The Grand Lodge of California seems to be on a mission to assert control of constituent lodges. This has been a slow process, but the trend is inescapable. Doing more and more for lodges, however helpful it may seem, is deleterious to our Lodges, and to the Craft. I am asking you to reject these offers of help. It is setting a harmful precedent. There are potentially many factors in this equation. It may be due to the number of shrinking, dying and consolidating lodges out there. This in turn may explain the reluctance to bring down the hammer on ONOB, since, like many a parish priest before us (and current priests), we are in need of butts in seats.
We are accustomed to Grand Lodge officers telling the tale of how the baby boomers did not join their fathers’ lodges, and that we’re now looking to gen-x and millennials to pick up their grandfathers’ tools. The boomers reticence to join us is likely due to two factors, one utterly American, and one – literally – not. The boomers, so determined to never sell out to the man, are stuck perpetually in rebellion. Not just the fun, pot smoking, Ferris Bueller, youthful rebellion, but the “tear-down-every-last-vestige-of-the-old-order” rebellion. It’s still happening. The other, more insidious, and entirely preventable, factor is described well by none other than Universalist cleric of the Cathedral, Robert Putnam in his now famous work, Bowling Alone. Participation in civil society is down. People trust their neighbors less. They vote less (imagine the pain this causes democracy fetishists).
“What should we do?”
“We will find new Masons.”
So where are we to find new Masons? Well, we terminated the old Bracero program in favor of permanent, if undocumented, residency. It worked for agriculture, right? Wait…no? Oh screw you VDH! (kidding sir). Seriously though, why not initiate as many guests as possible? All good men and true, and all that. Again, I should stress to the reader that we are not opposed to initiating new brothers from far off lands, but we do extend the usual warning to brothers who find their lodges inundated by many foreign applicants. But the Grand Lodge’s position is understandable. All we need now are the proper, certified ritual teams for all of the many languages we now hear in California. Why just Spanish and Armenian? How exclusionary!
None of this should cast doubt in the reader’s mind as to our support for sanctioning the recognition of the Grand Lodge of Iran In Exile. While my more reactionary tendencies might be in sympathy (somewhat) with the government’s desire to remove the Western elements from Persian society, I am, and always shall be a liberal (in the true sense of the word). Revoking freedom of association is never right, though it has not existed, in any meaningful form, in our own country for some time now. Still, we will stand on principle.
Back to the original point, the time has come for our constituent lodges to start pushing back on the Grand Lodge whenever it tries to exert some new level of control over our lodges. It is we who created it after all.
If the reader has not yet guessed, your author is a Past Master and member of the Grand Lodge. When I was Sr. Warden, our Inspector announced that in addition to auditing the Lodge’s books, he would need to see the books for the Masonic Hall Association (a separate legal entity) that owns our building. Our Master rolled over despite my objections. Unless I missed it, there is nothing in the code that provides for the Inspector to be granted access to the books of a hall association. I was prepared to have this fight during “my” year (as Master), but we had a new Inspector, and he didn’t even audit the Lodge’s books!
The usual question is, “what’s your deal?” Allow me to explain. The trend of the Grand Lodge taking on the responsibilities of blue lodges should be viewed as a welfare program. “We will do the work that you should be doing.” Doesn’t that describe every program designed to provide assistance to the needy? Isn’t charity or service properly in our hands as citizens? As Masons? How is Grand Lodge’s “assistance” any different? If it takes on the duties that have traditionally, and properly, resided with the members, why hold stated meetings at all? If we cannot muster the brothers to do the work, do we have a viable lodge? My answer would be “no.” if a lodge has reached that point, it is time to consolidate. I would rather have fewer lodges with enough members to do the work, than have the Grand Lodge do our work for us.
So maybe it is time to take on the work that is properly ours. Maybe we should recruit members to be trustees, or manage the investments. Maybe we should hire accountants, if no one in our lodges can do the work.
Take back your lodges my brothers. Consolidate if you can’t bear the load. The Grand Lodge is subservient to you. Refuse to yield any more authority to San Francisco.