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March 14, 2016 Leave a comment

GA Response

The Grand Lodge of Georgia has responded to the suspension of recognition by the Grand Lodges of California, Washington DC, and others. The more salient points are these:

Georgia is not reciprocating the suspension of recognition.

Georgia is not going to rescind the additions to their Masonic code at this time.

Hopefully you can expand this jpg graphic, or we’ll replace it with a PDF if one becomes available.

EDIT: Thank you to the several brothers who emailed over a PDF file. Clicking the picture above will bring you to a better image.

EDIT EDIT:  Chris Hodapp reports that the Grand Lodge of Tennessee has weighed in.

Also, the Grand Lodge of Maine has a public response to the situation.

The pot calling the kettle black: Part 1

March 11, 2016 5 comments

Note: This is the first of a three-part article from a brother who wishes to remain anonymous. The online discussions of the past few weeks prompted him to write about his experiences, and what he would do if it were in his power to promote changes.

I saw some of his writing elsewhere, and asked if I could use some of his ideas; he responded by filling in some details and presenting what you see here. While I don’t necessarily agree with him on all points, he does make an interesting case for why Grand Lodges should remove recognition from those states that do not practice what the membership believes to be the higher ideals of our society. I’m presenting this as some food for thought.

 

The car ride home was one of the most awkward journeys that I have ever taken. My girlfriend at the time sat there silently and I was unable to find the words to explain to her what had just happened. The truth of the matter was that I was embarrassed, angry, and ashamed. I always thought of and spoke highly of the men that formed the rank and file of Freemasonry and never hesitated to speak of my membership in the Craft with pride.

Earlier in the evening, we drove out to my Lodge to participate in Ladies Night. It was a chance to show the women in our lives why Freemasonry was special to us. We had dinner, a meeting, and then after the meeting we headed over to the Grotto to share a beer with the Brethren who met on the same night, as was our monthly tradition. Good conversation was had, beer was drunk, and all were having a good time. As members gradually left a man approached my table and sat down. I introduced myself, I introduced my girlfriend, and he introduced himself as the Monarch of that particular Grotto. I told him about the fact that the Grotto was very important to my Great Grandfather and that I hoped to follow in his footsteps. I told him how he had tried to join the Shrine but was rejected because he was a Jew and instead joined the Grotto for fellowship.

In most instances, I would assume that most Masonic leaders would be proud of hearing that their organization stood for what was right. This one was the exception to the rule. What followed was a torrent of anti-Semitic remarks directed towards me and I was told that Jews were not welcome in his beloved Grotto.

I finished my beer, picked up my tailcoat, put it on, and walked down the hallway with my girlfriend. One of the Brothers from my Lodge happened to be walking down the hallway and saw that I was visibly upset and shaken. He asked me, “What happened?” At first, I did not want to tell him about it. I had dealt with anti-Semitism previously in my life and knew that it was best to keep my mouth shut rather than to speak up about it. To the credit of the Brother, he persisted and I finally told him what happened. He told me that it was not the first time it happened and that another member of my Lodge who happened to be married to an African American had racial comments directed toward him by the same man. I will always have a high opinion of the Brother who spoke with me that night. He called numerous times to make sure that I was doing all right and I finished out my year as an officer in three separate bodies while making sure to never step foot in the Grotto again.

So you might ask what happened to the Monarch? The answer was absolutely nothing. He finished his year as Monarch, got his honors for serving, and is, as far as I know, still a member of the fraternity.

As for me, I ended up apologizing to my girlfriend and attempting to explain to her that not all Freemasons were like the Monarch. Furthermore, I apologized to her for being a Jew because if I were not a Jew than she would have never had to witness what had occurred. I was embarrassed and ashamed by the men and organization I had held in such high regard. When I finished my commitments as an officer, I chose not to take on any new positions. Furthermore, I did not return to Freemasonry for nearly four years.

I would not be surprised if the vast majority of Brethren would be disturbed and a bit sickened after reading my story. Many of those Brethren would say what many Masons told me in the aftermath of the incident after having learned of it. They would say well if you belonged to such and such Lodge or so and so Grand Lodge that would have never have happened because we would not tolerate it. The next Monarch of that Grotto even came up to me and said that some sort of agreement had been reached where he was allowed to finish his year but no longer permitted to return. Furthermore, he told me that he was sorry and that I was welcome in the Grotto.

Even though I have no doubt of the sincerity of his apology, it came nearly six months later. Even then, part of me still believes that a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was a 23 year old Past High Priest, held multiple offices, belonged to several appendant bodies, and was very active in the fraternity. Needless to say, I do not think that I will be joining the Grotto in my lifetime.

The saddest thing of all is that my story represents just one of many. I could tell you about the Lodge Secretary who did not turn in minutes or reports to Grand Lodge for over three months, got a call from a female employee of the Grand Lodge questioning why they had not received the documentation, and his response that it was her fault because she probably had not been with a man lately. I could tell you about the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter where you hear racial epithets and jokes more often than the words “so mote it be”. I can tell you about a District Deputy that was not only present when those racial epithets and jokes were made but more than happily joined in making them alongside the Brethren. I can tell you that when I asked another Brother how I should respond to it, they told me that I needed to lighten up and that no one would believe me over a District Deputy.

Now, I know that many of you are mulling this over and are wondering where this occurred. I would be willing to bet that many of you have already pulled out your map of the United States and have your fingers pointed well below the Mason Dixon Line. I would be willing to wager that many of you have narrowed it down to one of two jurisdictions. The first on many of your minds would undoubtedly be the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Georgia owing to the fact that they prosecuted a Worshipful Master for allowing an African American to join their ranks and in light of the edict that was recently ratified that forces homosexual Brethren to remain in the closet. The second would likely be the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Tennessee because they expelled two more than worthy Brethren as a result of their marriage. So in which of these two Grand Lodges did the events that I have described occur?

Neither.

The Grand Lodge that they occurred in was the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Like so many other Brethren, I have followed recent events in the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and am thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed by what has occurred. At the same time, I have also taken notice of the fact that so many other Masons from those jurisdictions have stood up to the edicts and have defended their Brethren.

In fact, all of the members that defended our African American Brother Victor Marshall in Atlanta ultimately persevered. Today, he is a Past Master and in spite of some members best attempts to prevent him from joining the Scottish Rite he became a member of that body. No one remembers the fact that it was one or two black balls against a vast majority of favorable votes that prevented Brother Marshall from joining the Scottish Rite. No one remembers that the Sovereign Grand Inspector General refused to allow racially motivated voting to carry the day in Atlanta.

Not many in the Masonic world know what happened the day that Georgia Freemasons ratified the Grand Masters edict outlawing homosexuality. Many of them are not aware of the fact that the room was evenly split on the issue. Not many know of the fact that the vote was close enough to warrant a hand count, but that it was ultimately pushed through without one by the Most Worshipful Grand Master.

Instead, what is remembered is that Georgia Freemasons are racist and homophobic.

The same could be said for the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

I want to make it clear that I am not defending the Grand Lodge of Georgia or the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. The fact that there were enough members that enabled those edicts to be passed is shameful, embarrassing, and unmasonic to say the least. The argument that I have made and will continue to make in the next part of this article is that while Brethren are quick to point out the black eye given to Freemasonry by the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, they are largely unaware or turn a blind eye toward similar unmasonic conduct at home. Furthermore, while it is easy to condemn the policies of Grand Lodges through letters detailing policies of equality, it is not enough. Instead, Freemasonry will continue to suffer from the twin specters of racism and homophobia until Grand Lodges take meaningful and comprehensive steps to ensure that it will no longer have a place in the fraternity. As it stands, I am of the opinion that while recent events have brought attention to the issues of racism and homophobia within the Craft, the truth is that these same issues occur throughout the fraternity regardless of jurisdiction and until reform is made the opinions of the various Grand Lodges concerning Georgia and Tennessee are no different than the pot calling the kettle black.

 

Categories: Freemasonry, prejudice Tags: ,

Shots fired! GL CA suspends recognition with GA and TN

March 8, 2016 244 comments

From a Facebook post this morning:

By letter of March 7, 2016, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California has suspended recognition of the Grand Lodges Georgia and Tennessee until the next regular communication of the Grand Lodge of California.

Verification and more developments to follow.

Edit 1: The text of the email, which went out to lodge officers yesterday:

M. DAVID PERRY
GRAND MASTER
GRAND LODGE
FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
OF CALIFORNIA
CALIFORNIA MASONIC MEMORIAL TEMPLE
1111 CALIFORNIA STREET
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94108

WWW.FREEMASON.ORG

Via electronic mail

March 7, 2016

To all Grand Lodges in amity with the Grand Lodge of California:

You might have read of recent events in Georgia and Tennessee where the Grand Lodges
there have adopted new rules or enforced existing rules to discipline Masons because of their
sexual orientation.

The Grand Lodge of Georgia ratified Grand Master McDonald’s Edict No. 2015-4 at the last
Annual Communication of their Grand Lodge, thereby adding the following language to their
Grand Lodge law: homosexual activity with anyone subjects the offender to discipline.
The Grand Lodge of Tennessee recently suspended two brothers from Masonry for violating
a provision of the Tennessee Masonic Code when they posted photographs of their wedding to
each other on Facebook. The Tennessee Masonic Code states that it is a Masonic offense to
promote or engage in homosexual activity.

In each case, I construe these actions as a sectarian stand which is inconsistent with and does
not support the General Regulations of Freemasonry. I have therefore suspended
recognition of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Georgia and the
Grand Lodge of Tennessee F. & A. M. until the next Annual Communication of our Grand
Lodge.

I am happy to share with you further details about my decision, if you so desire.

Sincerely and fraternally,
M. DAVID PERRY
Grand Master

 

Edit 2: Chris Hodapp has confirmation that the Grand Lodge of DC has likewise suspended recognition. I think that MW Bro. Fuller’s words sum things up nicely:

“On a personal note, as an ordained Christian minister who holds deep religious convictions, I find the actions of these Grand Lodges all the more troublesome. Many faiths, including my own denomination of Christianity, are divided on several social and moral issues, yet it is our duty as Masons to ensure these disagreements do not spill over into our fraternity and sow disharmony.

“In closing, let me reiterate the words of my predecessor and approved by our entire Grand Lodge: we are open to all men of faith based upon their personal merit and good character, without reference to race, creed, sexual orientation, specific religion or national origin.

“I hope, pray, and trust that the hand of providence and the light of wisdom will guide our fraternity to a swift resolution to this unfortunate matter.”

 

 

Pitchforks into ploughshares

March 4, 2016 6 comments

Freemasons that have been online in the last few weeks have been discussing the news item that the Grand Lodge of Tennessee expelled two active members of the fraternity for the presumed violation of the Masonic Code, which prohibits, in part, homosexual behavior.

I would like to take the opportunity to mention that I’m very disappointed at the open displays of intolerance and outright prejudice.

No, I’m not talking about Tennessee, or Georgia, or the other Grand Lodges which have made similar noises. I’m talking about the comments that I’ve been seeing all over social media from other members of the fraternity who do not support the decision.

Look, brothers, I get it. Perhaps you have worked through your own prejudices about different things, or perhaps you grew up without understanding how people can have those ideas. And you understand that Freemasonry is one of the few social institutions that allows men from various classes and cultures to meet together without the concern for titles, labels, or other forms of prejudice, and you are angry that some Grand Lodges (or at least, their officers) do not seem to interpret the purpose of the society in the way that you do. torches-pitchforks

But many of you are simply lashing out, and your righteous indignation is not helping your cause. Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen some of you use terms like “hayseeds,” “morons,” “bigoted,” “idiots,” and sadly, much worse. I’ve seen accusations that the members of those states have forgotten — or never knew — their Masonic duties. I’ve seen many of you suggest that those Grand Lodges are not worthy of recognition, that all enlightened Grand Lodges should immediately rescind any agreements of amity with them. And I’ve seen some of you suggest things much more crude.

Is this how Freemasons should act toward anyone, especially each other?

Most of us have a charge in our obligations to “whisper good counsel” to an errant brother, to help to set him aright “in the most tender manner.” The idea behind this is that taking somebody aside to talk to them is generally more helpful than screaming epithets from a distance. It’s not just Freemasonry, it’s a factor of human nature. You can not teach people tolerance and respect by failing to display it in your own behavior.

The Grand Lodges of other jurisdictions have already been discussing the situation, and some, as you know, have released statements regarding their position. Instead of continuing to insult (because that’s what you are doing) your brothers in other states, it would be more useful to turn your energies toward letting your own Grand Lodge know what you think. And please, let’s treat our fellow Masons in Tennessee, Georgia, and elsewhere with respect and consideration. You may not agree with their opinion, but ranting at them on the internet is not the best way to demonstrate what tolerance should be about.

After all, when was the last time you changed your mind on some issue because somebody called you an idiot?

 

Tidings from the West

February 29, 2016 16 comments

This evening, the news began to spread around the Masonic internet haunts about the message from M. David Perry, Grand Master of Masons in California. I received several from brothers who were proud, excited, and who wanted to make sure the message went out.

From the GM of CA today

Dear Brethren:

You might have read about recent events in some US states including Georgia and Tennessee where Masonic grand lodges have adopted new rules or have enforced existing rules that discipline Masons because of their sexual orientation. Such rules and actions do not coincide with the principles of Freemasonry as practiced by the Grand Lodge of California and do not support what we understand as the great aim of our fraternity.

Freemasonry is a universal system which uses the tools and techniques of the old stonemasons’ guilds to illustrate simple moral and ethical principles. To this it adds a philosophical and spiritual framework for personal improvement. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better by improving their relationships with others, by practicing a life of tolerance, compassion, honesty, and the pursuit of justice. Freemasonry instructs its members to uphold and respect the laws of their government and not to undermine those laws. It attempts to make the world a better place by making its members better citizens of the communities in which they live.

Freemasonry may be found worldwide, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Freemasonry works through local lodges. In California and elsewhere, some lodges are comprised of men only, some of women only and some of both men and women. Each lodge typically operates under a grand lodge, and there are a number of these grand lodges operating in California. Each grand lodge is independent and operates under its own set of rules as its members may decide.

With more than 50,000 members statewide, those lodges under the Grand Lodge of California are open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, economic station, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian.

Through this universal brotherhood, California Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites us. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance.

It has been a week now since the news of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and their expulsion of two seemingly well liked and active brothers who were accepted by the members of their lodge, but who were not accepted by other members of the fraternity in the state.

The discussions have continued on Facebook groups and other Web forums since then, with the overwhelming majority of Freemasons sympathetic toward Brothers Clark and Henderson; and ranging from irate to incredulous at the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the opinions of the several thousands of Freemasons will probably have little impact, since most of the support for the brothers has been from members who aren’t from Tennessee. This may have something to do with the recent directive in Tennessee that forbids members from discussing the matter in public; indeed, rumors have circulated that the GL officers have noted some of the brothers who have spoken out on social media. So far, reports that those members have been disciplined have gone unsubstantiated.

Fortunately, however, it seems that the conversations have not gone unnoticed elsewhere. California is the first to release a public statement to the effect that the Grand Lodge does not condone or support the discriminatory actions of several other states. Hopefully others will follow shortly, before the Grand Lodge of Tennessee convenes at the end of March.

= = = = =

Edit: Chris Hodapp has posted the text from the Grand Lodge of Utah, and the Grand Lodge of DC, both of which came out several days ago.

News Item: “Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension”

February 24, 2016 12 comments

From Tennesee’s WKNO 9:00 am news article:

“Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension”

Readers will remember when we discussed this several weeks ago: Bro. Dennis Clark and his married partner Bro. Mark Henderson have been expelled from the Grand Lodge of Tennessee because they violated the rules:

According to the constitution, members are not supposed to “engage in lewd conduct. To promote or engage in homosexual activity. To cohabit immorally in a situation without the benefit of marriage.”

Now, there’s no arguing with this. They are homosexuals. They got (legally) married. It’s against the Tennessee Masonic Code, and they are in violation.

Mark G Window

Stained Glass G, restored by Bros. Henderson and Clark.

But it really does make you wonder about the situation. Dennis Clark and Mark Henderson were, to all appearances, honest, active, and hard-working Freemasons. I haven’t run across any behind-the-scenes complaints about  either of them; as far as I can tell, Clark was very active in lodge, and in several other appendant bodies. Why would the Grand Lodge of Tennessee opt to discipline, and ultimately expel them, for violations of the code, when they could have easily ignored the situation until such time as the rules could be changed? The Grand Lodge convenes in March, and presumably legislation could have been drafted to present at that time.

More, why pick on two active brothers for that violation, when it would be presumably easy to find brothers cohabiting with partners, or violating any other of the rules?

By 2:30 pm, the WKNO news item was picked up by The Raw Story, an internet news magazine. In less than 2 hours, it managed to get almost 600,000 “likes” on Facebook, which means that the idea “The Masons don’t let gays in,” will be what people think of. The general public has no idea that every US state has their own rules, they will just remember something about some gay guys getting kicked out — for being gay.

Even more troubling, though, is the report that the Grand Lodge has essentially issued a gag order on all members, forbidding them from discussing this situation with the public — including online venues.

Grand Master Phillip Hastings, the current leader of Tennessee’s freemasons, did not respond to multiple interview requests. Last November, he outlined the organization’s position of silence in an open letter sent to lodges:

“Brethren, this Masonic matter is to be handled by the Grand Lodge of Tennessee within the State of Tennessee and any further un-authorized discussion on this matter outside of the Tennessee Masonic fraternity will be considered a Masonic offense and will be dealt with accordingly,” Hastings wrote.

Naturally, this hasn’t stopped Masons from other jurisdictions from discussing the situation. While there are mixed opinions, depending upon which forum or Facebook group one reads, the majority of Freemasons online (typically a younger demographic), disagree strongly with the decision.

Paul Rich, a scholar of Freemasonry, says that the society was originally founded as a safe haven for ideas and Enlightenment values.

“It largely eliminated sectarian references and welcomed diversity. Because of that, it attracted prominent people and made an important intellectual contribution,” Rich says, adding that America’s regional ideologies are affecting that spirit. “The Northern lodges are having difficulties being associated with all of this.”

And indeed, most of the arguing online seems to be based on the disagreement of whether homosexuality is an immoral behavior. It’s not something that will be settled easily. Unfortunately, in the meantime this is just one more reason that Freemasonry will continue to look like a dinosaur club.

The Neglected Temple

February 23, 2016 1 comment

So here we are at just about the time that we have depleted the motivational energy needed to keep up with our New Year’s resolutions. The parking lot at the human cardio treadmill gym down the street now shows a few empty spaces, extra donuts or pastries have started showing up in the lunch room at work, and I no longer see friends and coworkers patting their stomachs and complaining about their clothes not fitting; although on that last point, my own opinion is that most of them bought new clothes during the post-Xmas sales. Personally, I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, which means that I don’t have those guilty feelings about not keeping them up. Life is easier that way.

One of those things that I used to feel guilty about, though, was not attending lodge. For years I was one of those guys who you just knew would be down there, usually an hour early (although that changed as I began to put more hours in at work). But at some point over the last several years, I found myself attending lodge less frequently because I was busy working a different temple: instead of my spiritual temple, I was working on my corporal one. I had started working out.

For reasons not clear to me, Freemasons spend a lot of time and energy discussing our spiritual nature — often over vast quantities of food. Given that most of us are older, we’re doing so at a time in our lives when our metabolisms are slowing down and our bodies more easily turn that food into storage instead of fuel. We talk about “the house not made with hands,” but we never talk about the physical foundation of that temple, or about the body — the container — that carries around our minds. Solomon_w_Temple_constrctn_22-118

When I hit my 50s, I discovered that I was out of shape. I mean, sure, my old pants didn’t fit, and I needed collar extenders all the time, but it didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in the doctor’s office discussing blood pressure and cholesterol medicine, and trying to figure out what all those numbers on the charts meant. From there, I put all the effort into studying fitness that I had previously put into studying Freemasonry.

And it’s interesting to note that, just like with Freemasonry, there is a lot of information, bad information, and misinformation about fitness. Which diets are better, what kinds of exercise are better, what times to work out, vitamins, supplements, heart rates, protein powder, ketogenic, paleo, primal… the names and words ran together after a while. But after a while I began to see the pattern, and I found my path.

The issue I had was that between work, family, and the various social events with which I’ve been involved, I often found myself skipping workouts. Eventually I understood that I needed to choose between consistency in my exercise routine, or something else. One of those “something else” was Monday night at lodge; and I felt guilty about this for quite some time. But as I became more fit, my sense of guilt subsided; after all, right from the beginning we are told that Freemasonry should not come before one’s family or other responsibilities.

I lost weight, but more importantly, I got myself off of the blood pressure medication, and managed to reduce the cholesterol meds to a marginal level (that I’m not even sure is necessary). And I gained weight back, but in the form of muscle. Between the road cycling that I do in the summer, and the weight lifting that I do at other times, I’m now arguably healthier than my doctor. But, just like with Freemasonry, it didn’t happen overnight.

The point to all this is that sometimes we neglect the temple that we already have: our body. And just like the temples of old need maintenance and upkeep, so do our own bodies. It’s easy to neglect them simply because we so rarely think about them as long as they keep moving us around from one place to another. But remember that in the long run, maintenance is usually less expensive than patches and repairs. Instead of waiting until New Year, or your birthday, or some other calendar date, take some time to take stock of your own temple, and start  your own maintenance program.

If nothing else, it might get you some nicer presents than just a few bigger pairs of pants.

Categories: Fitness, Freemasonry
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