"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

West Virginia: The Saga Continues

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.


  1. Although a sad state of affairs in our state we at J.W.Summers Lodge #173 are moving forward due in part to the seeds you help plant during your visit. I just this week added all new incandescent down lighting to our downstairs dining area. What a difference no florescent lights make!!! We have also allocated a sizable chunk to renovate our lodge room starting in a month or so. You have made a difference in Morgantown,WV Brother... Thank you again.. Jay Guminey PM

  2. I'm at a loss to figure out how the brethren in WV let their Grand Lodge get in such a mess. Personally, I know that a new WM will vote in GL to purchase his the rope he is to be hanged with and later vote on the knot to be used. With PMs having 1/4 of a vote, eventually, one would think they might get the new WM to think first.

  3. Jay, good to hear from you. I had a great time meeting with you and the brethren of JW Summers Lodge in Morgantown way back when. Glad to hear things are going well there.

    A good friend and Past Grand Master often says "all Freemasonry is local." It doesn't come from Grand Lodges or Grand Masters, it comes from what you do in your own lodge, with the friendships between your own brethren. You have an enthusiastic group of men there. It is all of YOU who are making a difference in West Virginia, and you will continue to do so long after the current circumstances are long forgotten. Success is the greatest revenge.

  4. Scout32 (hi Chris), it's because most WMs have absolutely no idea what the issues are when they walk into GL. I would guess that the first time most of them even look at the advance proceedings (note that I'm talking about Indiana where we have such things, not WV where apparently they don't) is when somebody gets up and says, "Our report is on page foo of the Advance Proceedings." And I doubt that more than a handful ever look at the legislation until it comes up for a vote.

    When you don't know what the issues are and discussion is limited to three people each pro and con, how can you even know that you're buying the rope for that scaffold they voted to buy last year?

  5. W.Bro. Nathan,

    You're right. Many don't. I had read the legislation and proceedings before going in and even asked questions. The slick move pulled on me was when the Finance Committee moved and seconded their report be adopted. The sheep went, "baaaa" and it was. You later pointed out that their report contained a net increase in dues. I looked at the numbers, but didn't know what they were the previous year. In essence, my first year while serving as a proxy, I bought the rope.
    I didn't make the mistake the next year and I'll make sure that every WM that follows is forewarned.
    I guess I read through these posts on WV and wonder, "when will someone clue the new guys in?"
    Chris Kimmel, PM
    Vincennes #1


Kindly sign your comment posts. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers, as far as I am concerned, and may be deleted if I don't recognize you or if I'm in a grumpy mood.