The Inclusive Order of Odd Fellows
There are many in our Order who would like to see the “I” in I.O.O.F. stand for International, instead of Independent. These members feel that changing the name is important in Order to reflect the reality of what our Order has become, a worldwide endeavor spanning twenty-six countries.
Regardless of what the “I” in I.O.O.F. officially stands for, in our hearts as Odd Fellows, it should stand for Inclusiveness. Inclusiveness is the actual historic meaning of Odd Fellows. When our Order was born from the trade guilds in England, ODD meant DIVERSE, (as in odd jobs.) A fellow was a member of a trade. Other trade guilds were exclusive. The Masons only allowed masons. The Foresters only allowed foresters. The Odd Fellows were inclusive, they encouraged diversity and allowed members of any trade to join their fraternal guild.
We teach inclusiveness in our degrees. We promise inclusiveness in our oaths. We proclaim inclusiveness in our Valediction. Nonetheless, we are humans and at times we fall short of the goals, dreams and benchmarks that we have set for ourselves. Our Order is not perfect, because we the members are not perfect. We make mistakes based on fear, misinformation, and prejudice. That is nature of being human. It is not however the nature of being an Odd Fellow.
Odd Fellowship calls us to move beyond our fears and prejudice and to recognize the fact that we are all one, inclusive, human family. To be true to the tenets and ideals of Odd Fellowship, we must embrace and cultivate inclusiveness. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American humans all belong in our family and in our Order. Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans humans are all our brothers and sisters and all of them belong in our Order. “Non-disabled”, blind, deaf, autistic, physically and developmentally challenged humans all have equal claim to the vision and dream of Odd Fellowship.
Inclusiveness is the meaning of Odd Fellowship, and it is also the only hope for our Order’s survival. Lodges that insist on being private, exclusive clubs are dying out right and left. That is unavoidable. If a lodge does not have enough active members to make a quorum, then it cannot keep its charter. In order to survive, our lodges must grow their membership. Growth, by definition means change. A lodge cannot grow if new members and the changes they bring are not welcomed and encouraged. Lodges that insist on being exclusive will continue to lose members and will eventually lose their charters.
On the other hand, inclusive and welcoming lodges are experiencing rapid and exciting growth. The internet is filled with examples of forward thinking, inclusive lodges that are not only surviving, but thriving. Why? Because they have rejected the private club mentality that drives new members away. They have broken down the barriers between lodge and community, and have reclaimed DIVERSITY as the true meaning of ODD.
The world is filled with humans who want to be our brothers and sisters. As Odd Fellows, it is our duty and our destiny to throw open the lodge doors and to welcome all of our brothers and sisters home.
Peninsula Lodge#128, Portland Oregon