Why are so many Arkansas brethren trying to slide tales of suspensions, charter revocations, lodge asset confiscation and worse through my mail slot with increasing frequency over the last few months? It's coming on an almost daily basis now. The Masonicleaks website has aired some of these anonymously, but there's growing distress and disgust bubbling over from longstanding Arkansas Masons.
Every grand lodge has the right to solve its internal arguments as it sees fit, and grand masters certainly have the right to exercise the powers granted by their own jurisdictions' constitutions. But every day I am sent truly heart wrenching messages from Masons in that state. Some mention threats of lawsuits. Some want to leave the state and affiliate elsewhere. Some are just plain giving up and walking away. They are excited young men, and old established members, alike.
That is a tragedy.
The GL of Arkansas F&AM website has been dark since last summer, with no electronic contact available, no email, no phone numbers, no addresses, and effectively no public face of the fraternity in the state. The Internet has made it impossible for any group to keep scandals, fights, strong-arm tactics and hurt feelings secret anymore. It's only a matter of time before stories from within Arkansas Freemasonry start hitting the public media. Reporters love allegations of racism, censorship and financial shenanigans, and it draws them like flies to the swine barn at the county fair. That won't be good for the Grand Lodge, the Grand Master, Arkansas Masonry, or the fraternity as a whole. Masons need to start whispering good counsel, because the gathering storm will blow wreckage on us all. And the good Masons of Arkansas will ultimately be the ones who will suffer.
I got curious, because brethren keep throwing statistics around—one message I received said GL of Arkansas membership is down 84% since 1990. The earliest trustworthy figures on membership I can track down for Arkansas, according to the MSA, are from 2002, showing 20,791. In 2009, they reported 15,027.
UPDATE 2/21 from Brent Morris:
"I agree you entirely about checking numbers. Why throw around bogus
statistics when you can just check the facts. Based on their annual
Proceedings, here are several years' data on the GL of Arkansas. I wish I
had a more compete database."
- Lodges - Inits - Total
1970 - 375 - 1,034 - 51,323
1975 - 367 - 1,079 - 49,249
1980 - 361 - 876 - 47,628
1985 - 350 - 627 - 42,635
1990 - 342
1995 - 330 - 375 - 26,688