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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.”

 

 

Masons, not Gay-sons!

October 31, 2015 11 comments

 

WBC hates gay Masons

Dateline: Atlanta, GA — Westboro Baptist Church members are coming to the support of the GL of GA over their controversial decision to make both homosexuality and fornication Masonic offenses. As reported on Chris Hodapp’s blog,:

The Grand Lodge of Georgia met yesterday (Oct 27) and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald’s edict outlawing homosexuality, and throwing in fornication for good measure. After several impassioned speeches on the floor against the measure, it passed with a very close vote that probably should have been counted individually, but wasn’t.

Today being Halloween, a seance was held to summon the ghost of church founder Fred Phelps, who directed the WBC to give their support to the GL of GA, which has come under fire from Freemasons around the US and other areas for their decision to pass this ruling during their recent GL session.


The seance was short-lived, and reportedly ended with the ghost of Phelps complaining about the lack of air conditioning.

 

 

You’ve Got Mail. Now answer it!

June 30, 2015 6 comments

I think that rarely a month goes by in which the /r/freemasonry group on Reddit does not see a question like this:

“I am very much interested in joining a local lodge but haven’t had much luck getting a response back from the lodges I contacted. I contacted one via email and then followed up with a phone call about a month ago but haven’t heard back. I also contacted another lodge about a week ago and still eagerly waiting for a response. Is this typical? Is there anything more I can be doing?”

Reddit tends to be a younger demographic, so the responses are often wry or exasperated comments about the old-timers in charge of a lodge who don’t understand email, or how lodges haven’t kept up with the changes. Usually they tell the person asking the question to have some patience, and to keep trying, because this kind of thing is typical for most lodges.

“I emailed a lodge about a week ago through their contact us form and published email and haven’t heard anything back. Wondering if it would be prudent to start exhausting some other methods of finding contact or whether I should instead just sit tight and be patient.”

I used to think that way, myself, but I’ve changed my mind. I now believe that we should not encourage petitioners to keep trying to join a lodge in which the members do not seem to have a clue as to how communication works. Email — indeed, anything internet related — might have been the “wave of the future” a generation ago, but now it’s the acceptable methods of communication, and any lodge that can’t figure out how to use it should probably just die a natural death.

“I’ve been interested in the Freemasons for sometime and would like to petition my local lodge, however I do not know how to contact them. The lodge locator site shows my closest lodges but offers no means of contact. I don’t want to just show up at a meeting date and ask, as that seems rude.”

Thirty years ago, electronic mail was something for scientists, universities, and geeks. Twenty years ago, email was common, but still somewhat novel. Ten years ago, email had become one of the standard methods of business communication. Today, many businesses are giving up their fax line as most documents are now more easily scanned and emailed. If you have a cell phone (approx. 75% of US residents), then you have an email address.

“I’m interested in joining, but I have contacted 3 Lodges in [city] as well as the Grand Lodge of [state] with no response. I don’t want to be a nuisance, so I’m curious if there is something I’m missing!”

There is absolutely no reason for a Masonic lodge to not have an email address. More importantly, there is no reason why several members should not be checking that email address. Free email addresses are readily available from a variety of providers, including Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and your phone service provider.

“I’ve been interested in the Freemasons for sometime and would like to petition my local lodge, however I do not know how to contact them. The lodge locator site shows my closest lodges but offers no means of contact. I don’t want to just show up at a meeting date and ask, as that seems rude.”

Apparently a lot of Masons have taken a step or two toward modern times. Many lodges actually do have an email contact. Unfortunately, all too often it belongs to Old Jake — remember Jake? He was the Secretary back in 2004. He’s in Florida now. Nobody knows where those emails go.

“I exchanged e-mails with someone about a year back, we met and discussed everything. He seemed really enthusiastic. Then he disappeared after the lodge went dark for the summer months. He did not come back after the summer as far as I can tell.”

Those of us still young enough to be in the working world understand that sending an email to the lodge in care of “oldjake1932@prodigy.net” doesn’t look very professional, nor does it inspire confidence. And I do understand that while having your own domain name for your lodge sounds cool and modern, it’s really not necessary; in fact, just that type of thing will be guaranteed to become a burden at some point when the people who are supposed to  handle the re-registration aren’t around. So, let’s keep it simple.

“I contacted the [state] lodge through their online form last week but haven’t heard anything. I’m just wondering if there are local masons I could meet through here or if I should do something else to contact the lodge. I don’t see any events on their website to attend.”

Here’s my suggestion (are you listening, Grand Lodge officers?): Have one of the more technically inclined guys in a lodge (or his grandson, or any passing high school student) register a Gmail account with a name that is similar to the lodge. For example, my lodge would be “friendship33@gmail.com.” Then, go into the settings and have any mail that comes into that address immediately forwarded to the Secretary, and two or three other members of the lodge. Give all of them access to that account so any one of them could respond to a potential applicant.

“I reached out to the GL here and got invited to an “Brother Bring a Friend ” event at the respondent lodge. I got dressed up, showed up early and waited for about an hour before being told they had canceled it (but not update the webpage or let me know since my RSVP.) It was disappointing and the lodge’s secretary I was in e-mail contact with seemed generally remorseful so no trouble there. My initial e-mail was December ’12, the event I showed up to was January ’12. I e-mailed again in January to no response and then again in late April to no response.”

I’m not going to walk you through all of the steps because a) it’s easy enough to figure out, and b) the people who really need to be doing this aren’t reading my blog, anyway. They are probably too busy passing around the latest Facebook “Remember when mail came with a stamp once a day? Like and Share!” memes.

“I moved to a new town a couple months ago and have had the hardest time getting in touch with these people. They don’t answer phones, respond to voicemails or emails (i’ve tried like 4 email addresses).”

Naturally, the same courtesy should apply to returning voice mails. If someone has taken the time to find the contact information for the lodge, the lodge needs to make sure that someone — and preferably more than one person — will return that message in a timely manner.

“A few weeks ago I sent an email to my local lodge requesting information on becoming an mason. I hadn’t heard anything back a week later and decided to re-forward my original email (I mentioned that I was concerned that my email went to a spam/junk folder.) this happens to me from time to time. At this point, another week has passed. I certainly don’t expect immediate replies but I’m curious about whether my emails have been received or not. Perhaps I’m going about contacting the lodge in an incorrect manner… Any feedback?”

I have seen this topic come up countless times over the years, and while it was funny back in 2005, I find that I’m actually becoming embarrassed to hear these stories, over and over. What kind of organization does not understand how proper, courteous, business communication happens in the real world?

“Hey, I’m a 21 year old who’s interested in becoming a prince hall mason. I’ve contacted the grand lodge, sent an email, and even left my number and no one has gotten back to me in [state].”

I’ll tell you what kind: one that will eventually no longer have people seeking to join.

“I was told that from petition to a phone call or other contact is an exercise in patience. I talked to a guy in a neighboring town say it took him 6 weeks to get a call.”

When I’ve spoken up about this in other venues, I’ve had members — mainly, but not always, older guys — try to explain to me that Freemasonry is a slow process. “People always expect something right away,” they have told me. “Freemasonry isn’t about the instant gratification,” is the message — as if that’s supposed to excuse a lodge that has left a potential member wondering if he has done something wrong.

“I’ve tried various means of contacting people in [city], as well as the Grand Lodge in [state]. This includes e-mail, contact forms, and by phone. I don’t want to come across as pushy, so what should I do next?”

Freemasonry is not about instant gratification? I’m going to have to call BS on this line of reasoning. We still have US states who push dozens, if not hundreds of candidates through in the One Day Class/Blue Lightening/Mister to Master, or whatever they call it in that area. Even the idea of just a few weeks between degrees sounds like a quick sprint to some of our European brothers who may take six to twelve months between degrees.

Again: email and voicemail are not the wave of the future. They are long-established methods of communication, and any lodge that can’t figure out how to use them does not deserve to have the rest of us telling potential candidates to “wait with patience.”

The Lodge Network

April 1, 2015 11 comments

The Grand Lodge Annual Communication is coming up shortly — a little late this year, and hopefully not as contentious as the Semi-Annual session back in October. I expect to be attending the parties and gatherings the previous night, and I’m hoping that I can get enough time from work to attend to actual meeting the next day.

One of the items that has been overlooked in last year has been the quiet success of the first internet-only lodge in Connecticut, and quite possibly in the entire US. Similar to Castle Island Virtual Lodge, our new lodge has no physical presence, which means that it embodies one of the other connotations of the word “lodge:” not the building, but the membership.unmounted07

While you might think that the lack of need for a building would make it pretty easy to set up an internet lodge, it has, in fact, taken well over a year of planning, researching, and developing by a small group of some of the more progressive members of our fraternity. One of the issues was finding a secure network platform that would allow more than two dozen visitors. While several of the Grand Lodge committees meet online, they usually do so via Google Hangouts, which is limited in the number of video connections.

The most difficult part of the process was not the website, but convincing other Freemasons that not only is an internet lodge more than just a novelty, but that it can be a good alternative to the conventional lodges. CIVL has long since proved that the security of such a lodge is viable, but there were several other issues that needed to be resolved. Not surprisingly, most of those were the non-technical issues.

By far, the most contentious issue was that of degree work. Lodge members, not being able to be in the same room together for degree work, recorded some of the best ritualists in the state performing all three degrees, plus the various lectures and charges. Those videos are stored on a secure server, with DVD copies. Candidates, after having paid their degree fees, will then receive a pass code to download each degree, or, if desired, to have a DVD delivered in Netflix style. They can then watch the degree ceremony, after which they will have the opportunity to prove themselves before going on to the next degree.

Those opposed to such an arrangement insist that video degrees will lack the personal touch that helps conventional lodge members to bond. Another point is that having a candidate simply sit through a screening would take away from the initiatory experience, and leave the candidate with little reason to return.

On the other hand, proponents of virtual degrees point out that the videos are much better quality than the work seen in most lodges, and that if a candidate has a large screen TV with a home theater setup, the experience might well be superior to the conventional way. Another point is that the One Day Classes have already removed the participatory nature of the degrees by presenting them as a spectacle; if one can become a Mason by watching others on a stage, then why can’t one become a Mason by watching others on a video screen?

Scottish Rite officials have declined to comment, but have been rumored to be watching the situation closely. Likewise, the Grand Lodges of several states have quietly contacted the officers of our new lodge with questions about scripting and producing similar videos for use at their One Day degree festivals.

Fortunately, the progressive minded thinking for which our Grand Lodge has been known prevailed. Connecticut has two research lodges, a European Concept lodge, and now, an internet lodge, which will (hopefully!) be announced at the upcoming Grand Lodge session.

For those interested in what our modern and forward-thinking brothers have been working on:


Network Lodge No. 502 AF&AM
Welcome to the Freemasonry of the Future!


Categories: Grand Lodge, Internet, Lodge Tags: ,

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

April 3, 2014 4 comments

There’s been some interesting online discussion about the video The Grand Leveler from hip-hop artist Apathy, not just for his use of a Masonic Lodge, but because he, himself is a Mason. Some people in our fraternity enjoyed the music and his vision, while others believe it portrays Freemasonry in a bad light.

For anyone so inclined, you can jump into a discussion with Bro. Apathy that’s happening right now on Reddit:

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

 

And after you’re done, then stop by the Reddit Freemasonry group to discuss it some more.

Ancient or Modern?

January 22, 2014 3 comments

Freemasonry Today, the publication of the UGLE, has a short article from Bro. John Hamill, Director of Special Projects,  in which he asks the question “Is it time to modernize the rituals?” It’s a great topic, and one that has initiated some bickering discussion in some of the online Masonic communities, with the general consensus that this question should be answered with a resounding “Hell no!”

One might think that being a Past District Lecturer that I’d be completely against this; but I’ve given this some thought, and I think that one could make a case that modernizing the ritual might not be such a bad idea. As Bro. Hamill points out:

The English language is said to be one of the most difficult to learn, in both its written and spoken forms. Part of that difficulty is the wonderfully idiosyncratic illogicality of how we pronounce many of our words, which often has little bearing on the actual letters they contain. Another problem is that a simple word can have different meanings, or shades of meaning, depending on its context, or even where in the country it is spoken.

Our familiarity with words and phrases affects how we use them. Over time, the words develop different meanings or connotations. For example, our current Masonic usage of the word “clandestine” now means something slightly different than it did 150 years ago.  Similarly, some words fall out of favor, some are preferred for written discourse, but are rarely used in spoken conversation. For example; “inculcate.” I suspect that nobody uses this in speech because it’s just a jumble of misplaced consonants.

Bro. Hamill also writes (and many others have pointed out):

English is a living language in which the meaning of words changes over time…

If our language is “living,” does this mean that some of our words and phrases can be taken out to the back field and buried when they are dead?

I bring this up because of practical reasons. As a visitor to many lodges, both in and out of my district, I watched as officers strained to deliver their various lectures and charges. You could see their brows furrowed, perspiration on their foreheads, and the tension just radiating from their body movements as they struggled to recite passages in a dialect that was strange and unfamiliar. Their lack of familiarity with the archaic expressions, I contend, is what gave many — perhaps most — of my brothers such a difficult time. Imagine someone from, say, the US trying to memorize a passage of French or Spanish, with little working knowledge of the language. Yes, you’d recognize some words, and perhaps some would sound vaguely familiar, but how well could you actually deliver the lines — especially knowing that some of the people in the room were listening for each little mistake? I think that the typical 30 to 40 year old Mason probably hasn’t read much 1700s Brit-Lit, at least, not since high school, so the lack of familiarity with the terms and usage turns a few paragraphs of a lecture into something akin to a foreign language.

Yes, I know that part of the appeal of Freemasonry is the rich history, but I sometimes think that those of us who decry the modernization of the ritual — or of any other aspect — is really saying that he made the effort, so now he expects everyone else to do the same. This position can be declared elitist, or possibly libertarian, but to some degree, it’s simply wrong. For example, I don’t hear very many of my brothers asking to bring back the even more ancient usages, such as:

Articulus octavus.

The eghte artycul schewt zow so,
That the mayster may hyt wel do,
Zef that he have any mon of crafte,
And be not also perfyt as he auzte,
He may hym change sone anon,
And take for hym a perfytur mon.
Suche a mon, throze rechelaschepe,
Myzth do the craft schert worschepe.

 

You recognize that, don’t you? Of course you do;  it’s the 8th Article of Freemasonry from the Regius Manuscript. What, are you having a hard time with the 14th century script? Here, let’s modernize the text make it easier to read:

Eighth article.

The eighth article sheweth you so,
That the master may it well do.
If that he have any man of craft,
And he be not so perfect as he ought,
He may him change soon anon,
And take for him a more perfect man.
Such a man through rechalaschepe, (recklessness)
Might do the craft scant worship.

So much easier to understand, don’t you think? Personally, while I find it interesting from a historical aspect, I suspect that if you went back to the late 1700s, we wouldn’t find a lot of Freemasons bemoaning the dearth of 15th century style lectures.

As a counter-point, I also suspect that if you sat down with a bunch of your brothers after lodge, most of you could act out and recite entire sections of favorite movies or TV shows. Most of the brothers around my own age could probably quote passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that are at least equal in length and difficulty as any of our lectures, and I know for a fact that quite a few of the younger brothers at my lodge can quote and act out scene after scene from most of the Star Wars movies. What’s the difference between Monty Python and the Middle Chamber? You might argue that it’s the repetition, but I’d say that part of it is the familiarity with the language.  Yes, there’s the repetition, but think about this: Most lodges meet twice a month. A Mason who attends most meetings is going to see and hear the opening ceremony at least 20 times in a year. By the time he’s a senior officer, he could have well seen 80 to 100 opening and closing ceremonies.That is a lot of repetition, certainly much more than one would experience with most movies or TV episodes. And yet, how many times have you  seen a Master of a lodge who could barely stumble through a proper opening and closing?

In answer to his own question,  Bro. Hamill concludes his essay by saying:

Occasionally, we hear calls to modernise those ceremonies, to take out old words and phrases and replace them with modern, instantly comprehensible ones. I hope those calls are never answered. Our ceremonies contain some wonderful set pieces of English language that would be destroyed if we modernised them. Freemasonry is a learning process, and if we have to resort to a dictionary to fully comprehend what we learn, that can only enrich us.

Personally, I enjoy the works as they are. Although not a history buff, I appreciate the connection to the older days of Freemasonry, and I quite like the challenge of tackling some of the unfamiliar phrasing in order to present it as I imagine a brother of 1814 would have done.  But if “modernizing” the ritual means that more members would be able to memorize it — and more importantly, to deliver it well to the newer members — then maybe this is an idea worth examining a little more closely, before we toss it into the “we’ve never done it like that” discard bin.


In For A Penny…

January 17, 2014 3 comments

Back before I even became a member at my lodge, I can remember wondering which appendant body I should join next. The esoteric Scottish Rite — full of Morals and Dogma, and discussions of symbology, and the seemingly infinite number of degrees? Or the more traditional York Rite, to continue the Masonic lessons in the way that the early speculative Freemasons have done in the past? Oh, sure, older and wiser Masons cautioned me to wait a bit until I had a chance to settle in, but what the hell did they know?And then join the other things!

But you know how things happen. Right after I joined, I got sucked into was asked to join the officer’s line, and that turned into five years just trying to do a decent job, and I figured that after my year in the East, I’d start looking at joining something else again. But no sooner was I shunted off to the old Past Master home, when I found myself with the capacity to aggravate people in an more-or-less official capacity as a District Grand Lecturer. That became three more years of my being out several nights a week, and I really had no desire to add more meeting nights to my plate.  And then I was busy with work, and barely had time to get to Friendship a few times a month, let alone do anything else. And then my daughter was in her last year of high school, and we spent quite a bit of family time together before we would send her off to be indoctrinated college.

And then in the fall, it got too cold (and dark!) to do any bicycling in the evening after work, and I found myself  — somewhat uncharacteristically — with little to do.  So , I again pondered my choices, and after some reading, and some discussion with friends who had been there before me, I asked a brother who frequently stops in at Friendship for a petition. Naturally he had one in the car (Masons, amirite guize?); I filled it out, asked a few friends to sign off for me (fortunately the Past Grand Master just happened to be there), and turned it back in that afternoon. I got lucky, because the next meeting was in two weeks, and as it happened, the Keystone Chapter No. 27  was free enough to confer a Mark Master Mason degree.

After a few back and forth emails, I showed up at the Meriden Masonic Temple on the appointed date, and even somewhat early. We had been having a particularly frigid cold snap, and I found it amusing that the thermometer in my car said 4º when I pulled into the parking lot. I chatted with a few of the guys, and was surprised that I hadn’t actually met any of them before except for RW Bob, who was going to be acting as the RWM that evening.

The brothers are to be commended for putting together a degree on such short notice, especially since several people were sidelined by the weather. I had a surprise at the end of the evening when the Senior Grand Warden revealed that he was originally from Minnesota, and was a good friend — in real life, no less — of one of the few remaining Masonic bloggers.

While most of the guys were anxious to get home, a few of us did hang around afterward, talking about the degree and some of the history behind it. I’m looking forward to doing this again.


Meriden Masonic Temple - in the daylight.

Here’s a picture of the Masonic Temple in Meriden, CT., in which a number of lodges and chapters meet.

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