Statement of a former Trustee of the Urantia Foundation
June 21, 1990
Understandably, readers of The URANTIA Book everywhere are baffled, disillusioned and angry at the hypocrisy of internecine warfare over a revelation of love. The seeds of this difficulty have been planted over the years, some inadvertently, and the results have converged explosively and publicly in the last year. The circumstances are raising questions: What is the crisis? How could this have happened? How may the book and the readers be affected? As a recently resigned Trustee of Urantia Foundation, (my term: April 4, 1985-July 7, 1989), I can offer opinion from one perspective, and a few facts which can be corroborated or documented.
The crisis is leadership within Urantia Foundation.
An effective leader sets priorities in terms of agreed goals; encourages teamwork; exhibits tact, tolerance and respect. S/he establishes a climate of good will; shares information with members of the group and trusts them to do some of the work; guides discussions which are open and focused on issues; submits a budget and seeks group approval before incurring major expenses; brings advisors in person to assist deliberations; is consistent in applying procedures specified in the By-laws. During my four plus years as Trustee, each of these was either wholly or partially missing in the leadership.
A presiding officer sets the agenda and the tone. To the extreme discomfort of other Trustees, the President, Martin Myers, as spokesman, gave the impression that the Foundation was rejecting, judgmental and dictatorial by responding to the Brotherhood and others with delay, neglect, secrecy, isolation, condescension and attacks on individuals. In Board meetings, the climate was often tense, suspicious, secretive. There was no prayer or reading from the book. No background material was offered me as a new Trustee. When I wished to call the attorney to ask a question, I was told in shouts that I was attempting to control the Board. I soon learned there were no written operating policies, (p. 3 of the Special Report), and the policies therefore changed easily. There were no criteria for selection of a new Trustee; eventual cronyism on the Board seemed inevitable.
At the time I became a Trustee, I found that communications within the Board, and between Urantia Foundation and Urantia Brotherhood, other groups and individuals, ranged from mediocre to abysmal. Some letters had been waiting 18 months for reply, even acknowledgment. The President and members of the staff had very little contact. Meetings and conference calls were sometimes disrupted by the President's temper tantrums. I observed that some decisions were made outside of meetings after the President consulted with the attorneys, and Board deliberations were by-passed. I was directed by the President not to. speak to Urantia friends Julia Fenderson and Mo Siegel, later Duane Faw and Berkeley Elliott, (which directive I ignored). When I early expressed concern about some of these situations, I was unprepared for the verbal abuse and being told, "I do not invite your input." During the last nine months of my term, with two or three exceptions, the President did not speak to me although I sat in his living room for day-long Board meetings. The Trustees met in Chicago at least four times a year on weekends for one and a half to two days; there were as many as 40 items on the agenda; all were not necessarily addressed; some reappeared for years. ( Infringements by a Spanish novelist, Benitez, were examples; the first of these came to Board attention in June, 1985; his books now have world-wide distribution; one is in its 47th printing.) Communication problems with Urantia Brotherhood were perennial; for five months last year, the President of Urantia Foundation refused to speak to David Elders, President of (then) Urantia Brotherhood.
The recently mailed Special Report of the Foundation, (April, 1990), is itself an example of management techniques which have weakened the Board's effectiveness, put its integrity in question and made a mockery of its commitment to the teachings:
A. Repeatedly the Brotherhood and others have been accused of incorrect procedures and unacceptable behavior of which the Foundation itself is guilty. (When pointed out, this repeated pattern was angrily denied by the President.) Two examples:
1) The Report mentions the Foundation's generosity in granting the Brotherhood a low rent, $750/mo, (p. 6), but it omits the fact that the Foundation President for a considerable period of time had been paying less for more space, his apartment in the headquarters building, plus garage.
2) As the Report opposes the authoritarian tendencies in "churchification," (p. 8), how can the Foundation rigidly adhere to its right of "primacy" over all related groups and individuals? How can its offers of "conciliation" to the Fellowship require prior acceptance of this "primacy?"
B. Some major issues have not been addressed on their merits, but with first regard for who was involved. Apparently the need for the President to prevail over persons who had differed with him superseded Board business. (One example: To meet repeated pleas for the book on tape, Berkeley Elliott sent a proposal including a financial benefactor and a professional recorder; this proposal was never acknowledged.) My perception, shared by others, was that issues were used to retaliate and dominate. This practice, combined with poor planning and refusal of the President, even when urged, to meet with the concerned parties, resulted in thousands more dollars paid in legal fees than otherwise would have been necessary, and without budget deliberations by the Board. Expenditures-legal, auditing, accounting-1987: $116, 771; 1988: $393,029 Operating Balance-1987: $85,462; Operating Deficit, 1988: $270,599
(See Arthur Anderson Audit, Urantia Foundation, March 10,1989)
The current issues of Foundation/Fellowship relations and of trademark are not being addressed on their merits. The altercation, namely: What constraints may a trademark licensor impose on a licensee? could be settled at the conference table if the Foundation so chose. In a climate of good will, trademark could be a focus of cooperation.
C. Numerous statements in the Special Report are distorted, incomplete or untrue. Three examples:
1) By "...consensus decision by All of the four other Trustees, [Helena] was asked to submit her resignation..." (p.19-1); if true, they would have voted my removal, 4 out of 4 votes being required;
2) Bill Sadler's April, 1958 report, speaks to and for the first Board of Trustees, of which he was a member; it is quoted in part on p. 8, but the basic principle he includes is omitted: "We have the power to dominate. I do not think we should use it. God has the power and He doesn't use it."
3) The Foundation now "must raise funds...~' (p.13) to print The URANTIA Book; properly managed, the Perpetual Printing Fund is adequate.
Why didn't recently resigned Trustees stick it out? I can only speak for myself. It appeared to me that the President felt accountable to no one. However, a Trustee of a private or charitable trust is charged by law with ethical, legal and financial responsibilities to the beneficiaries, (all of you), and is in an untenable position when s/he cannot fulfill these obligations because of the autocratic methods of the President. Add a lack of majority willingness within the Board to address the leadership problem, (I believed a first step could have been election of another President), and my resignation, while sad for me, was more than "personal." It was a public declaration of disassociation from ethically unacceptable policies and practices, and of the hope that successors can bring improvements in this regard.
How could this Foundation/Brotherhood division have happened?
Urantia Foundation was established under the Illinois statutes by a small, dedicated and trusting group of Forum members in 1950. The Trustees are charged in the "trust instrument," the Declaration of Trust, to:
a) Protect the text inviolate;
b) Devise, develop and effectuate means and methods of dissemination;
c) Manage entrusted funds for these purposes.
They are also directed to compose and abide by a set of By-laws. The Special Report falsely adds "trademarks and service marks'' (p.1); these words are not found in the Declaration of Trust.
By tradition, the number of Trustees is five, and they serve until resignation, removal or death. A vacancy is filled by the remaining Trustees. An officer of the Board may be removed at any time for any reason by a majority vote; removal of a Trustee from the Board requires a unanimous vote of the others, 4 out of 4. During my term, there were not the votes to meet either of these requirements. The last election of officers, (3 year term), was April 29, 1989. The slate got unanimous support based on the President's solemn commitment to change his methods and to follow the operating guidelines spelled out under "Role of the President" in the Functional Reorganization Plan. This plan had been developed by three Trustees who made up an Ad Hoc Committee, which one Trustee had asked the President to appoint. I later became aware that Martin Myers had broken his commitment to the plan within the first month.
Under present law, the copyright ends in 2030; trademark continues indefinitely. No one--NO ONE--wants to jeopardize the book or sidetrack its dissemination. A Foundation as a legal entity is appropriate and important. However, there are no historical models of how to deal with a revelation; I and many others believe that all involved bear some responsibility for the present tangled situation. In my view, Trustees and those assuming responsibilities in the Brotherhood/Fellowship, with rare exceptions, are and have been sincerely concerned for the good of the movement, willing to give much time and energy and dedicated to spiritual values.
Martin Myers became a Trustee in 1973 and President in 1984. For years, those within or close to the central organizations have observed that his temperamental behavior and emotional style have not been constructive. In loyalty and in concern for unity through this time, they worked around the idiosyncrasies; little was said and he continued to be involved. Martin apparently believes that he is designated by "mandates" to govern the affairs of The URANTIA Book. (These used to be called "instructions," and early Trustees were asked to read them; this was not the case during my term.) Martin has been heard, with several present, to bestow approval of the midwayers on one individual, and to tell another, "The midwayers are not pleased with you" and " You are in league with Lucifer." The chosen person attitude is the Achilles' heel of religious movements and of governing systems in which checks and balances are inadequate. Tyrants only survive because their subjects let them. When one challenges self adoration, one takes risks, but setting limits can be a loving act.
I believe that "mandates'' kept secret and false and misleading statements in the Special Report, which was sent to thousands of readers, are examples of intent to manipulate and control the Urantia movement. To resort to the law in an effort to impose such control can be destructive and futile. The legalists at the Temple rejected Jesus' teachings in order to keep their "exalted" positions. His response: "Woe unto you." In due time, it came.
Personal study of The URANTIA Book reveals guidelines for its management, and yardsticks for each sincere reader to measure the values demonstrated among us. The teachings are invaluable in searching for answers to: "What are the priorities?"' "What is the intent?"
How does all this affect the book and the readers?
Any group looks to the honesty of its leadership; we depend on intentions consistent with extraordinary responsibilities, dedicated service, highest ethical standards, and spiritual values. In the present confusion, it's hard for those having little background or personal contact to determine whom and what to believe. A blizzard of mailings may be frustrating, but how else to get information? Direct questions to those who have been involved may be more satisfactory, and I hope readers will inquire.
The URANTIA Book is available, the copyright in place, the contents unchanged. It may be read, studied, shared in study groups as usual. You may remain removed from the organizations which function in its behalf, or choose to serve them. Either way, they will serve you.
A central organization is a resource for history and facts, a structure for networking and services, for avoiding duplication and confusion, for reaching decisions through group wisdom. Fifth Epochal Fellowship, with strong ties of trust, respect and integrity, with financial means and creative talent, is committed to spiritual goals-the Father's business. Threats from without tend to solidify bonds within, and now there is a fresh vitality and eagerness to get on with our business in His behalf, to distribute the book, gently to share its wisdom, to "know, study, live" the teachings.
Wherever you are, whatever may occupy your daily life, however you may view the strengths and weaknesses of organizations, your person-to-person, spirit-led associations will continue to be the most effective and enduring dissemination .
We are all persons, equally loved by the Father. May we all be receptive to His guidance.
H. E. S.
cc The Executive Committee, Fifth Epochal Fellowship
Urantia Foundation Trustees, Former Trustees
Others upon request