West Virginia's PGM Frank Haas' address to the Philalethes Society Feast at Masonic Week in February has been published by the Society on its Yahoo mailing list, and I presume in the upcoming issue of the magazine.
Both The Burning Taper and Theron Dunn's Beacon Of Masonic Light have posted the speech, so I won't repeat it by taking up more bandwidth. Little needs to be added, as it speaks for itself.
Frank Haas is a gentle, kind man whose motives in trying to make changes in West Virginia were an effort to make things right in his state. The rules he sought to change were largely passed in the 1950s when, by simply reading them, it is clear there was a turf war going on between the Grand Lodge and the appendant bodies. Those were very different times. Frank tried to drag West Virginia Freemasonry into the new century, or at least up to the back end of the last one.
West Virginia Masons who are sharing their stories on the Masonic Crusade website are telling tales of secret letters to Masters warning them not to so much as allow the topics of Haas and his reforms to be spoken of in lodge, along with unannounced surprise visits by the GM. Sad days indeed for the greatest, oldest and most respected gentlemen's fraternity in the world.
Nelson King, editor of the Philalethes Society magazine, has sent Grand Master Montgomery three letters asking if he wished to rebut or respond to PGM Haas' remarks. So far, no response has been made. That is classic, old school, old fashioned grand lodge style, not to air dirty linen in public. I don't expect GM Montgomery will ever respond publicly to the situation. But the world is a very different place now, and you're sitting way too close and staring into the glowing lavender reason why. What Grand Masters do is no longer kept secret anymore, and their actions - along with incidents in individual lodges - are shot round the world in no time flat.
As young Masons, older ones, and most important, the men who will be leading their lodges now or in the future get more and more connected to the Internet, the Masonic world gets tinier and tinier. Electronic friendships get made, stories get circulated, and suddenly a GM's edicts and actions get scrutinized more thoroughly than ever before. So getting leadership right is more important than ever. Masons are now, and will continue, holding their leaders to a higher standard than ever before. And more and more young Masters of lodges are grumbling and working to make sure grand lodge elections really are elections, and not just the advancement of hand-picked anointed appointments. Jurisdictions that have operated as advancing freight trains may not have such a certain future when Masons across a state can converse privately and instantly.
In the end, that will be good for Freemasonry. We need to be selecting the best leadership we can find, and not just rewarding buddies for knowing the right people.
I continue to hope that MWBro. Montgomery has the honor to bring legislation to the floor in West Virginia to propose Frank Haas' 2006 agenda with individual votes, and let those issues pass or fail on their own merits. We shall see. October is not far off.