MJS Archive Contents
The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive
Major Growth Steps in the Urantia Movement
3/14/92; Revised 1/28/98
I. Freedom from Oligarchy and Authoritarianism and the Triumph of Democracy
During the first forty years of its existence the Urantia movement has evolved
from a handful of readers of The Urantia Book in Chicago to hundreds
of study groups and thousands of readers throughout the world. Without mass
media publicity or promotion over 300,000 copies of the book have been purchased
and grass root foundations of the movement have been established. But perhaps
the most important development during the early years has been the triumph
of spiritual freedom and participatory democracy.
When I first started attending General Council meetings in the early sixties,
everything was preplanned, predetermined, cut and dried. No one was expected
to interject anything new or different. After being in the group for a while,
I recall I had the audacity to suggest that we initiate a Newsletter. One
of the "old timers" got his feet and facing me with pointed finger
told me in no uncertain terms what a ridiculous ideas that was. Fortunately,
not long after that, the Executive Committee did start publishing a Newsletter.
But I had learned my lesson. If you wanted to propose something, go to a member
of the controlling oligarchy to get it approved.
Another key factor in the development of the Urantia movement was the early
loss of its most creative and effective leaders, such as Bill Sadler and Warren
and Alvin Kulieke. As a result of this loss of creative leadership and Dr.
Sadler's death, the temperament of the second-order Chicago leadership
became increasingly conservative, defensive, and fearful. Policies and activities
were geared to protect the status quo and decisions, in my judgment, were
made more out of fear than guided by wisdom or spiritual direction.
When I became president of the Brotherhood, one of my central objectives was
to establish the principles of participatory democracy, openness, and freedom
in Brotherhood activities. We fairly well succeeded in starting the process
but it took many years for it to be fully accepted and flower in the Fellowship.
This was a foundational growth step in the Urantia movement.
II. Freedom from Charismatic Control and the Ascendancy of Evolutionary—Rational Direction
Most people in the Urantia movement are acquainted with the Vern Grimsley-Clayton
incident. Vern was a gifted person with exceptional oratorical abilities.
He founded the Family of God Foundation and established an extensive radio
ministry. For years his inspirational talks were the highlight of conferences.
His charismatic eloquence captivated many people. Since I had introduced Vern
to The Urantia Book, I followed his career with great interest. Early
on, I became concerned about his clever manipulative control in the Urantia
movement. I observed Vern increasingly building a power base of influence
in the Brotherhood, but always gave him the benefit of my doubts and concern.
In late 1983, a year after Emma Christensen (the last Contact Commissioner)
died, Vern announced that he was receiving special messages telling of the
imminent beginning of World War III and urged the Executive Committee of Urantia
Brotherhood to move their headquarters to his place in Clayton, California
which, he assured them, would be safe. I immediately warned the Executive
Committee and General Council against this deception. There ensued considerable
confusion, fear, and agitation among the readers of The Urantia Book and
it took years for the scene to clarify. The Family of God disintegrated and
Vern was deserted by all but a few people.
This was a sobering but healthful and strengthening experience for the new
movement. As a result, it is highly unlikely that any charismatic person or
channeling phenomena will ever be able to capture the Urantia movement. Evolutionary-rational
thought and solid experiential judgment has triumphed over charismatic emotionalism
and psychic delusions.
III. Freedom from Legalistic Power Control and the Growing Dominance of
Cooperative Team Work
In the l960's Martin Myers was invited to move in with Dr. Sadler and
Christy to help with chores and activities of the Foundation and Brotherhood
offices. Following Dr. Sadler's death, Martin increasingly took over
leadership influence at the Chicago office. In some ways Christy became a
captive of this situation and at times discussed it with me. She felt there
was little she could do about it; however, she did prevent Martin from quitting
his bank job to take over formal direction of the headquarters offices as
he wished to do.
As Martin Myers' influence increased, he was soon elected as a trustee
of the Foundation. As a result, legalistic thinking and legal counsel began
to direct Foundation activities. Legal minds devised a method through the
registered marks to control the entire movement. Under Martin's direction
the Foundation became increasingly autocratic. On Several occasions he implied
or directly threatened to take away the service marks from the Brotherhood
if they did not follow his advice. Over a period of years he became the center
of controversy. Finally, in l989 three Foundation trustees resigned and two
professional office administrators handed in their resignations because they
could not work with him and maintain their spiritual integrity.
During this same period the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood informed
Martin that they would no longer tolerate his autocracy. After a series of
exchanges in which the Brotherhood refused to follow his directives, Martin
took away their license to use the service marks and terminated their office
lease at 533 Diversey Parkway.
This action brought about the advent of the Fellowship of Readers of The Urantia Book and finally freed the Urantia movement from legalistic and
authoritarian control. It is highly unlikely that the Urantia movement will
ever again be shackled by legalism and autocratic domination.
IV. Freedom from Centralized Organizational Control and the Awakening
of the Power of Individual Effort and Pluralistic Outreach
We have made great strides in opening the Urantia movement to the freedom
of spiritual guidance and to the dynamics of participatory democracy. We have
matured and gained strength through traumatic experiences that have educated
us to the dangers of charismatic manipulation, legalistic power control, and
channeling fantasies. As great and important as these growth steps are, there
still lingers in the minds of many the illusion that the march of the Fifth
Epochal Revelation into the world is dependent on the plans and directives
coming out of "official" organizations in Chicago.
Recent events demonstrate that the Urantia movement has come of age. The Fifth
Epochal Revelation has left the protective confines of centralized control
in Chicago and has gone out into the world. Local societies and study groups
are no longer waiting for official directives to determine their outreach
ministry. Independent organizations like the Asoka Foundation, the Jesusonian
Foundation, The Christian Fellowship of Students of The Urantia Book and
others are breaking ground for the spread of a diversified, pluralistic outreach
We should contemplate hypotheses as to how or why these errors and discrepancies
V. The Growing Significance of a Socioreligious Expression of The Fifth Epochal
Over the year many of us assumed that wide-spread interest in The Urantia Book would bring a spiritual renaissance in our society. After forty years
of interfacing with mainline religious leaders in the hope of getting them
to undertake a critical examination of The Urantia Book, it is obvious
that the spiritual paradigm shift of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is too great
for them to undertake at this time. It will probably be generations before
The Urantia Book will be recognized as an acceptable resource for study
in the Christian Church.
At the same time there has been a growing hunger among readers of The Urantia Book for identity in a bona fide religious organization along with its
spiritual ministrations from birth to death. We are beginning to realize that
the viability of the Fifth Epochal Revelation must be established through
indigenous religious institutions. I am confident that sooner or later such
new religious organizations will evolve. It will be interesting to see the
many forms and types that these groups will take. The Urantia movement is
now launched on the high seas of evolutionary spiritual adventure.