Sign in

What is the Abraham Lincoln Society?

by Don Morrison

Anyone paying close attention to peals rung in North America will have noticed one published electronically today, 19 May, as rung for the Abraham Lincoln Society. Members of the band that rang this peal feel others might experience some confusion or worry about this, and so have asked me to post this explanation on the NAGCR web site. It is particularly important to stress that the Abraham Lincoln Society is not intended to be a competitor to the North American Guild, merely an adjunct for peals that cannot be rung for the NAGCR.

Those who were at the NAGCR AGM last year, or have been following the web site, will know that there was an unfortunate brouhaha over the acceptance by the NAGCR of several peals rung for it. Members of several bands were slothful in renewing their dues. While in all cases they did subsequently renew them, they did not do so as quickly as the officers of the Guild deemed necessary, and the officers decided these peals could not be rung for the Guild. Many details can be seen on the NAGCR web site at https://nagcr.org/discuss/2012/09/peal-requirements.html, as well as some other postings in that section around the same dates.

Unsurprisingly, some of the members of the bands whose peals were not accepted feel their efforts are not welcomed nor appreciated by the Guild, and so have subsequently allowed their memberships to lapse. This includes not just those ringers who did subsequently pay their back dues but still not have their performance recognized, but also some in the bands whose dues were current at the time the peals were rung. This presents a bit of a problem when a North American band rings a peal that includes one of these folks.

Today, we rang a good peal of six spliced surprise major that we felt represented an accomplishment for North American ringing, but that cannot be rung for the North American Guild as one of our band was one of the disaffected ringers. Had we published it merely as blandly "non-association" it would not have brought attention to it being an accomplishment for North American ringing. So we chose to constitute the Abraham Lincoln Society as a banner under which peals of which North American ringing can be proud, but that are not acceptable to the NAGCR, can be published. Again, I would like to emphasize that this is not intended to be a competitor to the NAGCR, and we are not trying to poke at anyone. We simply want to attach a name to this, and possibly future, performances, not acceptable to the NAGCR, but that we think reflect credit on North American ringing. In particular, our intention is only to credit to it peals that the NAGCR will not accept. Should the current contretemps be resolved, and peace and harmony reign again, I would expect peals would likely no longer be rung for the Abraham Lincoln Society.

While Lincoln was a US President, the intention is not to exclude Canadian ringers. We thought hard about a suitable name for the Society, and wanted to ensure we did not pick one that sounded at all like "North American Guild." We considered "American and Canadian Guild," but it seemed to make it too likely that it might mistakenly appear as a competitor, which we emphatically do not want. So, our apologies to North American ringers in Canada, we are not trying to exclude you in any way.

The rules of the Abraham Lincoln Society are four:

  1. The Society shall be called the "Abraham Lincoln Society of Change Ringers."
  2. Peals may be rung for the Society by any band with a North American connection, whose performance reflects or helps the development of change ringing in North America.
  3. In case of dispute about whether or not a performance meets criterion (2), above, it is to be settled by a simple majority vote of all of those members of the band that rang the inaugural peal for the Society, of six spliced surprise major on 19 May 2013, and who remain active ringers.
  4. These rules may be amended at any time by a simple majority vote of all of those members of the band that rang the inaugural peal for the Society, of six spliced surprise major on 19 May 2013, and who remain active ringers.

Finally, I think I should explain why I am posting this in the Articles section, rather than under Member Discussions. As this concerns former members who I presume are no longer granted access to the member discussions, it would seem rude to hide this message away where they are not allowed to see it. And counter-productive, too: if there are any responses posted to this, they may possibly be really addressed to the disaffected former members, and so it really needs to be where they can read them!

Posted May 20, 2013

Responses

Susan O'NeillMay 20 2013, 4:59 pm

"North American connection" seems a bit loose, deliberately so? So a band doesn't have to be at least 1/2 or 6/8 North American? Peals can be rung anywhere? And no dues?

Don MorrisonMay 20 2013, 5:26 pm

Correct on all counts.

Jeremy BatesMay 22 2013, 12:30 pm

I take it that I have just read the Society's Emancipation Proclamation.

Frederick DuPuyJul 07 2013, 10:15 pm

A witty point, Jeremy — but let me be clear that nothing so portentous should be imagined!

As Don's piece attempted to indicate, the Abraham Lincoln Society is not intended as a rival to the NAG, or, indeed, as any sort of fully-functioning guild. It is rather a 'flag of convenience' for North American ringing which cannot be credited to the NAG. The vast majority of those who have rung in a peal for the ALS are also active members of the NAG, from which we have no idea of secession.

Jeremy BatesJul 10 2013, 11:21 am

But the reason the new society was created is that a small minority of those who have rung for ALS peals have very much seceded from the NAG.

So in my view, "Abraham Lincoln Society" is an odd misnomer.

Don MorrisonJul 10 2013, 1:43 pm

I am dispirited that all the discussion, both here, and at greater length in other channels, has focused almost exclusively on the arbitrary, surface issue of the name, which was chosen in a good faith, though apparently failed, attempt not to cause undo offense; and that not one word has been uttered about the more important issue of what we can do to heal the rift, to make the North American Guild a more welcoming society, that the disaffected members will want to rejoin, and enable the bands that have been ringing peals for the Abe Society to instead ring them for the NAGCR. Please do not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of those in these peals would much prefer to ring them for the NAGCR, but currently cannot, through no fault of their own.

Jeremy BatesJul 27 2013, 4:27 am

Don, I agree that it is unfortunate that some innocent ringers are having to ring peals that are not for the Guild. But I think you and I would disagree on who is to blame for this.

The underlying issue is whether ringers can receive Guild benefits (ringing peals for the Guild) without bearing Guild burdens (paying their dues reasonably on time).

This underlying issue has been discussed at length, both in the member discussions that you link to, and more importantly at the last annual meeting. According to the AGM minutes, a motion was made to recognize the two disallowed peals—and this motion was deferred by the assembled dues-paying members.

The members’ democratic decision to support the Guild’s elected officers in this matter has apparently not been accepted by a small minority of (now former) members.

That is their right. It is also their right not to renew their memberships. But in so doing, if they raise a new “flag of convenience,” they cannot complain at their choice of flag being scrutinized.

Why was the choice Abraham Lincoln—the sixteenth U.S. president, who led the Union through the Civil War, and freed the slaves, and died from an assassin’s bullet?

I was present at the pub discussion in New York when the new society’s name was first mentioned. At the time, regrettably, people were casting about for names that would connote liberation. Is that really an appropriate connotation, in this context?

It is also interesting to observe that the Ringing World’s peal list is organized alphabetically by society name. If the point of the Abraham Lincoln name is to place this new society’s peals atop that alphabetical list, then the name of a national martyr is being used for mere self-aggrandizement.

Indeed, the issue of dues non-payment is an odd mast on which to raise a flag bearing the Lincoln name. Lincoln favored people paying their “dues”—he enacted the first federal income tax. And of course Lincoln opposed secession, and wanted democratic decisions to be abided by.

In sum, flag and vessel are badly mismatched.

“Flag of convenience”? Or false colors?

Don MorrisonJul 27 2013, 2:43 pm

I fear one point Jeremy makes may lead others to draw mistaken conclusions. He refers to some pub conversation in New York, and I suspect some reading this may infer that this somehow had something to do with the creation or naming of the society. It did not. The name was chosen by the band that rang the first peal for the Society, in a conversation begun electronically, and concluded in a Pittsburgh restaurant the night before the first peal rung for it, by the diverse band that only included one New York ringer. At no time during this discussion was there any mention of "liberation." The name was chosen as folks were searching for a name that would be significantly different than the NAGCR's, as there was fear the society's purpose might be misconstrued were the name to include the words "American" and "Canadian." Contrary to any purported "liberation" theme, the general tone of the discussion was of sadness and regret, amid repeated declarations that folks would really rather be ringing the peal for the NAGCR. I was not present for the New York pub conversation to which Jeremy refers, so can't know, but I suspect it probably occurred sometime later, and thus was a post hoc analysis.

Jeremy BatesJul 27 2013, 9:29 pm

Don, you say, “I suspect some reading this may infer that this [pub discussion] somehow had something to do with the creation or naming of the society. It did not.”

You also say, “I suspect [the pub discussion] probably occurred sometime later, and thus was a post hoc analysis.”

But of course, as you concede, you weren’t there. So you really have no basis for either assertion.

I was there.

I would not have written, “I was present at the pub discussion in New York when the new society’s name was first mentioned” if I did not have a very, very strong recollection of the new society's name being suggested, at a pub conversation, here in New York, for the first time.

That pub discussion took place, naturally enough, much closer to the underlying events. I believe that it took place last October, if not before.

How the name got to Pittsburgh I do not know.

But at the pub in New York, people were indeed trying to think of a ringing-society name that might connote liberation. Various names were mentioned—I thought, at the time, in jest.

I remember thinking, while walking home from the pub, that to name a splinter group after the Union’s preserver would be a mistake.

Imagine my surprise when, months later, the idea I hoped had died at the pub was the title of your post above.

Don MorrisonJul 29 2013, 3:53 am

Jeremy, I am having rather a lot of trouble with this. The only explanations I can work out is that this is either an astounding coincidence, or that your memory is somehow playing tricks on you. Why am I so puzzled? Because it was I who first proposed this name as one we might consider.

I tossed it out for consideration in an email dated May 7 of this year, that said "I suppose if we wanted an even more neutral name, we could go with 'Abraham Lincoln Society.'" I wrote that in response to objections from others in the band that "American and Canadian Association" sounded too much like North American Guild, and might cause confusion about our motives. I was clearly mistaken about it being seen by others as a neutral name, though that was certainly my intention. In fact, my own worry about the name that I raised at the time was that it might be seen as too US centric, and I did not even begin to envision that it would be seen in the light in which it now seems to be being taken. That is, it was proposed as a way of seeming less like a separatist organization, and it was on that basis that the choice of "American and Canadian Association" was rejected. Sadly, though unintentionally, it appears now to be being taken in just as bad a light as it appears "American and Canadian Association" would have been, with the added misfortune of causing some consternation to Canadian ringers.

In any case, contrary to what you state, the name did not "get to Pittsburgh." It arose here spontaneously. I have not set foot in New York since 2010, though am looking forward to visiting it again next month and again in November. At no time did anyone suggest the name to me before I, in hindsight sadly, thought of it myself. The only New York ringer in our band did not even comment on the thread at all until after I had suggested it as a possible alternative, I thought more "bland," name. And his comment at that time expressed no preference for any particular name, only that we should be sure to communicate clearly our motivations, and our desire not to be viewed as a competitor to the North American Guild. In the end that task fell to me, and I have tried very hard to make such communication, and am sad at how badly I seem to have failed.

I am also sad that I now seem to be expending all my wind defending the name, which I, apparently mistakenly, thought was an arbitrary, surface issue. And that we find ourselves discussing it nearly exclusively, instead of trying to collaborate to find a way of healing the underlying rift which has precipitated this whole issue.

Jeremy BatesJul 29 2013, 11:29 am

Don, during the pub discussion about liberators, after Abraham Lincoln was mentioned, a New York ringer was very favorably impressed with that name’s alphabetical primacy.

So I do not doubt the sincerity of your memory, or the accuracy of your e-mail records; and a coincidence is possible; but I also think it is possible that over the many months between the New York pub discussion and your May 7 e-mail, there were conversations in which the idea was shared.

In my own view, the name Abraham Lincoln should be reserved for more important causes than a few ringers’ refusals to pay their Guild dues.

In contrast, you say that on May 7, you proposed using the name Abraham Lincoln “as a way of seeming less like a separatist organization.”

In other words, the new society’s name is a public-relations strategy—a conscious effort to use a historically unifying figure to minimize perceptions of divisiveness.

I agree that it would have been counterproductive to use, for example, “Jefferson Davis Society.”

But in my opinion, the new society’s public-relations strategy has been transparent and unpersuasive.

To repeat: “Flag of convenience?” Or false colors?

Michael F SchulteJul 29 2013, 2:20 pm

Jeremy, try to set the name aside for a moment, and focus on what the goal was. We wanted to do something that would signify a North American achievement (something which "Non-association" fails to do) without setting up something that could be construed as a competitor to the North American Guild.

Most of those involved in the conversation were saddened that this was a needed action on our parts. We would have preferred to ring our peals for the Guild. However, that was not possible under the circumstances.

Again, the only motivations I have seen as any part of the conversation were (a) choose a name that indicates a North American achievement, and (b) clearly indicate that it is not intended as a competitor to the NAGCR. It was not, as far as I am aware, intended to support a cause, though with hindsight we're seeing that it can easily be taken that way.

But with your "Flag of convenience? Or false colors?" remark, you're indicating that you don't believe us. I'm not sure what to do in response to that, except feel regret.

Jeremy BatesJul 29 2013, 2:37 pm

"It was not, as far as I am aware, intended to support a cause."

Of course it was. It was intended to enable you to ring with people who are not paying their dues.

That's the cause in which this flag is being flown.

Michael F SchulteJul 29 2013, 2:45 pm

Why so hostile?

Yes, you're absolutely right. We wanted to ring a peal with the chosen band. Most of us also wanted to ring for the NAGCR. However, ringing the peal with the people took precedence over ringing the peal for the NAGCR. I don't think the guild should be above the people in importance. I suspect when put that way that most members would agree. The guild exists to support ringing (and ringers) in North America, not the other way around.

Those who were not members were not doing so, to my knowledge, because they didn't want to pay dues. I'm pretty sure everyone in the band has paid many years' worth of dues, and has also given plenty of time and energy contributing support to ringing in North America. Most have travelled as volunteer instructors to other towers to help train new ringers. Most have been more than happy to encourage additional ringers in their efforts to improve.

So rather than characterize them as not wanting to pay dues, why not at least acknowledge that it's really a deeper issue. You may not agree with the principles on which they are taking their stand, but at least acknowledge that it is based on principles other than "I don't want to pay my $20."

Jeremy BatesJul 29 2013, 2:58 pm

Mike, I said, "are not," not "do not want to."

(Although I suspect that if the non-members wanted to pay their dues, they would.)

There is, of course, a deeper issue. I described it above, and I commented on it at great length in the member discussions that Don links to.

As for people and associations, I'm not aware of any requirement that a peal be rung for an association.

Michael F SchulteJul 29 2013, 3:08 pm

Alright, Jeremy, all I can do is offer reassurance that we did not intend the self aggrandizement you suggested above, nor any kind of anti-Guild separatist statement, nor any desire to avoid paying dues for the sake of saving on dues. We wanted to ring the peals. We wanted them to appear in the Ringing World and elsewhere in a way that indicated a North American ringing achievement. We wanted to ring with that particular group of people. We tried to find the best way to achieve all these things, and we have tried to communicate clearly that those were our motivations, and that we were not intending a political statement of any kind. I'm afraid that's all I can offer.

William HronasAug 02 2013, 10:40 pm

A suggestion to all parties concerned:

Why not bring the issue to a Guild wide vote? I understand the Executive Commitee made a ruling, however, I do feel that the members of the Guild who are in good standing should be allowed to decide if their fellow ringers peal should be accepted or not. While I accept that Guild rules must be followed, we must bend them at some points. If a majority of the original peal ringers were me members of the NAGCR, then the entire peal should be allowed, providing that those ringers whose memberships lapsed should be forgiven and allowed to renew and be accepted. Just a thought

William HronasAug 02 2013, 10:40 pm

A suggestion to all parties concerned:

Why not bring the issue to a Guild wide vote? I understand the Executive Commitee made a ruling, however, I do feel that the members of the Guild who are in good standing should be allowed to decide if their fellow ringers peal should be accepted or not. While I accept that Guild rules must be followed, we must bend them at some points. If a majority of the original peal ringers were me members of the NAGCR, then the entire peal should be allowed, providing that those ringers whose memberships lapsed should be forgiven and allowed to renew and be accepted. Just a thought

A Thomas MillerAug 03 2013, 12:18 am

This seems to me to be a tempest in a teapot. We're only talking about a two former NAGCR members whose memberships lapsed due to non-payment of dues. I'd agree with Mike that they wanted to identify peals as North American Peals. That could be done either as non-association, or using the vehicle of (as Jeremy, I think rightly asserts, the questionably-named) Abraham Lincoln Society. With respect to William from Little Rock's assertion (2 times no less) that a vote of the membership can mend the assignment of the peal, I'd refer him to the Constitution of NAGCR, section 11, that such a vote would be totally out of order, I believe, since it would violate the Constitution of the NAGCR as presently constituted. To conclude and to clarify: these comments are my own as an individual member and should in no way be construed to reflect the thinking of the Executive Committee of the Guild on this subject.

Michael F SchulteAug 03 2013, 4:44 am

Just out of curiosity...

Section 11 of the constitution does not specifically say that all the members of the band have to be members of the Guild at the time the peal was rung. It only says they have to be members of the Guild in order for the peal to be credited to the Guild. If they were all members of the Guild now, and if complete details have been received by the peal secretary, that would actually meet the requirement as written.

Or am I missing something?

I'm not sure how non-association achieves the recognition we were hoping for. Maybe in a footnote, I suppose, but who reads those?

Jeremy BatesAug 03 2013, 11:12 am

The principles at stake are (i) that Guild members should pay their dues reasonably timely, and (ii) absent compelling evidence to the contrary, when an elected volunteer Guild officer decides, as she must, whether (i) has been abided by, then that decision should be regarded as a good-faith determination.

Despite these principles, Mike suggests that "if they were all members of the Guild now, and if complete details have been received by the peal secretary, that would actually meet the requirement as written." Just to be clear: On this view, I can ring peals for 40 years, and then pay one year of Guild dues, and then be entitled to present the details of all 40 years of peals and have them be retroactively credited.

"Why not bring the issue to a Guild wide vote?" As I mentioned above, this issue was addressed at the last AGM. A motion was made that the peals be credited, and the assembled dues-paying members did not agree to the motion.

In this context, too, any plea for more democracy is rather ironic. From Don's Rules 3 and 4 above, the Abraham Lincoln Society is governed by eight Officers for Life.

This is yet another way in which flag and vessel are mismatched.

Michael F SchulteAug 03 2013, 12:34 pm

Jeremy, there are guilds that would allow exactly that. Their officers may grumble until dues are paid, but they'd allow it. I'm not saying I'm crazy about the idea of allowing your 40-year scheme, but I would rather look for technicalities that would allow the peals to be counted than look for technicalities that don't.

We could also require that the dues be paid retroactively, so that memberships are dated back to the date of the peal. (In the event that there are concerns over election eligibility, it would be trivial for the membership secretary to keep track of the discontinuity.) That way you could have your 40 years, but then you would have to pay 40 years of membership dues to count the peals.

Isn't the point here that the Guild should serve the ringers, rather than the other way around? You seem so hung up on rule following that you're apparently forgetting this basic fact. If we have rules that hinder recognition of North American ringing achievement, let's change our rules so they work better toward the real purposes of the Guild.

We already allow a grace period for people to catch up on dues *after* a peal has been rung. The core principle behind that is a good one. I think we should take it further. In the particular cases here, we have ringers who have long been part of the Guild who let their dues lapse, and who tried to rectify that after the fact.

We could also have better procedures in place, both for dues renewal online and for communication of policies to the members. I had never, that I recall, heard of the 10-day grace period used by our peal secretary, and I've rung and conducted a modest number of peals.

This doesn't place the blame on the organization or its officers. It merely acknowledges that there are things that could be better. Rather than placing blame, why don't we focus on finding ways to make things better all around?

It seems we ought to be looking for ways to make this work rather than looking for reasons not to. I have no doubt that our elected officers are well meaning and acting in good faith. I do, however, think that they have mistakenly positioned the Guild as more important than the individual ringers in this case. It really should be the other way around.

Michael F SchulteAug 03 2013, 12:42 pm

Tom, you may think it a "tempest in a teapot," but the fact is there are some North American ringers who, rightly or wrongly, feel as if they have been done a disservice by the Guild. It is worth noting that at least one of those is not one of the ones whose dues had expired at the time of those peals.

That is an unfortunate situation, and should not be dismissed too casually.

Jeremy BatesAug 03 2013, 1:54 pm

Mike, as a factual matter, my understanding from the member discussions that Don links to is that the person to whom you refer--whose dues had not expired--was the conductor of the peals.

On the policy, I agree that the question is how does the Guild best serve its members.

I don't think the dues-paying members are best served by letting non-dues-paying people ring peals for the Guild. That is not a "technicality." It is a basic way associations work. If Smith doesn't pay the dues, then Smith doesn't get the benefits. Not surprising, really.

If you concede that basic principle, then it's just a question of what the Constitution says, which is in the hands of the members, and how to administer it, which is in the hands of the officers.

A grace period is needed. But the grace period is exactly that--not provided for in the Constitution, and a period of administrative grace.

In this case, the first peal was rung on March 11, 2012, and it was disallowed on April 5. I understand that the 10-day grace period was part of that time, and was referred to in a communication from the peal secretary to the conductor. (If you have not received a similar communication, that might be because in every peal you conducted, the ringers had already paid, or then paid promptly.)

So in my opinion, responsibility for the original problem does not lie with the peal secretary.

Since then, there was an appeal to the president, there was a report to the members, and the AGM voted on a motion. All on this issue. So there has already been quite a lot of deliberation. None of it has changed the original decision.

More recently, perhaps discontented with these outcomes, the conductor has apparently declined to renew his Guild membership.

Hence the new society, and its evident desire for "recognition."

Which is one way of responding.

There were others--ways that would impose costs on other ringers, like you, who would prefer to ring for the Guild.

For example: If a member doesn't like the rule, then suggest an amendment to the Constitution.

Or if a member doesn't like the way the peal secretary administers the rule, then run, or find someone else to run, for peal secretary.

And in either case, abide by the democratic outcome. Because in an association of more than 500 people, what one or two members want might not carry the day.

Instead of responding in those ways, several people have taken their marbles and gone home.

That is, among other things, unfortunate.

But we've now had a decision, an appeal, a report, and a vote.

So at this point, for someone else to ring a peal with a marble-taker, and then complain to the rest of the Guild that the peal is not a Guild peal, is to ask (yet again) 500 people to change a policy, rather than one person to pay his dues.

Jeremy BatesAug 03 2013, 2:29 pm

Typo: meant to say "NOT impose costs."

Michael F SchulteAug 03 2013, 2:47 pm

Jeremy, you write:

"I don't think the dues-paying members are best served by letting non-dues-paying people ring peals for the Guild. That is not a "technicality." It is a basic way associations work. If Smith doesn't pay the dues, then Smith doesn't get the benefits. Not surprising, really."

You keep framing this as people wanting benefits without paying for them. That's not the case. You're talking about ringers who are regularly members of the Guild who suffered a lapse and were a bit slow in correcting it, not ringers who wanted credit without paying. My understanding is that all were willing to pay, but were just too slow in doing so.

All sixteen ringers who were a part of the three peals with issues are listed as members in both the 2011 and 2012 annual reports. All were willing to pay. It was an honest mistake, so far as I can tell. I would bet, to this day, they'd all be happy to pay for dues for the gap period if that was deemed sufficient to reinstate the peals.

You also write:

"So at this point, for someone else to ring a peal with a marble-taker, and then complain to the rest of the Guild that the peal is not a Guild peal, is to ask (yet again) 500 people to change a policy, rather than one person to pay his dues."

But you aren't taking issue with our having asked the Guild to change its policy. You're taking issue with our having rung under the flag of convenience, and you've strongly hinted that you don't believe us when we explain our motivations.

Consider this. Of the eight members who rang the first peal of the Abraham Lincoln Society, we have two life members of the Guild, and not a single member of the band hasn't conducted at least one peal for the North American Guild. Among the eight, roughly 1684 peals for the Guild have been scored, Rick DuPuy at the low end with 21 (but he'll be surpassing me shortly if he keeps on his pace) and me next at 51. The eight in that band have conducted 648 peals for the Guild.

These are not people who want Guild benefits without paying Guild dues. These are people who strongly support ringing in North America. Many have also traveled to teach at other towers and have regularly contributed to courses and weekend workshops.

Finally:

"Since then, there was an appeal to the president, there was a report to the members, and the AGM voted on a motion. All on this issue. So there has already been quite a lot of deliberation. None of it has changed the original decision."

The AGM minutes indicate:

"Tom Miller moved an amendment, to defer the decision on this issue until it has been discussed with the Peal Secretary; the amendment passed."

So it's misleading to say we've had "an AGM vote on a motion." We haven't had an AGM vote on whether to accept the peals. Perhaps we should.

In the meantime, you're being awfully hostile toward a lot of people who have contributed a lot to the Guild and to ringing in North America. Why?

Jeremy BatesAug 03 2013, 4:08 pm

Mike, although I can imagine how conducting many peals might accustom a conductor to unquestioning obedience, in my view the number of peals scored or conducted does not entitle anyone to automatic agreement or acquiescence. Indeed, one might think that those who have rung or conducted many peals for the Guild are the very ringers who have benefited from it the most, and ought to bear that fact in mind.

As for believing or not believing, I was not the first person to doubt the factual accuracy of what someone on this thread said.

Further to that point, I must note that in contrast to your insistence, as to the new society, that no aggrandizement was intended (which I first let pass without comment), I have heard from two separate sources with first-hand knowledge, other than yourself, that the alphabetical position of the Abraham Lincoln name was indeed a factor in its selection. Based on that information, it appears to me that there was indeed a desire to see the new society’s peals listed first in the Ringing World.

On the honest-error mistake, please see the rules-standards discussion that I had last fall, mostly with Rick DuPuy, in the members-discussion portion of this website. Any suggestion that I’m not “taking issue with our having asked the Guild to change its policy” is bizarre, in light of the many comments I made back then, on several threads. I am being quite consistent now.

To summarize: standards are more flexible, but are more difficult to administer. Here, the peal secretary exercised some standardish discretion, and then acted according to the constitutional rule. The member in question was three months late in paying dues. Last fall, I argued that the decision was in good faith and reasonable.

And as I said above, that decision has been appealed, reported, and voted on. On the voting point, please do not accuse me of being “misleading”; I stated above, on July 27, that “this motion was deferred by the assembled dues-paying members.” Deferral is often defeat in a parliamentary situation; and indeed the movant seems to have taken it that way, because he is no longer a member. But if someone still a member thinks that the motion was not really defeated, then that person can try again at the next AGM.

I have agreed with Don in the past--see our advocacy for his constitutional amendment with regard to membership requirements, a few years ago. I look forward to agreeing with Don and you on other issues, in the future.

On this issue, whether I am being “hostile” is something that I will leave for others to judge. Harry Truman once said, “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”

William HronasAug 05 2013, 5:17 am

Mr.Miller, I was not aware that my suggestion would violate the Constitution of the Guild. I sincerely apologize.

Don MorrisonAug 05 2013, 3:54 pm

William Hronas wrote "Why not bring the issue to a Guild wide vote? ... I do feel that the members of the Guild who are in good standing should be allowed to decide if their fellow ringers peal should be accepted or not."

This seems a sensible and constructive suggestion. I think you should pursue it.

To do so, you need to get it added to the annual ballot. The NAGCR's by-laws provide three alternative mechanisms for you to do so. The easiest, if it can be made to work, is for the Executive Committee to agree to add it to the ballot. You could start by crafting the language you would like the proposal to have, and sending it to Madeleine, asking her to solicit the Committee's approval for adding it to the ballot. I would suggest emphasizing that in doing so, you are not asking the Committee to support the acceptance of the peals, but rather simply asking them to support seeking the overall Guild's desires in the matter. If you choose to pursue this avenue, you may also wish to start the process promptly, and politely ask for an answer one way or the other well before the AGM, perhaps by the end of this month. That way if the Committee declines to support asking the Guild its will, you can still pursue either or both of the other alternatives in time to have it on this year's ballot.

The second alternative is asking the General Meeting to vote to add it to the ballot. If you are going to Hendersonville you could do this yourself at the meeting. If you are not going to Hendersonville, Madeleine might allow you to propose it in writing; if not, you would need to find someone who is attending and is willing to propose it in person, which latter course is probably the better one in either case. If you intend to propose it at the meeting by whatever means, it would seem polite to tell Madeleine that you intend to do so, which will allow her to add it to the meeting's agenda in a place she believes appropriate and convenient. Again, I suggest emphasizing to the meeting that they are voting not on whether or not to accept the peals in question, but rather to give the Guild as a whole the opportunity to offer its direction in the matter.

When framing the Guild's constitution and by-laws, it was wisely noted that those able to attend the Annual Meeting often do not form a representative cross section of the Guild's membership, and so a third alternative is provided. You can submit to Madeleine a petition signed by at least 10% of the Guild's voting membership asking that the matter be put on the ballot. Tom can tell you exact number of signatures that would currently be, which is fifty-something; I think it would be prudent to get at least sixty, if you choose this route. Again, I suggest making sure those signing this petition know they are not voting on whether or not to accept the peals in question, but rather asking that the Guild as a whole be given the opportunity to give its direction in the matter. And again I suggest letting Madeleine know you are pursuing this avenue so in planning the annual ballot she will know this question may have to be on it. If you do pursue this avenue, I think yo should start promptly, to ensure you are done before the annual ballot goes out for this year.

Thank you for trying to find a constructive way out of our current dilemma. I hope you pursue it further.

Don MorrisonAug 05 2013, 3:55 pm

Tom Miller wrote "This seems to me to be a tempest in a teapot. We're only talking about a two former NAGCR members whose memberships lapsed due to non-payment of dues."

I suspect, I hope, Tom wrote this hastily, or that it does not mean what it appears to mean. Even a single member feeling driven to abandon the NAGCR after decades of membership is too many. That an officer of the Guild could think that there is some number of members whose attrition is considered acceptable because of our behavior towards them is most worrying. Yes, people will choose not to remain members on occasion, but if it is because they believe they have been wronged by the Guild we should never treat that as trivial matter unworthy of further thought and effort. We're talking about people, not statistics.

In a minor quibble, I believe it is at least three former members: the two whose dues had been in arrears and had paid up sometime before September, specifically to allow the peals to be credited to the Guild, but still had their efforts rebuffed, and so have since allowed their memberships to lapse again; and the conductor of one of the affected peals, the payment of whose dues was never in question until he chose to deliberately no longer be a Guild member in response to what he perceived as the Guild's disinterest in his efforts on its behalf.

As I stated above, these are not three mere statistical entities, interchangeable like hydrogen atoms. They are three unique human beings, each of whom has made substantial contributions to ringing in North America. Each was a member of the Guild for at least a decade, and collectively they represented over seventy years of membership. Two have made a huge impact on my own ringing career: one is the ringer with whom I have rung the most peals, ever; and another is number three on that list. I do not know the exact numbers, but I suspect that around five hundred peals rung for the Guild have contained at least one of these three ringers.

One has made countless trips of on the order of a hundred miles each way from his home to train the band at one of our newest towers, raising that band to a level that many of its members have now rung peals and quarters, most of which he has conducted. And in other towers, as well as in hand, hundreds of North America's ringers have benefited from his expertise, ringing in and conducting peals and quarters. Again, I do not have the exact numbers to hand, but he is certainly one of the three most prolific peal conductors for the Guild, and likely holds first place in that list.

If you were to compile a list of the most impressive handbell peals rung for the North American Guild I suspect you would find that many of them contained not just one, but two of these disaffected ringers: for example, the handbell peals rung for the Guild of Glasgow, and of half-lead eight spliced each contained two of these now disaffected ringers.

Another of the disaffected ringers has made a huge contribution at another of our newest towers, and one of our only two rings of twelve. Sadly the bell hangers left it in a state where many of its bells were exceedingly difficult to ring, and through this now disaffected ringer's efforts this sad situation was rectified. Without his tireless work I have doubts about whether an all North American band would have been able to ring a peal on all twelve there. But they have now become a vibrant part of North American ringing, possibly the most active tower in the Guild.

These individuals are not mere statistical entities. They are the ringers we should be trying to grow more of, not callously driving away.

Tom also wrote "With respect to William from Little Rock's assertion (2 times no less) that a vote of the membership can mend the assignment of the peal, I'd refer him to the Constitution of NAGCR, section 11, that such a vote would be totally out of order, I believe, since it would violate the Constitution of the NAGCR as presently constituted."

Again, I hope Tom wrote this in some haste or passion. It is completely mistaken.

The NAGCR constitution imposes no time limit. That time limit of ten days was set by the current Peal Secretary, and was not even communicated to either of the ringers who had to pay their dues, only to the conductors of the peals. This is a marked change from the past, where laggard dues were often rectified after months had elapsed. And, of course, there has to be some gap in time provided, or most of the many peals rung for the Guild including visiting British ringers could never be credited to the Guild, as their dues are always paid well after the performance. Indeed, of the many such peals I have conducted or otherwise sent in the reports for, I suspect the majority have not had their membership issues sorted out until well after ten days had elapsed.

It is also worth noting that while they were slothful in forwarding their dues, Tom himself credited the dues of both lapsed members to the beginning of the 2012 calendar year. The NAGCR's official annual report for 2012 clearly shows both ringers as members in good standing on the dates both peals were rung! That they were not accorded the privileges that they believed were promised them for those dues is presumably why they have chosen not to be members in 2013.

One further, relevant, point is the motion made and passed at the General Meeting last year. Reading the minutes of that meeting published by the officers in The Clapper and posted on this web site, we see that that motion, made by Tom himself, made no reference to constitutionality. It merely asked the meeting to defer its decision on the matter until after the Peal Secretary, who was not present, could be consulted. William Hronas's excellent suggestion is exactly such deferred consideration, that Tom's own motion anticipated.

Section 6.3 of the Guild's by-laws covers exactly this sort of issue, and William's suggestion is an excellent one for making use of the mechanism in that section for resolving it.

Jeremy BatesAug 05 2013, 4:38 pm

Don, you say that "Section 6.3 of the Guild's by-laws covers exactly this sort of issue." And you encourage proceeding under that provision.

The text of Section 6.3, however, states that "The ballot may include proposals regarding Guild business not specifically provided for in the Constitution and By-Laws."

Section 11 of the Constitution sets forth specific conditions for peal eligibility. And Section 8.5 of the Bylaws specifically states that "The Peal Secretary shall: . . . decide on the eligibility of peals rung for the Guild."

Given these provisions, to me this issue appears to be "specifically provided for" in the Constitution and Bylaws, and therefore not eligible for section 6.3 treatment.

A Thomas MillerAug 06 2013, 5:36 pm

For clarification, I direct this question to Don. Disallowed NAGCR "Peals" are referenced. I've only seen one peal referenced prominently and may have missed reference to others. How many are we talking about? Is it two; one a tower peal and one a handbell peal? Or is it more?

Don MorrisonAug 06 2013, 6:20 pm

In answer to Tom's question, I quote from the minutes of last year's General Meeting:

"Ed Futcher moved to have two peals reinstated as NAGCR peals; they were rejected by the Peal Secretary because the required membership dues of two participating ringers had not been received in a timely manner. Tom Miller moved an amendment, to defer the decision on this issue until it has been discussed with the Peal Secretary."

My understanding is that the two peals in dispute are

Stedman Cinques at Trinity, New York, on 11 March 2012

and

Kent Treble Bob Major in hand at Marblehead, on 17 March 2012.

I am currently unaware of any other peals that have been disallowed by the Guild, ever, for late payment of dues.

Michael F SchulteAug 06 2013, 8:20 pm

There was a third peal involved that was ultimately accepted, if I am remembering correctly.

Sign in to post your own response to this article.