The following article by RW Carl Ek is reprinted from the November 2009 issue of The Connecticut Freemasons publication, which is running a series of articles celebrating the 20th anniversary of our mutual recognition. Read other articles in this series: 20 Years.
(Editor’s note: in the span of several months in mid-1989, the Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Connecticut and the Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., Prince Hall Affiliates, of Connecticut, Inc. crafted an agreement that changed how Masonry operated, not just in Connecticut, but worldwide. In our eighth installment, we examined the responses nationwide and worldwide when both Grand Lodges overwhelmingly approved resolutions of mutual recognition. This is the final installment in a series of stories in Connecticut Freemasons that have celebrated the 20th anniversary of mutual recognition.)
Part of the reason for the publication of this series of articles was to collect and preserve the memories of those who were a part of the process of achieving mutual recognition two decades ago. Being able to speak with both Gail Smith’s, Lew Myrick, Ken Hawkins, and others who, it can be argued, made the recognition happen, provides a valuable historical record for the future, removed as far as possible from speculation and conjecture.
It should not have come as a surprise, then, when information not previously available to this author came to light after the publication of the October 2009 Connecticut Freemasons. MWPGM Richard A. Hodgson, now retired to Arizona, was a part of the meeting held at the request of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) to discuss recognition. Slightly excerpted, his account follows.
“The day following my installation, together with Past Grand Masters Harrison, Desmond, and Lorenson, I went to Boston to meet with the Grand Secretary and Chairman of the Committee of General Purposes of the Grand Lodge of England, a board having duties similar to our Committee of Recognition. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the Chairman. [Editor’s note: presumably this was Michael Higham of the UGLE.] Most Worshipful Darling [Charles Darling, MWGM of Massachusetts] met us at the Grand Lodge to host the meeting but declined to take part.
“On arrival we were met by Most Worshipful Brother Don Smith and Right Worshipful James Wood, Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Washington. As well as Grand Master, Brother Don was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Washington…MW Don asked that although I was entitled to conduct the meeting as the Grand Master of Connecticut, that I consider allowing Most Worshipful Brother Dean Massey, Grand Master of Wisconsin, then also Dean of Law at the University of Wisconsin, to conduct, as he had come prepared with a great deal of research.
“I then welcomed and introduced all and asked Brother Massey to present his questions and concerns to the English brothers. Brother Dean had indeed come prepared.
“England had denied that Prince Hall was chartered by the Grand Lodge of England, which was indeed true. However, they chartered African Lodge 459, which later changed its name to honor Prince Hall. Brother Dean then brought out the yearly assessments paid by the Grand Lodge of African/Prince Hall, to the Grand Lodge of England up to the mid 1800′s, and that lodge being dropped from the rolls although they maintained their payment beyond that of several other American Grand Lodges who were not (dropped).
“At the conclusion of Brother Dean’s presentation, Brother Higham remarked that he could not repudiate Brother Dean as they (the English) were not as well informed as he, and they would have to go home and research Dean’s challenges and questions.
“We enjoyed a nice lunch and fellowship provided by Most Worshipful Brother Darling and departed in peace and good will. The result of this meeting was the removal of the restriction on visitation by the Grand Lodge of England, which had had, little if any effect.
“The record in a nut shell by one who was there.”
As noted in a prior article, the UGLE recognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts before the A.F. & A.M. Grand Lodge did so. This was an odd circumstance, made even more so by the historic recognition of Prince Hall Masonry by that Grand Lodge in 1947.
It is more than a bit sad that 20 years after the first Grand Lodges A.F. & A.M. and P.H.A. opted for brotherhood, there are so many American Masons that have not yet accepted the concept of brotherhood that is not based on racial characteristics.
This failure borders on the absurd when these same Grand Lodges recognize African and Caribbean lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of England in which all of the members have the same racial background as those Prince Hall Masons whom they shun here.
Has recognition worked? A Prince Hall grand officer put it well: “Not everything everybody feared happened, some things people hoped for happened, and some things people expected didn’t happen.”
What did happen was the opportunity for Masonic brothers – who all express belief in Deity, take the same obligations, and meet on the same level – to do so on a broader basis, with artificial barriers removed. On this basis alone, recognition has certainly worked.
Brother Ben Franklin once wrote that the biggest secret in Masonry was that there were no secrets. He later expanded his commentary on Masonic secrets to note that “The good effects … have subdued the rancor of malevolence and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.”
To that we may add that progress has been made in breaking down racial barriers that divide, rather than unite, men and Masons. To those who took these bold steps two decades ago, we owe our thanks. To those who will lead our fraternity in the future, we urge their efforts to continue the good work begun by different Grand Lodges two decades – and six decades – and a century ago.
Thus may we honor our obligations as men and Masons. So may it ever be. So mote it be.