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Dangerous TSA Bylaw Changes Part 02

Nov 09, 1995 06:08 AM
by Sy Ginsburg

The following Part 02 is a Comment submitted to The American Theosophist by Sy
Ginsburg J.D. President of The Theosophical Society in Miami warning of the
dangers of certain proposed national bylaw changes. Part 01 is a cover letter
sent to Branches and Centers of the TSA urging members to vote no to proposed
changes #15 #16 #17 and #9.

The purpose of this posting Parts 1&2 is to reach as many members of The
Theosophical Society in America as possible to inform them of the dangers that
are posed. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this.
Sy Ginsburg President Miami Florida Branch TSA
Tel: 305-463-8900; Fax: 305-463-8989; E-mail:

Proposed Bylaw Changes #15 #16 #17 and #9 Pose a Real Threat to the T.S.A.
by Sy Ginsburg J.D. President Miami Branch

When disputes arise in a spiritual organization between a governing body and its
constituent branches the courts have traditionally looked to see if the
organization is episcopal or congregational in determining who controls. From a
legal perspective an episcopal organization is seen as one in which control of
both assets and teaching emanates from the highest level and is in turn
disseminated through a hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church with its hierarchy
of pope cardinals archbishops bishops and priests is an example of an
episcopal organization as is the Episcopal Anglican Church. In congregational
organizations on the other hand control over assets and teaching rests in the
assembly of each local congregation. Many protestant denominations are

The Theosophical Society has historically been a congregational organization.
This is because the only membership requirement is to be in sympathy with the 03
declared objects of the Society which have stood for over 100 years. These
objects encourage complete freedom of inquiry and enable the Theosophical
society to exist without dogma. When members have banded together in a Branch
the Branch has historically had the same right of freedom as its members. Where
Branches are incorporated as is the Miami Branch these freedoms are
traditionally expressed in the Charter and Bylaws of the corporation.

Proposed Bylaw changes #15 #16 #17 and related #9 if ratified will change
all this. These proposals will completely alter the nature of the Theosophical
Society in America TSA from a congregational organization to an episcopal
organization controlled from the top.

The national Board of Directors in its genuine concern over loss of the Boston
Branch and its assets has approved these proposed changes to protect the
Society from such further losses. But in doing so they are unwittingly doing
far more damage to the TSA than would be caused by the loss of a Branch. While
these proposed changes #15 #16 and #17 are aimed at control over Branch assets
by TSA they will along with absolute control over membership granted the TSA
national Board by proposed Bylaw change #9 also allow TSA to exert its control
over what is taught. This is in complete opposition to the declared objects.
The TSA at present does not have control over what is taught at Branches.

In a recent article "What Do We Study What Do We Teach?" by President John
Algeo The American Theosophist Late Summer 1995 John wrote "if we are a
Theosophical group that group must also give time energy and attention to
studying Theosophy not just Sufism from a Theosophical perspective or The
Wizard of Oz as a Theosophical allegory but Theosophy itself."

I basically agree with John and at the Miami Branch we currently offer 04
Theosophical study groups including one on "The Secret Doctrine" another on
"Light on the Path" and yet another on "Theosophical History." In the past year
we have also offered study groups on "The Voice of the Silence" and "The Mahatma
Letters." These are among 24 study groups currently offered at the Miami
Branch. But what our Branch offers are decisions taken at the local level.
They are the will of the members of our Branch. Once the proposed Bylaw changes
are adopted it will be possible for a future President of TSA less
democratically inclined than John Algeo to say to a Branch "You not only
"must" study certain Theosophical teaching but you "will" study them. It will
be possible for a future President to say to a Branch "you no longer will offer
study groups on Astrology Gurdjieff Krishnamurti Tarot etc."

When I was first told of these proposed Bylaw changes at the national convention
in Jul I strongly objected. I assumed that my objection was based on the
desire as a Branch President not to want to cede control over our assets.
Although I have been trained in the law it was not until I examined the court
cases that I understood how these proposed changes will fundamentally change our
Society from congregational to episcopal.

These proposed changes are so opposed to the declared objects of the Society
that I do not believe the majority of members will want them once they
understand the issue. I question whether the national Board of Directors
realize the magnitude of the change they have approved.

The Miami Branch has had 03 lengthy meetings to discuss the problem caused by
these proposed Bylaw changes. On 192210 1995 the Miami Branch approved
the following resolution:

1. The Theosophical Society in Miami a Florida not-for-profit corporation is
opposed to the substance of proposed changes to the national Bylaws of The
Theosophical Society in America #15 #16 #17 affecting relationship between the
national organizaiton and Branches and #9 which bears on these others.

2. The Theosophical Society in Miami will not change its Corporate Charter nor
its Bylaws to accommodate the above proposed national Bylaw changes should they
be adopted.

3. The Theosophical Society in Miami fully intends to continue to be a Branch of
The Theosophical Society in America and to continue to present Theosophy in
accordance with the 03 declared objects of The Theosophical society.

If these proposed Bylaw changes are adopted the Miami Branch and no doubt other
Branches will be out of harmony with the national Bylaws. I do not wish this to
happen but our Branch finds itself put in this difficult position through no
fault of our own.

I have been delegated by the members of the Miami Branch to make our views know
to the membership of the TSA and to ask your support in not allowing so
fundamental a change in the organization to occur.

To this end on behalf of the members of the Miami Branch I ask my fellow
member of the TSA to carefully consider proposed Bylaw changes #15 #16 #17 and
#9 and to vote against them.

I especially ask the members-at-large who compose the majority of the TSA
membership to help those of us who wish to do Branch service by not allowing
the fundamental character of The Theosophical Society in America to be changed.

I ask the national Board of Directors to review their action and to rescind
their approval of proposed changes #15 #16 #17 and #9 in order not to change
the fundamental character of the TSA.

Finally I ask the national Board to convene a commission including
representatives from active Branches to more carefully construct Bylaw changes
should any be needed to protect Branch assets without destroying the
fundamental freedoms that we all presently enjoy as members of the Theosophical
Society. The Miami Branch has over 100 members and is the third largest Branch
in the United States yet we were never consulted about these proposed Bylaw
changes. We need to work together to help Theosophy grow.

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