Friday, September 09, 2011

Grand Encampment Sues Grand Masters

Earlier this year, the imbroglio over the establishment of the new Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America (CBCS), body by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the USA was pretty well covered here. The history of the battle between the Great Priory of America (GPA) and the Grand Encampment's Rectified Rite of the CBCS can be read in great detail here, admittedly from the Grand Encampment's side.

Then came the Conference of Grand Masters in Denver and the perplexing move by the Commission on Recognition to stick its institutional nose into the sovereignty and workings of an appendant body, which was clearly in violation of its mission as established since its very beginning. The unfortunate result of that meddling has been actions by several grand lodges or grand masters to declare the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar to be irregular, or to prevent their members from being Knights Templar in their states. Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, Tennessee and several others have issued various restrictions against the Grand Encampment over an issue that grand lodges have no business being involved in, and never would have done if the Commission had stuck to its original mission. The result is that Knights Templar in several states are denied membership in this organization now, and the Grand Encampment's Eye Foundation is losing valuable contributions in those states that could be helping the blind. Worst of all, much of the poison being spread against the Grand Encampment is being done behind the scenes by a tiny group of men who want to see that the only CBCS body in America remains nothing but a supper club for a handful of self-appointed elite Masons, while holding the 230 year degree system of the Rectified Rite hostage in the U.S. The Great Priory of Helvetia (Switzerland) was desirous of having the Rectified Rite practiced, with full conferral of the degrees, in the United States, and they were and remain well aware of the "supper club" dead end of the GPA. The Swiss desire to have their Order's degrees worked properly as it is all over the world except in the United States.

Unfortunately, the GPA changed its mind after the agreement in place since 1932 and became desirous of becoming a sovereign and independent Templar order in the U.S. That meant the sovereignty of the Grand Encampment was being challenged by them. That is what motivated the actions of the Grand Encampment to seek a charter.

I happened to come across a complete collection of reports by the Commission on Recognition dating back to 1962. That's just shy of 50 years. In the five decades of reports I have, not one single summary brings up an appendant body. In fact, the standard preface for decades read as follows:

"The Commission on Information for Recognition was organized in 1952 as a facility to gather, collate, and from time to time revise information on Grand Lodges in other lands, as a service to this Conference.

The Commission neither advises nor recommends that recognition be given to any Grand Lodges, but merely indicates whether or not it is considers that a Grand Lodge in question satisfies the condition of regularity."


Grand Lodges. Not appendant bodies, Shriners, Tall Cedars, Scottish Rite, Templar, Royal Arch, Grottoes, OES Grand Chapters, or anything else. Grand Lodges alone are its sole consideration. Since 1952. Because Grand Lodges do NOT recognize foreign appendant bodies. US Supreme Councils recognize other Scottish Rite bodies at their discretion. The Grand Encampment recognizes foreign Templar bodies at its discretion. Grand Lodges stay out of these situations. Until now, apparently.

Thankfully, I live in Indiana. We have a little thing called common sense here. It's why more Vice Presidents of the U.S. have come from this state than any other. We are a calming influence. I hope that's the case again with this issue. MY immediate Past Grand Master and his Deputy GM (now GM of Indiana) wrote a letter to the Conference of Grand Masters demanding the sacking of the members of the Commission on Recognition for failing to follow their own guidelines as set down by the Conference, for substantially amending the written version of their report after the oral version was read and accepted at the Conference, and for altering its own mission statement in the printed proceedings to suddenly claim appendant bodies were indeed part of their purview, without permission of the Conference. I hope that letter is taken seriously by the head of the Conference, because the ex post facto action of the Commission was not honest. And I say that even though I have friendship and admiration for several Masons on the Commission. The domino effect of what they've done because of a pissing war between Masons who used to be friends has set in motion a destructive wave that needs to stop.

But now a larger issue is about to break on the horizon. Because certain grand masters and grand lodges have branded the Grand Encampment as irregular, that is a charge that carries severe and derogatory monetary effects, as well as harm to the institutional reputation of the Grand Encampment. One GL has even threatened to seize the money of the Grand Commandery, and the Knights Templar Educational Foundation in their state. As a result, a lawsuit of defamation has now been filed against those grand masters and past grand masters who labeled the Grand Encampment as irregular, along with the Conference of Grand Masters. Meddling in the internal affairs of an appendant body is a dangerous precedent. Should GLs now look into whether all of the members of Shrine Clubs in Europe are regular or not? Should GLs start questioning the patents of Scottish Rite bodies and Supreme Councils? Really? And what of all of the various bodies that meet at Masonic Week every year? Should GLs investigate the origins of all of the AMD degrees? Or peek up the skirts of St. Thomas of Acon, the Rosicrucians, the Knight Masons, the Operatives, etc? And does anybody want to weigh in on the Jesters?

This fight is not about regularity of degree work, it is over the supposed irregularity of origin of the chartering organization. Even a low ranking air bender like me can argue both sides of that issue with conviction. So what are GLs doing involved in this? Does any Grand Lodge really believe that the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment would have seriously started a Rectified Rite body if he truly believed the charter he had in his hot little hand was irregular, or that the entire officers' line of the Grand Encampment would just drink that Kool-Aid and follow him down such a suicidal course of action?

Really?

I despise fraternal lawsuits. No one ever comes out of them in good shape, they cost a lot of money, and reputations get harmed. As I understand it, GLs that simply said their members can't join the CBCS are not named in the suit. Only those who made the statement that the Grand Encampment or their Rectified Rite is now irregular.

There is a simple way out of this mess. GMs who passed these edicts need to rescind them and let the Grand Encampment and the CBCS chartering bodies in France and Switzerland hash out the details. Let the GEKT hash this out among its members at the next Triennial. And the Commission on Recognition needs to issue a statement saying they now have zero opinion on the issue, and that they were mistaken to do so in the first place (and they might put the wording back in their mission statement the way it's been since 1952, while they're at it). Wrecking the Knights Templar in states across the U.S. is no way to solve this. And I can't honestly believe anybody really wants to have to fly to New Hampshire and hire New Hampshire attorneys to explain themselves in open court as to why they didn't follow their own internal rules. Grand lodges are sovereign over the three degrees. Appendant bodies are sovereign over their own degrees. As long as the Rectified Rite isn't conferring the EA, FC and MM degrees, this is not GL business.

Come on, brethren. Do the right thing.

(Full disclosure: I am a member of the Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America)

UPDATE: The suit does NOT involve GMs who simply ordered their members not to join the Rectified Rite. Only those who chose to label the Grand Encampment AND/OR the Rectified Rite as irregular are named in the suit. It's a fine distinction, but the suit argues that labeling either the GEKT OR the Rectified Rite in any way irregular does substantive harm and is actionable. I suspect the backlash from GMs will be a damned angry one. No one likes fraternal lawsuits. However, I also suspect some GMs named in the suit will claim there was no reason for it and that there was an "easy way out" of this situation, even though such easy solutions were never forthcoming. The argument over whether the Rectified Rite charter was irregular should have been fought out internally at the GEKT's next triennial, and not duked out in Grand Lodge offices. Which goes back to the ill-fated decision of the Commission on Recognition even having an opinion on this subject, which made some GMs believe they were required to act on it. No, they weren't, and still they are not. The report was in error and in violation of its own rules. And the Commission only makes recommendations, it has zero power on its own. That makes it eminently ignorable. Now attorneys are involved, and it's going to be damned hard to stuff this one back in the bottle.

And I am expressing my personal opinion, which has nothing to do with my official capacity as editor of the Journal of the Masonic Society, which has taken no position on this controversy, and will not.

Background:
Freemasons For Dummies: Washington, Oregon and the Grand Encampment
Freemasons For Dummies: 2011 Report: Commission on Information for Recognition
Freemasons For Dummies: Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the USA
Freemasons For Dummies: Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of the United States of America

8 comments:

Craddock said...

Bro. Chris, I was struck my the appropriateness of your blog title... in relation to this entry.

Craddock

Michael R. Poll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MP said...

Should GLs now look into whether all of the members of Shrine Clubs in Europe are regular or not? Should GLs start questioning the patents of Scottish Rite bodies and Supreme Councils? Really? And what of all of the various bodies that meet at Masonic Week every year? Should GLs investigate the origins of all of the AMD degrees? Or peek up the skirts of St. Thomas of Acon, the Rosicrucians, the Knight Masons, the Operatives, etc? And does anybody want to weigh in on the Jesters?

They already do this, by claiming authority over which appendant bodies a Mason may join, even though the GL is supposed to only concern itself with Craft Freemasonry. Hence, the Sword of Bunker Hill may not meet in MA. Technically, no MA Mason may join the Royal Ark, the AMD, the MSRICF, the Knight Masons, the Operatives, etc, or any other group not mentioned as approved in the GL Constitutions ... but that doesn't stop many senior members of the GL and the NMJ SC from doing so anyway.

Michael R. Poll said...

Thanks for the disclaimer, Chris! You are a good guy. :-)

Chris Hodapp said...

MP, that's fine. Texas is the same way. What makes this all actionable is declaring the GEKT irregular and trying to seize their assets.

Rev. Kt. BB Semken said...

For decades the Great Priory of America has hid behind the dis-information campaign that their hands are tied by their charter limiting them to 81 members, but their charter says no such thing. And, they have never had much more than 45 active members.

ted praria said...

Bro. Chris, I agree with year comments totally. Last year when I was GM of Michigan I received input from several members to remove recognition as the other GL had done. But I discussed this with several other GM from other jurisdictions and we all agreed it was not our business and to leave it alone and that is what I did.I was also glad to see you in Chicago and be a member of my class.
Praria,PGM

Chris Hodapp said...

Brother Ted,
Would that others had been as level-headed as you.

And it was great to see you in Chicago, my Illustrious friend.