Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Atlanta Coverage of Gate City Lodge


Atlanta's The Sunday Paper has an extensive article by reporter Chuck Stanley on the Gate City Lodge No. 2 situation in its online edition today.

It includes important remarks by John Holt as to his resignation as DDGM.

Gate City fell under the jurisdiction of District Deputy John Holt, an 82-year-old retired machinist and salesman, when Victor Marshall became a Master Mason. Grand Master James Jennings asked Holt to tender his resignation after the controversy broke. Holt maintains that the Grand Master never expressed dissatisfaction over the induction of a black man into Gate City. However, when complaints and, later, charges against Gate City made their way to the Grand Lodge, he says, Jennings felt “blindsided.”

“I failed to inform the Grand Master of what was going on in that [Gate City] lodge,” says Holt, who says he harbors no ill will over the situation. “That’s my duty and I didn’t do it. So for that reason, I had to resign.”

In retrospect, Holt says, Marshall’s membership in the lodge was “out of the ordinary” (he was not aware of any other black Masons in the district) and therefore should have been relayed to the Grand Master. At the time, though, it never occurred to him to report it.

“It’s just one of those things,” he says, sympathizing with Jennings’ request that he resign. “It’s my job to report on anything out of the ordinary.”

26 comments:

Chris Hodapp said...

I am quoted quite a bit in the article. Correctly, which is an usual circumstance these days.

Terence said...

Holy crap Chris, my lodge is correctly quoted as well.

I told my lodge Brothers that one lodge can make a difference and I was right.

Thanks for sticking up for the right side of this issue, Chris. Myself, the Brethren of Mt. Rushmore Lodge 220, and the contributors of FreemasonInformation.com are with you!

Esquire said...

Chris, have you thought about writing a sequel to your bestseller and title it "Red Neck Masons for Dummies"?

Chris Hodapp said...

The point of the archaic language regarding being "freeborn" as a qualification for Masonic membership had to do with the fact that slaves, bondsmen and indentured servants were not allowed to enter into a contract. Thus, they could not give their word, as it wasn't theirs to give. Unfortunately, it became a common bastardization in parts of the US to add or substitute "slaves", and then to redefine freeborn as "not descended from slaves," with the apocryphal explanation that it was from an 'old Roman term.' Do not ignore that this was a very common definition found in Masonic Monitors all around the US for well over a century, and may still hang on in some GL monitors. So, it is entirely possible that huge swaths of US Masons still regard this as Masonic "law" when it was nothing but a monitorial definition, and a fallacious one at that.

Matthew said...

Wow, what a great article. Interesting reading and very balanced, a nice change of pace to be sure.

saintscrewtape said...

So Holt wasn't asked to resign because he was at the raising, he was asked to resign because he was at the raising and didn't tell Jennings?

I fail to see the difference. Why should it have even been worth reporting?

On a separate note, the grand lodge is taking its time responding to this issue. Almost a month now since it hit the press, and well more since the charges were preferred. It should be a cut and dry issue.

The K.N.O. said...

The difference could well be an important one. If the Grand Master had known before hand, he would have had the opportunity to be involved in the raising. If he had, this entire matter might not exist.

saintscrewtape said...

That is fairly optimistic.

His note afterward didn't put it to bed. Probably because it had all the sentiment of a fax cover sheet. It said little more than he is a mason properly raised and should be received as such.

If Ed Jennings wanted to make the policy clear he could have done in in that letter.

The message was obviously not received as members of the grand lodge apparently didn't understand it and recruited WM's Hicks and Ethridge to prefer charges.

I want Ed Jennings to be a good guy, I really do. I also want the Grand Lodge to really do the right thing here, but neither seems to be the case.

Ethridge and Hicks are almost less offensive to me than Jennings. We can chalk their actions up to ignorance, and to trying to curry favor with higher ups in the Grand Lodge.

Jennings on the other hand was elected to lead the masons of Georgia, and so far his actions have been cowardly.

If Jennings had known about the raising my bet would be he would have called the lodge and done his damnedest to prevent it.

John's answer explained that it didn't even occur to him that it would be an issue. I say good for John, he had faith in his brothers that they really believed in the principles of masonry. Unfortunate for all of us his faith was misplaced.

I was reading through "Laudable Pursuit" again and I kept hearkening back to this whole situation. This is point 1, a failure of leadership.

I am new to masonry, and new to Georgia. I can't count the number of times I have defended it to my friends and colleagues who questioned my association. I guess I look pretty silly now.

If it weren't for the general public's sentiment that masonry is totally irrelevant, we might really have something to answer for.

Chris Hodapp said...

But John's faith WASN'T misplaced. The men who filed charges don't by association represent the overwhelming members of Georgia Freemasonry. The GM's hands were tied by the GLs code that forced him to call a trial commission when the charges were filed. Only withdrawal by the parties involved could make them go away, and no other charges have been attempted by others. GM Jennings has literally done nothing except to issue a statement that the Gate City brother was properly voted on, initiated, passed and raised. Nothing he has publicly done so far has supported discrimination in Georgia lodges. And until and unless he DOES say or do something that promotes racism in Georgia Freemasonry, he is deserving of my respect and yours. Doubly so for you, if you are indeed a Georgia Freemason.

You say you are new to Freemasonry. This fraternity moves like a brontosaurus on Quaaludes. It changes slowly. In an age where TMZ pronounced Michael Jackson dead 10 minutes before he actually died, it's understandable that some of us want changes to be immediate. As I said in the Sunday Paper article, Grand Masters must follow the rules on what they do, because an angry grand lodge can stand up the next year and eradicate every single thing he does. Whether the forces who favor racial bias in Georgia Masonry have enough votes in Grand Lodge to bust him in the chops or not, he is dealing with a volatile hornet's nest.

So if you are a Georgia Mason, call him, write to him, send him an email. BE RESPECTFUL OF HIS POSITION. I don't just mean his position in terms of his being able to give you the Order of the Boot. I mean, be respectful of the position he is in. Yes, it is his duty to be a leader and to lead his grand lodge to the future. But he was elected to represent all of Georgia's Masons. Give him the opportunity to succeed or fail before you pronounce him dastardly.

The K.N.O. said...

"That is fairly optimistic."

You stated you didn't see a difference. I offered an possible example that is significantly different. I do hope that this is the case, and your view seems fairly pessimistic. If it ends up somewhere between, we may have a half a glass of water left. I will have faith in my brethren until there is clear evidence. There is none that I have seen.

Rolf said...

I think Cris made it to the point.You should not talk about your Grand Master like that until you do have a proof of unmasonic behaviour.
From my very outside view, the masonic world should wait a few more days until the declaration reaches the light.

saintscrewtape said...

Just to be clear I didn't call Jennings a racist, nor accuse him of promoting racism.

Lets read what my criticisms of Jennings were. I called him offensive and cowardly. I don't think either of these is out of line given my perception of the situation. Perhaps you disagree.

As I see it, Jennings has allowed this situation to drag out for far to long, and to garner considerable public attention.

Was this because he wasn't notified in enough time by John Holt, and couldn't get ahead of the situation?

No, it most certainly was not. Jennings knew about this situation months out at the 275th anniversary celebration for Solomon's lodge.

He issued a letter which did little more than confirm Victor's status as a mason. We are all now waiting for a powerful public statement condemning racism in masonry. Maybe that should have been part of the letter originally.

Jennings failed to keep his house, the Grand Lodge in order, allowing members to participate in the effort to recruit Hicks and Ethridge to prefer charges against Gate City and its WM.

He also allowed the trail to proceed. I understand that he is obligated to do so unless the charges are withdrawn. However, that is exactly what happened, they were withdrawn with pressure from the Grand Lodge.

I'll point out though this only happened after the press exerted significant force on the Grand Lodge and several powerful masons intervened to force the Grand Lodge's hand.

If he could move behind the scenes for the charges to be withdrawn after the press came in, surely he could have before. I would imagine a call from Jennings to Hicks and Ethridge early on could have ended this controversy before it spread.

Speaking of Hicks and Ethridge, what happened to them? I'm fairly sure they are still sitting in the east in their respective lodges. Good to see we are so committed to high standards in our leadership. Maybe Jennings should use his "Order of the Boot" powers to do some good there.

How long since the charges were dropped? Two weeks at least. Still no public statement.

So I guess we wait. But I fail to see how the statement that will be issued remedies any of the wrongs cited above. It will be too little too late. My criticism is of his lack of leadership when it was needed most, and I don't see anything to suggest I am in error.

I appreciate the lethargic movement of masonry as a organization, but Ed Jennings is arguably the single most powerful mason in Georgia, and there is very little to restrain a Grand Master from acting is he chooses to. That is my criticism.

I have tremendous respect for all of you. You are older masons, more learned in the craft, and more experienced with the way things work.

I don't want to see everyone settle for an unacceptable end to this conflict. A statements saying "No more racism in Georgia" just isn't enough.

The K.N.O. said...

"Lets read what my criticisms of Jennings were. I called him offensive and cowardly"

I disagree that we've seen enough evidence that the GM of Georgia is either of these things.

"I don't want to see everyone settle for an unacceptable end to this conflict. A statements saying "No more racism in Georgia" just isn't enough."

Most brothers, here and in Georgia, are with you on this point. It may be that the GMs message, which will be out in less than a week, will be more than such a statement. His initial statement was fairly clear; the brother was duly raised and should be treated as a brother.

I don't think the process has taken all that long. A month to go through a trial process is pretty quick, even when one party retracts. Remember, the GL did not bring the charges. If you are a truly a Georgia member you can bring Masonic charges against these individuals if you so desire.

Meanwhile, I will continue to support my brother, GM Jennings, until there is obvious evidence against him. There is none as of yet. In about a week, there will be more to know.

Chris Hodapp said...

saintscrewtape wrote:
"I called him offensive and cowardly"


You are crossing a big line, if you are who and what you claim to be. If you are really a new Georgia Mason (and not one of the usual trolls, as I am now suspecting), he's YOUR Grand Master. Call him and ask him which he's being - offensive or cowardly. To me, he looks neither.

Nice that we are all in the expansive company of a "saint."

saintscrewtape said...

Its not terribly nice to mock me for my point of view or my screen name. The name is a literary reference. I think I've been respectful of you and this blog.

I see that you both disagree with my assessment of the situation, and with my break from decorum in my criticisms of WM Jennings.

However, I think they are valid and pertain to specific cited instances of inaction and insufficient action.

I think the same criticism could well be applied to anyone in power that has acknowledged that racism exists in the organization and has failed to act to end it. However, it carries specific weight for those whose actions could be most powerful.

No one else thinks its outrageous that there we no other black masons in the district? Let not forget that that is the root of this whole controversy. Its 2009, and we are seriously discussing this issue.

K.N.O. , I shouldn't have to prefer charges against Hicks or Ethridge, the Grand Master is well aware of their views as made evident in the charges they preferred. As Chris noted, the GM can boot anyone he likes. I see no better use of that power than now.

I really don't feel that my criticisms of WM Jennings are out of line either. I understand that I owe respect to his record of service, and to his position as Grand Master. I just don't think either puts him beyond criticism for the way in which he has carried out those duties.

I am sure he is a great guy to interact with socially. He is obviously charismatic and intelligent enough to have been elected Grand Master. What I've written is a criticism of the way he has done his job.

I also really resent the implication that I better watch my comments lest there be some formal consequence. There is a real structural problem when someone has to consider if criticizing their leadership might result in expulsion or loss of office.

Either way. I look forward to seeing the resolution of this situation, and to continued reading of your blog and the comments of its readers.

Chris Hodapp said...

"The name is a literary reference. "

Yes. I'm well aware of it.

The K.N.O. said...

"I see that you both disagree with my assessment of the situation, and with my break from decorum in my criticisms of WM Jennings."

You have the right to your opinion. However, recall it is only your opinion and brings nothing new to the table. My opinion holds without the presentation of new evidence.

"K.N.O. , I shouldn't have to prefer charges against Hicks or Ethridge, the Grand Master is well aware of their views as made evident in the charges they preferred. As Chris noted, the GM can boot anyone he likes. I see no better use of that power than now."

GM Jennings is not using them against the two individuals, nor Gate City. He should not have to bring charges against anyone if he chooses not to. As much as I disagree with the opinion those that brought the charges, they have the right to hold that opinion, just as you have the right to hold yours. That is what freedom of conscience is all about. This is America. You have the right to bring charges as much as those individuals did to bring charges against Gate City. If ludicrous, which I feel the charges are, they have the right to have them fail. GM Jennings has, as far as I know, brought charges against no one. Nor does a few months seem like a long time to deal with a legal situation.

It is fair to allow you to hold your opinion. It delivers absolutely no new information aside from your opinion.
It is however fair to question the self-identification as a Georgia Mason or even a Mason at all by an unfamiliar anonymous poster.

The 'screwtape' reference is familiar to many. To some it as common as the term 'B.C.' after a date, or 'B.C.C.' when forwarding an e-mail to a third party. You cannot get so upset over a comment over a handle that attempts to offer no identification.

Eric said...

I must vehemently protest, Chris. Masonry cannot move as slow as "a brontosaurus on Qualuudes" as you put it. Brontosauruses have been proven not to exist, as my 10 year old son correctly points out. Rather, let's say that Masonry moves as slow as an Apatosaurus on Qualuudes. There. I feel SO much better now.

;-)

Chris Hodapp said...

Nonsense.

I saw a brontosaurus at the 1964 World's Fair in New York at the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

Doubter.

Steve said...

I recently became aware of the events in Georgia and am deeply troubled by them. I was raised in Philologia Lodge, 178 in 2006. I regard my time spent with the men of Philologia Lodge as some of the best of my life. Shortly after my raising, I relocated to another state for my career. Visiting new lodges was a strange experience for me. The lodges in my new home town paled in comparison to Philologia and other lodges in Georgia. Until I could find a lodge that could meet the high expectations set by me as a Georgia Mason, I chose to maintain my membership with Philologia Lodge. Because I have not been able to do so, I am still a member of Philologia Lodge in good standing as of today.

I was never na├»ve when it came to the personal views of some members of the lodge. I was born and raised in the south and know that social change takes generations and that some men’s beliefs will simply not be changed. However, I always believed that Masonry in Georgia would move toward the mainstream like other southern jurisdictions already had. Believing that, I crossed that bridge early in my Masonic journey with an eye towards the future.

Today however, I find myself at a moral crossroad with Philologia Lodge. I am pleased to see the raising of an African American in Georgia and the movement of Masonry in Georgia to modern times. Now to learn that the leadership of my home lodge and the foundation of my Masonic experience took proactive action to stop this is devastating to me. How can I continue to carry the membership card of a lodge that has officially taken action that I am fundamentally and morally opposed to?

I have spoken to several of my brothers and know full well that the actions of W.M. Hicks do not represent all members of Philologia Lodge. Many are choosing to maintain their memberships with Philologia and fight for change from within. However, I am not there to take up that fight and can not continue to send dues to a lodge that has taken this divisive position. I am compelled to find a new home lodge and demit from Philologia.

This adds for me a whole new level of frustration with Masonry. As I said, the lodges here do not compare to Georgia. The experience is much different and I find little education and growth offered to members due to low membership and limited resources. I now find myself turning to the internet and organizations like The Masonic Society to help me continue my journey. I find myself lost and frustrated with the craft. I hope that W.M. Hicks understands the damage that he has done. Not only to the good Masons of Georgia, but to a brother who looked to Philologia Lodge as a beacon of light in an ever growing darker journey in Masonry.

Rolf said...

@ Steve

most of went through that period of frustration with the craft. Mostly when we discover that, apart from all principles and moral standarts,we and our Brothers are only human. Once you´re over that, you will be able to appreciate the wisdom and the values of freemasonry. That is how it has worked for me, anyway.

For your search at the Internet, i would recommend TSS.

I wish you the best. Warm and fraternal Greetings
Rolf


I really hope that you will be able to get over that.

Chris Hodapp said...

Rolf,
I would recommend the Masonic Society, but you go to your church and I'll go to mine. LOL

Rolf said...

Chris,
haven't been there. But I will try. Just started my journey through the english speaking masonic world.

The K.N.O. said...

I thought Gate City's response to this was appropriate concerning charging the individuals that brought the charges against Gate City, with a message entitled 'Charge Yourself!'

http://gatecity2.blogspot.com/2009/07/charge-yourself.html

George said...

I agree with a lot of what "Saint" has said. In my opinion, my GM (GLofGA) should have publicly reacted with the utmost disgust in response to the charges brought against the WM of Gate City Lodge #2. Only that reaction would have deserved my respect. I also think that Saint's statement "Are we really talking about this in 2009?" is exactly how I feel. Seriously? This is a discussion we're having? Blantant bigotry is allowed and accepted today in Georgia? In the United States of America??? I feel like saying "Come on, guys! Get with the program!" I am a freemason, but I am MANY other things before that. I am a human, an American, a Georgian, a father, a husband, a brother, son, veteran... way way way before I am a freemason. I'm sorry if that's strange to some brothers, but that's how I feel and I am having a very tough time sitting back and waiting for things to change. This does not deserve a slow reaction. If most of the masons in GA are against racism, then why is this such a big deal? Why didn't this way of thinking change back in the 60s and 70s? And what about the 80s and 90s?

George said...

Here's what everyone's been waiting for I believe... http://www.glofga.org/edict.html