This report is a draft written by one of California’s Grand Representatives. It allows the membership to get a sense of what happens at Sovereign Grand Lodge. It touches on what this Grand Representative sees from his perspective. With the reports or input of our other Grand Representative, which there are two for the Odd Fellows branch, the members can find out the latest changes at Sovereign Grand Lodge.
Once again, your Grand Representatives for this jurisdiction actively participated in the sessions of the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL). There was a total of 100 voting representatives at the session. This year’s convention, historically called the Annual Communication, was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where committees and presentations and other events took place at either the Embassy Suites or the Marriott Hotel, which was conveniently located near the Sovereign Grand Lodge headquarters.
Your representatives are required to be familiar with all legislation prior to the start of the business meetings. Brothers Rodney Metoyer and Peter Sellars, Grand Lodge Representatives, along with California’s other elected representative from the Grand Encampment, Brother Fred Dolling, attended the required orientation. Because of a mix-up for the past two years, both of your Grand Representatives stepped up to be sworn in by obligation. Terms for Grand Representatives begin and end on the day of swearing into office at Sovereign Grand Lodge, rather than at the session of a given jurisdiction.
Your representatives attended all required dinner events, including the formal opening and installation dinners. California was well represented, as many members from California come to lend support and to acquaint themselves with the session, as well as the events. For the past few years, our jurisdiction has been working to earn the respect of everyone and not appear uninterested in the programs and projects of the Sovereign Grand Lodge. We were honored as the representatives (including Brother Dolling) to present large contributions on the floor during sessions.
On the first morning of the session, prior to the start, we placed the attractive pin of California’s Grand Master, brother Redgie Fleeman at the seat of every representative. Many members expressed their thanks. This tradition allows other jurisdictions to see the generosity of various states.
It should be noted that at the formal opening dinner event, the Sovereign Grand Master set aside time to introduce Californian Brother Jermaine JJ Soto the World Champion in Muay Thai of San Fernando Lodge No. 365, where Brother Soto put on a demonstration for the audience. Nearly everyone seemed enthralled with this brother. After the dinner and the demonstration, many lined up to get his autograph, a picture with him, or purchase one of his attractive shirts. The representatives and members of California appeared to take pride in claiming Brother Soto being from California. A memorable moment indeed.
Having Sister Michelle Heckart, of Iowa, assume the seat as this Order’s Sovereign Grand Master was this most impactful, historical, and significant event of the session. She became the first female to ever become the Sovereign Grand Master. She knows she has California’s best wishes during her year.
The Installation of the General Military Council (GMC) was well-attended. These members presented themselves with pride. The elected officers of all Grand Bodies attended this event as well. The installation followed the social party hosted by California, which has become a wonderful way for members from other jurisdictions to find time to meet Californians, and not be misled by any rumors or otherwise.
Brother Metoyer worked on the Committee on Ritualistic Work and Brother Sellars worked on the State of the Order Committee. These committees stay busy, as do many. Again, your representatives are familiar with all legislation, whether it may be a change to the code or the ritual. Often, these items are referred to multiple committees where other committees must be consulted for a census or a decision. Everything flows quickly because there is a lot of ground to cover and reports must be submitted by a specific time each day. Because Brothers Metoyer and Sellars were on both of these committees, input was provided by each to their fellow committee members, concerning a resolution (coming from California) to change the opening of the lodge, thus pushing it towards its passage. Of course, not everything passes, but careful thought by mostly experienced members is given. A point to remember, as it was reiterated on the floor by the Sovereign Grand Master, Chuck Lusk, is that debate is allowed on every report of a committee and resolutions are not assigned to the Legislation Committee.
There were 28 bills (including layovers) listed in the daily reports, as well as 12 resolutions, and many reports, which the Grand Body had to work with. Of the 27 bills, 3 were laid over, 2 were not adopted, 2 were withdrawn, and 20 were adopted. Of the 15 resolutions (including layovers) 6 were adopted, 2 were not adopted, and 5 were not completed. There were several reports shown as not being addressed, which is an obvious error on the part of the Sovereign Grand Secretary, as the State of the Order Committee to whom these were assigned, were presented as “bundled” which has become more common in recent years. This means that the committee presented a list of reports and asked that several be approved in a single vote by the Grand Body to save on redundancy and on time, but still given its attention and respect at the committee meetings. Somehow, these were not listed as being approved – or disapproved.
The Sovereign Grand Lodge State of the Order Committee presented its annual report based on the collective reports of the line officers, which was read on the floor by Brother Sellars. The theme of the report addressed issues between members and that these be resolved and “left at the door of the lodge.” There were far too many trials, which caused the entire chapter of the code to be rewritten. Our members must live by the principles of Friendship, Love, & Truth. It was unanimously approved by the Grand Body.
It was an honor to accept an award to California’s Yerba Buena Lodge No. 15 in recognition for its large contribution to the I.O.O.F. Education Foundation, which also earned California its own plaque for overall funds contributed toward that wonderful program. It was bittersweet for this representative who had faced a trial for such donations, being accused of “spending down the funds of the lodge”!
Several bills were related to the recent changes to the Patriarchs Militant and the uniform changes. This had been a project of several years of attempts by members of the GMC. Members who use items of the uniform prior to this recent change will still be allowed to wear what they have until it becomes unserviceable; this will be cost effective for those in this branch of Odd Fellowship. The layover bill from 2021, involving the elimination of the encampment branch, was not assigned this year and appears to still be laid over to 2023. This bill was reported as “favorable” in 2021 by the two committees it was assigned to at that time; however, several members lined up at the mic to voice their concerns, which caused the bill to be returned to the committees for further consideration, but again, this bill was listed this year, but not assigned to any committees. If it would have passed in 2021, we would have seen a dramatic increase in representatives to SGL. It is a bill we must pay close attention and watch.
The bills that were passed do not have a critical impact on how the lodges functions. I would say that Bill No. 13 – 2022 dealing with the Trials was one of two bills that could change the way business and fraternal issues are handled. SGL now handles all charges and trials and trial committee appointments, etc. For those offenses committed after September 1, 2022, are now subject to a statute of limitations of one year. For financial matters, the statute of limitations is five years; and for those who had committed criminal offenses, it is ten years. Those accusers bringing charges against a member that are deemed frivolous shall be suspended “with a 364-day suspension.” The fact that the Sovereign Grand Master (then and now) and this bill originating from the Executive Committee and that they are seeking a reduction or slowdown in trials, this chapter change may have an immediate impact. The entire chapter was replaced.
Another bill that directly affects California deals with the number of Term Directors. Bill No. 9 – 2022 passed which negates our own jurisdiction’s recent vote to have six Term Directors, limiting that number to only three Term Directors. This was a discussed at length at the Legislation Committee meetings more than once. Within that same bill, was another controversial passage that reads, “The Grand Master shall serve as chairman/president of the Board.” California has not operated as a typical Odd Fellows Executive Committee because of how corporations are governed. To support our position, we should provide documentation to SGL or we could be challenged. This matter was discussed at length during the Legislation Committee meetings.
Peter Sellars, PGM
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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