Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Masonic Grand Lodge system has failed us

W. Bro. Tim Bryce's latest article, "Reinventing Grand Lodge Government" [see below], strikes a nerve with me, and hopefully with you, too.

The Grand Lodge system of Freemasonry has failed us. The "brotherhood of equals" has become like the brotherhood of animals in George Orwell's Animal Farm, with some brothers being "more equal than others."

Title-seeking, gold-chain-wearing good ol' boys are appointed into the Grand Lodge "line" by their older mentors, pals, and/or cronies. The Appointed One traditionally calls the One Who Appoints Him his "Masonic grandfather."

Where is democracy? Where is honor and brotherly love? Where is the will of the Brethren regarding who they wish to "govern" them? "Elections" in blue lodges as well as at the Grand Lodge are often a sham and a farce.

The Grand Lodge system has become a self-perpetuating "monarchy" which Average Joe Mason has been programmed to accept as "natural" by his obligations of "obedience" and by the regular-as-clockwork visits from Deputy This-and-That bringing "greetings from your Grand Master."

Does a Grand Master answer to "his" Masons? Apparently not.

We have now twice publicly asked the Grand Master of Masons in Georgia, M. W. Bro. F. Ray Jackson, to express true brotherly love by recognizing black Masons as true and lawful brothers, or to tell us why he won't do it. It was under Bro. Jackson's reign, too, that several Brothers were "whited out" — erased — from their blue lodges last winter without Masonic due process or trial for not signing letters of renunciation for having been involved with the Rite of the Rose Cross of Gold.

In about ten days, a new Grand Master of Masons in Georgia will be installed at the 220th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Georgia (which, from the ad on the Grand Lodge's website, looks like it will be a late 4th of July celebration). Will he be "elected"? Of course not. Like his predecessors, he's been "in line" for the "honor" for years. Behind him is a never-ending parade of same-ol' same-ol' same ol' same ol' ad infinitum.

When Freemasonry's Grand Lodge form of leadership was established, it was assumed that good and honorable men would rise to positions of leadership, men who would serve the tenets of Freemasonry — brotherly love, relief and truth — first and always. That hasn't always been the case.

— The Widow's Son

Re-inventing Grand Lodge Government by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS

With rare exception, Grand Lodges follow a top-down dictatorial form of government. This means the Grand Master appoints officers in state, zone, and district positions to carry out his will and pleasure to the Craft. The only exception to this top-down approach is when the Craft drafts legislation to be presented at Grand Communications (assuming it can get past the red tape), but such legislation often fails as it is written by well meaning Brothers with little or no experience in writing such resolutions.

Let me take this a bit further and play devil's advocate for a moment and ask, if we were to invent a Grand Lodge in the 21st century, would we truly design the government of our institution in the same manner as our forefathers? Come on, would we really? Knowing what we do today in terms of government, politics, and Freemasonry, I doubt it seriously.

A big part of the problem is the top-down approach I just mentioned. Too often the Craft feels powerless against the will of the Grand Lodge and believes, right or wrong, their voice is not heard. This results in apathy and distrust in the Grand Lodge system. Instead, what if we were to institute a Congress or Parliament (or whatever you want to call it) of delegates elected by the Craft and representing the various Districts of the grand jurisdiction? This body would meet regularly (perhaps bimonthly or quarterly) for the purpose of drafting legislation for the Craft to vote upon at the Grand Communications. This would inevitably result in some very well thought-out and articulate resolutions. As there are currently no real "checks and balances" in Masonic government, such a body would contribute to this purpose as its members would be elected by the Craft and not appointed by the Grand Master.

The Grand Master is, of course, the executive power of the Grand Lodge but one has to question his term of office. For example, in most grand jurisdictions the Grand Master serves for no more than a single year which is often considered far too short a period of time to accomplish anything of substance, nor does it promote continuity in programs. Perhaps a longer term limit should be in order, such as two or possibly four years. Further, life for the Grand Master would be simpler if an effective legislative body was put into place.

Whether you agree with these suggestions or not, I think it is safe to say how we would design a Grand Lodge in the 21st century would be noticeably different than what we did in the 18th century. Keep in mind the political climate of the early 1700's when the Grand Lodge system was invented; monarchies were still very much in vogue and democracy was a nebulous concept. I'm sure there is a lot more we could do to improve our effectiveness and promote the best interests of the Craft.

Critics would argue that implementing such changes would politicize our Grand Lodges. I would respond, "Who is kidding who?" It is already politicized. This merely legitimizes the process. Besides, as evidenced by the governments of the free world, it works!

Keep the Faith.

NOTE: As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

— Tim Bryce

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