The proposal was announced in a letter from the Grand Master:
M.W. Richard J. Stewart
October 17, 2011
As you may know, at the September Quarterly Communication I spoke on a subject of such great importance to our future that I believe it is necessary to share my remarks directly with you. The title of my address was "The Value of Freemasonry."
As active members of this great fraternity, we appreciate the role Freemasonry plays in our lives. To those who feel Greatness lies within us, Freemasonry offers an unparalleled opportunity to build moral and spiritual well-being and can truly make a good man better. We say that we make good men better; actually, we take good men and allow them the opportunity to become better men.
As custodians of the Masonic legacy of the oldest Grand Lodge in the Western Hemisphere, we have a duty. In all of our Masonic endeavors we must strive to support, defend, and build on what we stand for as a fraternity. Our brand, if you will.
We also have an obligation to future generations to ensure them that Freemasonry - not withstanding the many moral, social, and economical trials facing the world in the Twenty-first Century - will not only survive, but to thrive.
I believe we, as a fraternity, are making great progress. We have begun to see the fruits of our labors over the past several years, raising thousands of new Masons. We have created high-quality education and training opportunities to prepare our members for leadership positions in their Lodges and in Grand Lodge.
Think of where we would be if we had not embarked on our membership program in 2005 and launched the Ben Franklin awareness campaign? Your Board of Directors and Past Grand Masters have thrown their support behind all of these initiatives. The financial investment has been considerable, but worth it.
The cost of these programs plus those associated with running Grand Lodge and fulfilling its mission is in excess of what we collect in dues, rent, and charitable donations. For this Masonic year we will have a deficit of well over $3 million. That money has to come from somewhere: it comes from our invested funds.
But, is it fair to all concerned to engage in deficit spending in the years ahead? In particular, is it fair to the next generation of Masons? How can we properly instruct them on the value of Freemasonry if we rely too heavily on the contributions and labor of previous generations to pay our current bills?
At my request, R.W. Mason W. Russell, Past Deputy Grand Master and Grand Lodge Director, addressed Grand Lodge and explained the realities of our financial situation. To ensure we share the message as widely as our members will hear it, Bro. Russell presented his remarks a second time on film. The video can be viewed on MassMasons.org, our new members-only information center. You must register to enter the site, so please have your dues card on hand because you will need to provide your member identification number.
I strongly encourage you to spend a few minutes watching the video and to familiarize yourself with the issues we are facing, the steps we have taken to address them, and the solutions we are proposing to move forward.
As R.W. Bro. Russell explains, we cannot continue to incur deficits at the current rate and level without jeopardizing our future. I, as well as our Past Grand Masters, whole-heartedly support the Board of Directors in their efforts to cut spending where it can be done, and to increase revenue.
The first step in the process was initiated this spring when the Budget subcommittee of the Board of Directors conducted a line-item review and reduced spending by more than $100,000 from last year. We will continue to scrutinize spending to identify other potential reductions.
So that it is in writing, above my name and signature, I have summarized the proposed changes to the Grand Constitutions:
To increase Grand Lodge dues from $29 to $60 (Section 330).
To increase the minimum initiation fee a Lodge demands from a candidate from $50 to $300 (Section 400).
At the December Quarterly Communication, you can expect to hear proposals to amend the Grand Lodge Constitutions to increase our annual Grand Lodge dues as well as the fees for the degrees. These proposals will be discussed at the March Quarterly, and voted at the June Communication.
We cannot change the Grand Constitutions on a whim. Nor do we take lightly the decision to change the Grand Constitution. If we did not believe these actions were necessary, we would not propose them to you. I urge you to acquaint yourself with the facts, discuss your concerns and questions with your Lodge, and consider well the proposals.
May the Great Architect of the Universe continue to bless you and your family, our beloved Fraternity, and our great Country.
Cordially & fraternally,
M.W. Richard J. Stewart