Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ladies' Oriental Shrine Drops Masonic requirement

I have received a message that the Ladies' Oriental Shrine of North America voted at their annual meeting of the Grand Council in May to drop the requirement of a Masonic connection for membership. Founded in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1903, the LOSNA does not claim to be an official auxiliary of Shrine International (formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine). They are a separate and distinct Order.

According to their website, up until this recent vote, a candidate had to be "related to a member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine or a Master Mason by birth, marriage or adoption. "

This will unquestionably be a topic of conversation when Shrine International holds its annual Imperial Council Session in San Antonio, Texas in July. The Shrine has lost $3 billion (with a B) out of its former $8 billion foundation fund in the last 18 months, and is voting to close 6 of its 22 hospitals. Shrine International is making subtle and not so subtle changes in its public image, and even its initiation ritual that moves it away from the Masonic connection. It is clear that, if the primary purpose of Shrine International is to operate its hospitals, the Masonic community is no longer large enough or well-heeled enough to sustain its support. The Shrine has little choice but to open its doors to the general public and drop its Masonic requirement.

That said, I don't see a 2/3 majority vote passing anytime soon, which will only lead to a deepening financial catastrophe for them, because members will want to sentimentally cling to the past instead of realistically planning for the future. IMO, Freemasonry and the Shrine need to part company. Yes, grand lodges will lose some members, and the Shrine will lose some members. But both will adjust.

7 comments:

Russ Spice said...

I strongly agree with your opinion that it is time for the Shrine to leave Masonry. It would be best for both groups. I applaud you for standing up and saying so.

Chris Hodapp said...

Russ, there are many reasons, but the economic one today is the most compelling. There will be big ramifications at first, and there is no question that grand lodges will suffer the most from the split, at least at first. But in the end, I truly believe a split will be the best course for both organizations.

Justa Mason said...

Frankly, I don't know if there are huge numbers of people who want to join the Shrine but balk at joining the Masons.

I guess this is another difference between Canada and the U.S. I see it having very little effect on my Grand Lodge. I don't know too many people who petition a Lodge to be Shriners. They're young guys interested in the principles/philosophy of Freemasonry.

The Ladies Oriental Shrine folded here but I was told by a Past President the reason was there is a regulation which forbids someone from repeating as president. Thus, they couldn't get officers.

Justa

Brother Jason said...

In the short experience I have had with Masonry and the Shrine, I have only seen one person join the lodge with the intent of solely becoming a shriner.

Masonically at least, the shrine has performed its alotted use and has become just another organization without the glam that it once had. It is inevitable that a split will occur, the sooner it happens, the easier it will be for both organizations to adjust.

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

Let me introduce a contrarian opinion here (I know, big surprise), just looking at things from the perspective of the potential effect on the Blue Lodge of a split between Masonry and the Shrine:

What is the big deal if the Shrine splits from its Masonic connection?

Surely no one is saying that you'd have to choose one or the other, right? That really would be a big deal, and a cause of mighty contention. But that's not what's on the table. People who want to be both, can be both.

I can think of a very few people I've known who joined Masonry in order to get to the Shrine. I have been led to understand that this was not always the case, and that there was once quite a lot of people who joined Masonry (and, in that era, the Scottish or York Rites) in order to get to the Shrine. But I don't think we've seen that many people do this for some time.

Sure, there will be some guys who drop out of Freemasonry if the Shrine splits, and local lodges will suffer the loss of dues. Not a small thing, I know, especially in this economy.

But has it occurred to anyone that there might be an upside here for the local lodge?

With all due respect to my esteemed brothers in the Shrine, it must be said that there is an aspect to the public reputation of the Shrine that is not so good. The hospital thing is noble, plain and simple. But there is also the long-standing rep of being a party organization, and not a particularly dignified one, at that. (I remember the first Shrine publication I ever saw, which contained a picture of two guys wearing a woman's bra on their heads. That says it all.)

To a lot of men in the world at large, there is but a fuzzy distinction if any between Shriners and Masons. When I let it be known that I was going to be initiated into Masonry at the local Blue Lodge, several of my associates asked incredulously, "You're going to be a Shriner?!?" (Sue me--I have a rep as a somewhat serious guy.) I explained that (a) no, I wasn't, and (b) even if I were, being a Shriner involves a lot of things beyond the gags and convention pranks, particularly in the area of charity for horribly injured kids.

Nonetheless, the gags and convention pranks are what stick in people's minds, sometimes for years. (That popular C&W song doesn't help any, incidentally. When I mentioned an interest in Masonry many years ago, my then-girlfriend broke out into quite the rendition.)

All of this might just hold some gentlement back from petitioning the Lodge. They aren't into the prank and gag and party-boy thing.

Hence, a suggestion. If the Shrine decides to split, let every Blue Lodge in the nation let its local paper and TV and radio stations know that the Blue Lodge has always been a think apart, and will be continuing on, ready to welcome any gentlement who've been reticent to look into us because they thought we were all Shriners. Make it a teaching opportunity, brethren.

FD2L said...

Imperial Council Session in San Antonio, Texas in July

Geeze I would almost rather be in Afghanistan than deal with San Antonio during the Imperial Council Session. :)

-Bro Vick

47th Problem of Euclid said...

Has anyone asked what it would be like to cross the sands without being a Mason after the masonic requirement is dropped from AANOMS? Imagine being a non-Mason joining the Shrine, and finding yourself vastly outnumbered by Masons, all in positions of seniority compared to yourself. I could imagine a new Noble believing that not being a Mason would make him a second-class Noble.

If the Shrine drops the masonic requirement, would they accept women as Nobles?