Friday, September 07, 2007

Our West Virginia Brethren

There is a line spoken by Sir Thomas More in the film Anne of the Thousand Days that I often think of when fights erupt over the actions of Grand Masters. More says to King Henry VIII's smarmy but trusted advisor, "Master Cromwell, you may tell the King what he MAY do, and what he OUGHT to do. But you must never tell the King what he CAN do." In jurisdictions that allow Grand Masters to make edicts that can set aside existing legislation and laws, there is nothing that can be done. And if a trusted advisor tells them what they CAN do, there is little redress apart from time.

As a Mason, it is not my place to go criticizing in other jurisdictions. Number one, it is airing dirty laundry, and laundry that I probably don't have all of the facts about. Number two, such criticisms generally have the effect of hardening the resolve of the very people one is aiming at. And three, it is un-Masonic to go sniping at another Grand Lodge because they are perfectly entitled to make the laws and customs that suit their membership, regardless of what outsiders may think. And in most cases, they reciprocate by staying out of my Grand Lodge's business.

With those qualifiers safely tucked up at the top of this entry, I present a series of emails that have been forwarded to me from several sources within West Virginia. It is clear that this is from no tiny faction of malcontents, but that a large coalition of WVa Masons are less than enthused over the will of their 2006 Grand Lodge session votes and last year's Grand Master's agenda being set aside by another Grand Master's edict. And from what I have been told about rules within the GL of WVa, the rank and file, and even lodge leadership has almost no chance to discuss, rebut, or in any other way object to what has happened. Technically, by circulating emails, they are risking their Masonic membership, as you will see from the GM's response. Again, these emails are flying across the Masonic ether – the last one I had contained close to 100 forwards on it – so their contents have ceased to be a secret in anything but name only.

Esteemed Brethren of West Virginia,

Thank you for taking the time to read this
communication. You are being contacted as a true and
faithful brother, who is concerned about the current
state, and future of Freemasonry in West Virginia. if
you are not a brother who is such, simply respond to
this email with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.
If you find this of value, please forward these
communications to like concerned brothers, and ask
them to subscribe to this newsletter.

This past Grand Lodge, a great blow was dealt to
Freemasonry in West Virginia. Sixteen progressive
proposals that would have aided to not only the
sustenance of, but growth of our great Fraternity,
were struck down only weeks after being passed by an
overwhelming majority.

Now, wether you agree with all sixteen proposals or
not, you cannot agree with the way they were
overturned. My brothers, the current "old guard" Grand
Lodge officers, and faction of like minded Past Grand
Masters and Jurisprudence committee whom they control
said , in no uncertain terms that you, the men who
overwhelmingly voted to approve these proposals "did
not understand what they were voting for".
Furthermore, they accused the two Masons charged with
the counting of the ballots on the proposals, as
having "miscounted" the ballots, and having left
ballots in the ballot box, effectively speaking evil
of their good name.

There was no way that their "full votes" could
override the massive amount our "quarter votes", so
they chose a most unfortunate path, and determined
weeks after Grand Lodge, that the majority of voting
Masons in West Virginia had no idea what was good for
themselves and the Craft, and that they, the minority,
knew what was best.

By taking a survey of nature, we find, that for any
organism to survive, it must evolve, and adapt to it's
surroundings, and climate. This is best illustrated by
the banding together of four London lodges in 1717 to
form the first Grand Lodge. At that moment,
Freemasonry moved from a closed, independent society,
to one that is publicly acknowledged, and to this day
survives.

Soon after that day in 1717, Lodges from all over
England, Ireland, Scotland, and France, broke a vow of
ultimate secrecy as to their existence. They came
forth and said emphatically "We exist". Brethren, they
adapted to their climate. Gone was the reason for them
to meet in hiding. As a result of the members of these
lodges adapting to their time, Freemasonry emerged to
impact the evolution of civil society beyond any
organization outside of religion. There can be no
doubt that without Freemasonry, the civilized world in
it's present form would not exist. The world is as it
is today because Freemasonry has lived, and it has
lived because it has adapted.

Brethren, if Freemasonry in West Virginia is to live,
it must adapt. And to adapt, it must have visionary
leaders that are committed to the brethren of West
Virginia, it's number one resource. These leaders must
be able to survey the landscape of our current climate
and make proactive efforts to adapt towards growth,
instead of reacting out of fear when confronted with a
changing world.

Freemasonry in West Virginia must be an organism
focused on growing towards Light, instead of an
organism content to dwell in unchanging darkness.

"To remain silent when they know they should speak
out, makes cowards of men" - Abraham Lincoln

Brethren, do not be afraid.

Fraternally,
I.M. Hiram


Number 2
Esteemed Brethren of West Virginia,

Thank you for taking the time to read this
communication. You are being contacted as a true and
faithful brother, who is concerned about the current
state, and future of Freemasonry in West Virginia. If you are not a
brother who is such, simply respond to this email with
the word "unsubscribe" in the subject. If you find
this of value, please forward these communications to
like concerned brothers, and ask them to subscribe.
-------

Brethren,
As you have noticed, I have switched e-mail services. I received a
G-Mail account from one of my subscribers and I find it much easier to
manage the massive amount of correspondence with it. All future
e-mails will come from this address.

Thank you for your overwhelming support, and thank you for sharing
your thoughts on Masonry in the Mountain State. Here is what a few of
you have said:


>>Dear Brother,
Isn't it amazing how our Mason forefathers challenged the
status-quo for our liberty
and now our leaders are the status-quo challenging our right to
liberty. Please add me
to your list. I found your comments to be both timely and insightful.

>>To I. M. Hirem, Please add me to your e-mail list. It is time for the
brothers in WV to move forward, not keep everything "as is" which is
what is being bone by our present leadership. It's time for a change!! I
love the masonic order dearly, but it is all I can do to keep myself
from moving across the border to another state, ware there is more
positive thinking. Thanks for listening.

I. R. Fed Up

>>God bless you and what you are doing.

>>Greetings Brother Hiram!
>>Is there any chance that we could meet and discuss this in person?

>>I would be very appreciative to be kept up to date on anything and
everything that is happening for "the good of the order". I have voiced
my opinion several times and quite possibly could have made some
enemies along the way.

>>Again, I would like to continue to receive your letters and wish you
and everyone else on this mission, the best of luck.

>> I became a Mason because I admired it's enlightenment age ideals.
Needless to say I am quite disappointed to find the Grand Lodge acting
like Catholic Inquisitors.

>>Please put me on your mailing list. I am interested in what I am
told you are about.

>>Dear brothers,
I would like to receive upcoming emails from the crusade. Thank you.

>>Subscribe (x63)
>> Please keep me on your mailing list. Thanks (x30)



As well, I have recieved correspondance from Our Grand Master. Below
it you will find my retort.
---------------------------------------------------------


>> I am in receipt of your illegal campaign material. I advise you
to cease and desist immediately. Your cowardly attempt to influence
the voting members of the Grand Lodge is the most shameless display I
have ever witnessed. You are undoubtedly aware that you are in
violation of Masonic Law and your obligations, due to the fact that
you did not have the intestinal fortitude to sign your name to your
email communications.

Consider this as your opportunity to contact me should you be
willing to offer any evidence in your defense, or should you be
willing to admit to your transgressions. My investigation at this
point has already revealed certain names in connection with these
actions. If I receive no response to this email communication, I will
proceed to deal with the matter without your input. Needless to say,
some of our brethren will end up expelled from Masonry.

By this opportunity, you should realize that I am extending a
great deal more consideration than you have afforded me. I advise you
to respond expeditiously.


Chuck Coleman
Grand Master of Masons in West Virginia

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
My Reply:

Chuck,
I appreciate you taking the time to contact me and I do appreciate the
opportunity you have afforded me. And let me say,that I respect
you,and all Grand Lodge Officers, and Past Grand Masters, it takes a
lot to get to Grand Lodge. But I do not agree with you, or a majority
of current Grand Lodge officers. We're allowed to disagree aren't we?

In defense, I must point out that this is not campaign material. I am
not proposing or advocating any amendments, repeal or enactment of any
laws, rules, or regulations of this Grand Lodge. These e-mails
contains no push for a particular person, group of people, or
policies. It is a reflection and amplification of the sentiment of
the craft. It is opinion and fact. We're allowed to have opinions
aren't we?

From your investigations I am sure you are aware this e-mail has close
to one hundred subscribers. Some of them have been very vocal about
the treatment they have received for airing their opinions regarding
Masonry in West Virginia. Others have gone into territory I would not
rather pass on to you or any of the Brethren. But none of them, or
"us" as the case may be, have said that they do not love Freemasonry.
They are passionate enough about positive outcomes to risk e-mailing
me from their home accounts, with their full names.

This is not about you, or me. It is about Masonry. That is why I do
not give my name. I am not politicking. I do not wish my friends to
support my views because I am their friend, nor do I wish those whom I
do not know to dismiss my views, because they do not know me. This is
about issues.

Now as far as your desire to expel some of our brethren from Masonry
goes, I have a question for you. Do you really want to turn a letter
of hope, into a movement, and furthermore, to give it the strength of
having martyrs? And who would you expel? The men who received the
initial e-mail? There is no crime in receiving an e-mail is there? Not
in America, at least. Or would you go after those who forwarded the
e-mail? There is no crime against forwarding an e-mail is there? Not
in America, at least. And besides, every man is given the opportunity
to unsubscribe. (although only one has done it)

Or would you go after those known to disagree with you and the "Old
Guard", and try to prove that they were involved with the sending of
these e-mails, you know, stage a witch hunt?

Why was expulsion your reaction to the first e-mail. Why not
whispering counsel? Why a reaction of anger? You see, these are the
hard line actions the craft have come to expect out of this current
Grand Lodge and many in the past, it is evidenced in e-mail after
e-mail to me, and I've seen it myself first hand. We have all received
to little of the tenants of our profession: "Truth, Relief, and
Brotherly Love".

So if your solution to these e-mails, and to free speech and opinion,
is expulsion, then by all means, go with your instincts. Nothing makes
a point stronger than a few wrongly convicted martyrs.

To the scores of you on the e-mail list ; you brave souls, you free
thinkers, you truly Free Masons, do not fear, your e-mail addresses
and identities are secure with me.


"Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the
well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new
road" - Voltaire

Brethren, do not be afraid.
I.M. Hiram





I do know one thing. In a battle like this, there are no winners. Grand Masters may be smart or dull, visionary or blinkered, humble or pompous, but NONE of them react well to having their authority questioned - namely because we as Masons give them, in many cases, the divine right of kings for their year. I predict there will be some major bloodletting in West Virginia. But the flip side is that when the ranks of a volunteer organization arise and shout foul, especially when it is supposed to be founded on the principles of brotherly love, morality and other laudable traits, the wise man sitting on the throne of Solomon sometimes needs to look to his heart, and realize that what he does today affects the future. Pulling dues cards and charters are what a Grand Master CAN do, but not necessarily what he SHOULD do. Falling back on laws and regulations can sometimes be excuses for men when they lose the confidence to lead or the ability to listen to others. I hope that's not the case in West Virginia.

By the way, Thomas Cromwell DID tell Henry VIII what he COULD do, after all. Henry VIII divorced his first wife, and that's where all of those Episcopalians in the world came from.

But more to the point of this discussion, Thomas More got beheaded.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Masonic beheadings aren't so rare, we have plenty of our own Thomas Mores.

Eventually Grand Masters (and those who tell them what they can do) may learn that suspensions and expulsions aren't nearly as powerful a weapon as a word gently spoken.

It's unfortunate that so often a threat is a Grand Master's initial response rather than a final resort. It seems counter to a ostensible philosophy of brotherly love, relief and truth. But this is where we are and why so many of us feel that although members we are no part of this fraternity.

It may change someday, possibly even before it's too late for those who still care.

I understand your feelings about anonymous postings my brother, but please understand why I don't accommodate your wish that I sign.

Tom Accuosti said...

Did I miss the memo on what the actual issues were that were rescinded? Not that it makes much difference, because the principle is the same, but do the rules themselves mitigate the circumstances?

Chris Hodapp said...

It is my understanding – and I may be completely misinformed, so bear that in mind – that 2006 Grand Master Frank Haas presented an agenda of several items that were adopted by one vote at last October's Grand Lodge session. Items on the agenda included: lowering the age of petitioners to 18, and allowing the Order of the Eastern Star to meet in lodge buildings (currently in WVa, ONLY Blue Lodges may meet in lodge buildings - no appendant bodies, no youth groups, no OES). In addition, there were directives to allow neighboring jurisdictions to exemplify their degrees in WVa, and to outlaw the use of race as an objection to a visiting member.

Incoming 2007 Grand Master Charles Coleman issued a series of edicts and decisions that nullified the single vote adopting the PGM's agenda, and found PGM Haas' decisions were in violation of the Grand Lodge constitutions. Supporters of GM Coleman's position say that he is simply following the Constitution. Supporters of the 2006 changes say that the Old Guard is using technicalities to set aside the will of the majority of the 2006 Grand Lodge voters.

Having no copy of the West Virginia Book of Constitutions, no copy of the directives and legislation from last year, not being any kind of an expert on Masonic jurisprudence, and not being a member of a West Virginia lodge, I am in absolutely no position to have an opinion either way.

I have seen the decisions of Grand Master Coleman, and they are worded to properly cite portions of their constitutions as his reason for setting aside these decisions. However, PGM Haas is a judge in real life, and I find it a little unbelievable that, coming from a legal and judicial background, he would have recommended procedures that would have violated their rules.

It is a conundrum. As I said, I would not have posted any of this, except that it seems to be something of a major imbroglio that has obviously spilled over their borders. By all accounts, West Virginia is slow to adopt changes to its rules, and things that are commonly done in other states are prohibited there (supporting the appendant bodies and youth groups; lowering the petitioning age; relaxing strict geographical jurisdictions of lodges for new members, and more). And I will personally never understand the practice of allowing Past Masters a vote in Grand Lodge. That is the surest formula for remaining stuck in the bad habits of the last 60 years and check-mating changes the fraternity needs to be making. That is their prerogative, of course. But it seems a shame to subvert what was the will of Grand Lodge's votes by insisting on the letter of the law, when the spirit of the vote and the assembled brethren was clearly otherwise.

Surely there is a fair way for them to work this out.

Chris Hodapp said...

Anonymous wrote:
Eventually Grand Masters (and those who tell them what they can do) may learn that suspensions and expulsions aren't nearly as powerful a weapon as a word gently spoken.

My brother, you have spoken reams of truth with that one sentence.

And yes, I understand the need for anonymity on this topic. I understand better than you may know.

Chris Hodapp said...

Apparently, another complaint lodged against PGM Haas' activities last year was over his contacting West Virginia's Prince Hall Masons over the possibility of entering into discussions about joint recognition.

However, the criticism wasn't one sided. Apparently, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of West Virginia told him to go run up an alley and holler "fish." Or sentiments to that effect.

It seems emotions ran high on both sides.

*sigh*

Chris Hodapp said...

Speaking of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of West Virginia, why on Earth would they set up their website at
http://www.mwphgl-wv.us.tt/
so that it plays, "The Thrill Is Gone"?

I think they need to reconsider their public relations methods.

Anonymous said...

Chris wrote:
And yes, I understand the need for anonymity on this topic. I understand better than you may know.

Oh, I know, my friend. Trust me, I know.

Tubulcain420 said...

I'll never understand how a "leader" actually believes that trying to "bully" a real Freemason will work?
A Freemason who understands Freedom will never tolerate "bullying" from anyone, and in fact push back just as hard. There must be a give and take, ebb and flow.......

Remember brothers, many Freemasons wrote in anonymity during the Enlightenment times, knowing that "leaders" react in such ways, whether the 18th century or the 21st century, seems not much has changed, instead of imprisonment, expulsion or some other masonic "banishment".
the idea that no dialogue or "levelness" can transpire?
We must we remember we are all MM's first and foremost, not a ruler who wields power "over" other equal members.

Anonymous said...

There is clearly a disagreement between this and last year's Jurisprudence Comm. as to the legality of the vote. I was there. I know the feelings of the voting brethren and to take away their voice is unmasonic. I think it is telling that all the West Virginia Masons who are very proud of their membership must hide behind an anonymous post to voice their opinions. Masonically we live in a Dictatorship and the GAOTU willing we can change that. I M Hiram tells us to not be afraid! Good Advice Brethren!

Montani semper liberi!

Tom Accuosti said...

2006 Grand Master Frank Haas presented an agenda of several items that were adopted by one vote at last October's Grand Lodge session.
[...]
Incoming 2007 Grand Master Charles Coleman issued a series of edicts and decisions that nullified the single vote adopting the PGM's agenda, and found PGM Haas' decisions were in violation of the Grand Lodge constitutions.

See, that puts a completely different spin on the issue.

True, if the brethren voted for one motion that contained several items, then you'd think that the new GM would have the sense to respect that vote.. However, if indeed, the articles passed were in violation of the Constitution, then you simply can't let them stand.

Let's hope that they can work out the details without turning it into a circus.

Widow's Son said...

Bro. Tom:

Too late. Unfortunately, today's Freemasonry already has become a circus. Step right up to the Greatest Show on Earth!

In this ring, watch the Grand Master forbid Arizona Masons from entering the state's Shrine Temples.

In that ring over there, see Georgia Masons expelled without trial for starting a new club.

In another ring, watch Arkansas Masons get 50-year suspensions in Masonic kangaroo courts.

In the Connecticut ring, watch the Grand Lodge ask the State Court to treat them like a religion.

In West Virginia's ring, see the Grand Master threaten with expulsion anyone who disagrees with him.

And don't miss the Shriner clowns!


Widow's Son
BurningTaper.com

Charles Tirrell said...

Widow Son wrote

"In the Connecticut ring, watch the Grand Lodge ask the State Court to treat them like a religion."

I'm a Connecticut mason and I haven't heard of any such movement or request by the Grand Lodge. Can you please verify your source of this information, as I would like to learn more about if this is true or a mistake on someone's part? I truly believe that this information was given to you in error. I have been present at the past 12 Grand Lodge Communications and this has never been mentioned. I am also a District Lecturer and am active on the Grand Lodge level and have never heard of this until now.

Tom Accuosti said...

Unfortunately, today's Freemasonry already has become a circus.

"Today's" Freemasonry? You mean this never happened before our generation?

*snort*

Bro. WS, I can't speak to any of the other circumstance, but the GL of CT is not asking any court to be treated "like a religion." To even suggest that is an example of what I wrote on your own blog - that for some people it's way too easy to simply look at a small piece of a situation and make some kind of out-of-context judgment that does not take other factors into account.

Widow's Son said...

Bro. Tom,

I'm not a Masonic historian, and so I can only speak of "today's" Freemasonry, and then really only about my own personal experiences. The list of "events" in other rings of the circus, er, I mean, in other jurisdictions, are gleanings from news and commentary from other brothers.

I'm sure other generations of Masons had their own circus.


— W.S.

Anonymous said...

WS should stick to making factual comments, and not muddying waters further by repeating unattributable and non verifiable comments. After all a lie can be half way round the world before the truth has even got its boots on (T. Pratchett).

I must confess, from this side of the puddle (UK) I am amazed at the authority vested in the GM's in each GL, while the GM of UGLE has the power and the authority to act in such a way I have never known him to do so.

I hope this situation gets resolved soon, if any of those involved are looking for guidance I suggest they look to our ritual.

Anonymous said...

The enemies of fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons are not the anti-Masons, or cowans and eavesdroppers, they also wear Masonic aprons and yield a gavel too. It is these brethren who know not of their power, but allow their ego's and personal piques to stand in the way of progress as the fraternity struggles to advance into the 21st century. When all of the GL's in the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction recognize the Prince Hall, will they get respect from those who oppose their current practices. So Mote It Be.