiled child would get upset, some treasurers become loud or intense.
5. This year, several modern points were brought up at Sovereign Grand Lodge by the Revitalization Committee, a committee made up of long time dedicated members. These changes were seen as important by the committee, these longtime members of the Order! The report was seen as so threatening that one representative (from one of the committees) went to the mic and moved the report not be accepted. Laughable. Of course, the Sovereign Grand Master was quick enough to point out that such a motion is out of order. What kind of member moves “not to accept something”? The answer: An member inexperienced in many ways.
6. No matter how it is sugarcoated, the fact is, some of our lodges do not have women members. They will say, “None have applied” or “We didn’t know women could join” (I heard that one a few weeks ago). In fact, women are welcome to join any Odd Fellows Lodge, and that has been the case since 1999.
To analyze the situation means to break it down. We must separate the elements.
1. We have members who are close-minded, part of an “old school”, holding on to ideals, which have become archaic. (They would resent this article.)
2. We have a group of newer open-minded members, willing and desiring to change, in order to keep the organization alive.
3. As this Order declines and becomes smaller, as if reaching a critical mass, we see both groups coming closer in proximity. The unyielding group becomes angrier and refuses to take any steps to appease the newer group.
4. Unfortunately, we as a smaller organization have been unable to keep up with our tasks as members – to improve the character of mankind within our lodges. We have not educated the older members to understand we are a society of progression and change must occur to survive. For example, when it rains we may employ an umbrella. This is normal. But, when it does not rain, we may put away the umbrella. Well, we have members who refuse to put away the umbrella – at all times and at all costs. Even if the umbrella has holes or if it breaks, the members refuse to put it away. When other members ask the members to put their umbrellas away, they still refuse. It becomes their stance.
5. Barriers have been broken. The Order opened up to minorities to join, as it did women. Those were major changes. But, we are just now seeing the results of those changes. We see women becoming Grand Masters in some jurisdictions. We see far less minorities moving up the ranks. We are just now seeing the differences made at the Grand Lodge level. It is obvious, we have not seen the impact of those changes at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level, where changes must be made. Those changes were made 15 and 50 years ago, respectively. Some lodges have done a wonderful job in the inclusion of people. Many of our lodges have failed us.
The response to this division, is to work harder to understand “the other side” and to have discussions. Have a meeting of the minds and the mindless to understand and try to make each understand the reasons behind such reluctance. Brothers and sisters, look for those members in your lodge, like the argumentative treasurers who put up a fuss every time the lodge wishes to write a check, and make your ideas and directions clear to him or her.
If you see members being chastised for their ideas or disrespected in any way or discriminated against, speak up. Challenge the wrongs in your lodge. Keep challenging the wrongs in your lodge. Do not become the quitter! Because if you are the quitter in a small organization like this, how can you possibly make it in a larger organization?
I shall leave you with this quote: “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” Abraham Lincoln
Peter V. Sellars