Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Odd Fellows know quite a bit, of course, of the comings and goings of their own Lodge. They know much of the activities in their own jurisdiction’s Grand Lodge. But most Odd Fellows know very little of what really happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge.
Every year, the Sovereign Grand Lodge meets in session to discuss proposed resolutions and legislation, to elect members to Sovereign office, and to handle other matters that affect Grand Lodges, Lodges and members in significant ways. All jurisdictions send representatives to Sovereign for these sessions. The Jurisdiction of California’s Grand Lodge elects and sends two Grand Representatives to Sovereign (Brothers Peter Sellars and Rodney Metoyer, and the Grand Encampment elects and sends one Grand Representative to Sovereign (Brother Fred Dolling). During the sessions, most of the work at Sovereign Grand Lodge is done in various committees.
Because much of the activity during Sovereign Grand Lodge sessions is a bit of a mystery to members of the Order, Brother Peter Sellars has penned the article, below, to give us a glimpse of the experiences for a typical representative attending sessions.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Grand Representative Report – SGL 2023 – IOWA
Peter V. Sellars, California
The 2023 Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) session was held in Des Moines, Iowa, August 21 through the 24. As representatives, we are asked to attend several events in support of the week-plus of activities. I arrived on Thursday, August 17, and attended the meeting of the Youth on August 18 and 19, where I also completed the check-in process to receive my credentials to receive the booklets 1 & 2 containing all the latest reports, including the Advance Proceedings, by the leaders of the SGL. On August 20, all representatives are required to attend orientation and to hear from the candidates for Warden of the SGL. Our own brother Rick Boyles was one of those candidates this year. During the evening, as a member of the State of the Order Committee, I take the time to prepare and review the upcoming legislation. Additionally, I attended the SGL Opening Ceremony and Dinner event on Sunday evening, as well as the SGL Dinner Installation event on Wednesday evening. Between brother Rod Metoyer and me, we determined he would carry the jurisdictional flag at the opening event.
On Tuesday evening, I was asked to lead the presentation from California for the General Military Council, in honor of the newly installed Commanding General, Howard “Doc” Malin, who is also a member of Canton San Francisco No. 5 of California. A large contingent from California attended this memorable event, where Brother Mel Astrahan and Sister Debbie Shuler unfurled “Doc’s” banner and displayed it for everyone to see. Sister Debra LaVergne coordinated the music to be sung by the audience. Other Californians took part in handing out the music/lyrics for the presentation; thanks to Sisters Linda Hughes, Diana Schmiegel, Lorna Hemphill, and Brothers Paul Schmiegel. They also handed out California Poppy seeds to everyone who attended the Installation. The other California members installed that evening: Generals Rita Cooper, Mel Astrahan, and Dave Rosenberg (by proxy Bonnie Sellars). Thanks to all the Californians who made this a special evening. I enjoyed leading the presentation. It was a pleasure to see so many members from the jurisdiction of California. Brother JR. Prosk and Roberta Prosk set up and worked at the Odd Fellows & Rebekah Float booth. Sister Bonnie Sellars and myself set up the Living Legacy Program booth and also sat at various booths to help out. It was fun to meet so many enthusiastic members. I enjoyed the longtime friendships and the ones made at SGL; thanks to the many members who approached me and told me they support me and stand by me after the experience last year, with a wasteful attack and trial against me. This was gratifying especially with those who acted selfishly and unfraternally in 2022. Time to move on and allow some members to mature.
On Monday, August 21, the first day of session, we were given the honor of having the first woman conduct the meeting as Sovereign Grand Master, sister Michelle L Heckart. She conducted an excellent session. On several occasions, the representatives applauded her in appreciation of her superb job. That Monday, immediately following the first day’s “work” many of the representatives attend their respective committee meetings. I attended the State of the Order Committee meeting, as I have for the past several years. In that time, and including this year, I have been called upon to draft the State of the Order Report, which is an honor. Based on the reports of the officers and upcoming program, as well as the first day’s business, I was able to write of the common theme of our leadership as well as the committee’s own observations. I am including this year’s State of the Order report, as I believe it is important this report. The committee also discussed and submitted a bill for next year (must layover for one year) to allow 14 year-olds to join the Odd Fellows lodges; the consensus was that all high schoolers should be able to join the Order, not just the 16 year-olds. Also, the West Virginia jurisdiction facilitated (having a booth) a large National Scouts Jamboree where many of the scouts took an interested in the I.O.O.F. and many were 14. There was serious discussion about the possibility of SGL increasing the annual per capita. In addition, the Sovereign Grand Master encouraged and directed all representatives to share as much of the actions and news obtained at SGL with our own jurisdictions all the way to the lodges and members. During the first day’s business, I had the honor of getting to the mic and requesting Past Sovereign Grand Master, brother Larry Ferguson to speak at the mic and nominate our own brother Rick Boyles for the office of Sovereign Grand Warden, which he graciously did. Two others were nominated for the office. Our other representatives from California were Brothers Rod Metoyer, who served on the Ritualistic Work Committee and Fred Dolling from the Grand Encampment, served on the Miscellaneous Business Committee.
The second day was active, as more bills and resolutions were presented and items decided, as well as the election of officers. Only one office was contested, which was that of Warden. John S. Cupp was nominated and elected the Sovereign Grand Master for the pending term. Brother Cupp is from the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. Gerald V. Workman was elected as the Deputy Sovereign Grand Master (brother Workman was the honored guest at the California session in 2023). Elected again to the office of Sovereign Grand Secretary, was Brother Terry L. Barrett. The election for Sovereign Grand Warden included three members, one was our own brother, Rick Boyles. Brother Rick did not win the election but he did what only 3 members were willing to do that day. It is not easy stepping up in front of a hostile group, including some from your own jurisdiction and running for an office. I am proud of this member for representing California. The Grand Body elected another equally qualified candidate brother, Tom Calabrese of New Jersey. This brother shall do an excellent job. During this same meeting SGM Heckart stated that it is the Sovereign Grand Lodge’s intention to obtain accurate emails for every member of the Order, but they are not close to meeting that goal. She asked that lodges submit update rosters to the SGL office to ensure the emails are being provided. She stated that SGL wants to deliver the latest information to all members directly, including the Sovereign Grand Lodge Newsletter.
Thank goodness, one of California’s other representatives sat near the front stage during the opening night ceremony. Brother Rod Metoyer walked up to the stage to receive numerous recognitions of California’s achievements; it allowed me to sit in the back and relax, not too far from our Grand Encampment Representative, Grand Master and brother Fred Dolling. California received recognition for bringing in the most new members (127; Davis with 24 and Oceanside with 27), donating money to the Educational Foundation, a Second Place recognition for our own quarterly California Odd Fellow & Rebekah Magazine. Brother Rod who sat closest, so he did the honors of collecting the awards. There is a progressive resolution that is being laid over until 2024 that destigmatizes the use of CBD as a medicine for ailments like arthritis; however, I personality know its positive effects on cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy and have loss their appetite. For this reason alone, I did not mind the two other representatives from Oregon and Connecticut who authored the resolution to place my name on this proposal.
The legislation passed in California during our May, 2023 session was all approved without exception and becomes effective January 1, 2024.
There were many items concerning legislation this year, in addition to what has already been mentioned. For example, lodges may no longer use Historical Rituals to confer Degrees (Bill #8); trials are no longer held in the Initiatory Degree (Res. #10, 2022); the book, The Odd Fellows’ Primer was recommended that it not be given the seal of approval by the Sovereign Grand Lodge citing several errors and no revenue to SGL under discussion on the floor; one Resolution #4 concerning optional prayers in closing and opening of lodge meetings (originated in CA) is laid over until 2024; 2025 SGL session shall be held in West Virginia (Res. #13); an updated version of the video degree (originating from CA, Res. #14) will be considered in 2024 reworked video by CA member Joseph Benton and submitted by Rep. Metoyer; all Patriarchs Militants are to be called “Chevalier” and not “Member” (Res. #9, 2022); an attempt to remove the term “Liberally Construed” (Bill #3) lost, it required 2/3rds vote in favor but the vote count was 40 to 61; another bill (Bill# 26, 2022) regulated social media guidelines with many restrictions(these need to be shared with membership); Resolutions 1 & 2 which would repeal the revisions made to the Odd Fellows Ritual in 2019, the Grand Body voted to repeal; however must layover for a year as a motion to reconsider was proposed and passed and this was “sent back to the maker” on 8/23/23. This is not inclusive of all matters brought to the floor. I am looking forward to attending the 2024 sessions in Pennsylvania and grateful to the California Grand Body – especially the members of San Francisco and Solano Counties – who elected me to be your representative. May all enjoy Friendship, Love, & Truth, and if they are not yet there – or have learned to, may they get there soon.
One of the more enjoyable moments was the visit to the 12-block Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines, where I met the cheerleaders of the Kansas City Chiefs and had a photograph taken.
State of the Order Report – Sovereign Grand Lodge
“Reps. Lynch, M. of Delaware, Nichols of Ontario, Sellars of California, Otterstrom of Washington, and Cupp of Florida from the Committee on State of the Order.
To The Sovereign Grand Lodge of the I.O.O.F.
Your Committee on State of the Order reports the following: In reviewing the reports of our Order’s leaders, the underlying reoccurring message is that we must strive to educate our entire membership, across the board. From the Sovereign Grand Master’s own words, “We cannot sell what you do not have knowledge of” to the Deputy Sovereign Grand Master’s Aims & Goals, “An enthusiastic Odd Fellow who does not understand what our Order is, how it came about and its structure, will not be a good salesman for our Order.” The committee strongly agrees with these statements. All of us, regardless of rank and years should take the time to learn the history and origins of our Order so that we can effectively tell our story to non-members as well as newer members.
The committee also echoes our leaders’ messages by encouraging every jurisdiction, at all levels, to utilize the alternative means of communication. They should be striving to communicate all information to their subordinate entities. Send emails, mail letters, and hand deliver communications; every available avenue or option should be incorporated.
Once again, our Order has answered the call for assistance and continues the good works of our fraternity. The war in Ukraine sadly continues, but, we are maintaining our commitment to raising funds where they are most needed, to strengthen humanity. Most recently, we are working toward giving and providing relief to those in Maui, Hawaii. We are proud of the Disaster Relief this Order shares around the world. The aid Odd Fellows give is present at all levels of our Order. Lodges plan and execute programs and events constantly, in order to help others. This is what defines us.
The committee acknowledges the hard work and the determined effort by the Sovereign Grand Master, Sovereign Grand Secretary, Deputy Sovereign Grand Master, Sovereign Grand Warden, Sovereign Grand Treasurer, and others, who sought to get the financial aspects of this organization on track and to the expectations of the Brothers and Sisters of this Body. At the same time, every jurisdiction must do its part and submit COMPLETE reports to the office of the Sovereign Grand Secretary, as this has been one of the significant challenges faced by the office.
From one excellent leader, our Sister and Sovereign Grand Master Michelle L. Heckart, to the next one, Brother John S. Cupp, we see good things coming our way. Our Deputy Sovereign Grand Master has a plan which we hope shall succeed. He seeks to create a three-tiered membership application, where one completed section is maintained by the lodge, the next section is given to the Grand Lodge, and the last section sent to the Sovereign Grand Lodge. To have a universal type of application would ensure all levels of our Order receive required information. His program is more than encouraging.
Finally, this committee would be remiss if it failed to report a very historic advancement in having a woman as its Sovereign Grand Master. Although her abilities were never in question – her dedication and love of this Order, never doubted, Michelle L Heckart becoming the leader of the Sovereign Grand Lodge was nothing less than historic. She did not seek to break a barrier, but she did – and that barrier now non-existent. To OUR SISTER MICHELLE: THANK YOU!!!”
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