Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rumblings From New Jersey

Last month I received a massive stack of information from an anonymous Mason in New Jersey, detailing an ongoing series of disquieting episodes in that state. It took a while to read through all of the information, and even after I read it, I was uncomfortable with posting it here. The problems were internal and complex.

The person spreading the details from New Jersey goes by the moniker the "Lone Ranger," and he seems to have inside access to internal documents that chronicle some of the problems. 

On Saturday, Fred Milliken over on the Freemason Information blog site made the story public outside of New Jersey. 

The current imbroglio has been going on at least since 2014, and the Lone Ranger claims to have a growing mailing list of 3,600 "Deputies" who are following the situation so far - largely New Jersey brethren. 

I have hesitated to post anything about this until now, because of the strictly internal nature of the issues involved. And I am not generally fond of anonymous disagreements, particularly when they are lodged against an advancing line of duly elected (and subsequently re-elected) GL officers. Earlier this month, a disgruntled Indiana Mason circulated a letter to all of the sitting Masters in the state laying out a series of complaints he had before our annual communication in an effort to influence the voting and cause trouble. The accusations were baseless, and it was not the way Freemasons should act. Very good and honorable men were besmirched, but after a fiery address at the very beginning of the annual communication by a respected Past Grand Master denouncing the anonymous scrivener, he received a standing ovation. The letter wound up accomplishing precisely nothing, apart from setting off a parlor game to deduce whose work it was. But those of us in Indiana resented the interference of outsiders when the letter was posted on Facebook. 

As I say, I'm not generally fond of anonymous accusers in Masonry. At the very least, it's un-Masonic behavior. I understand that similar anonymous messages of this kind have been circulated in Kansas, Connecticut, and elsewhere. In each case, they have not had the kind of effect their authors have hoped for. That said, back in 2004, I myself was part of an anonymous group that went by the name "Knights of the North" who wrote a booklet called Laudable Pursuit. While its contents seem tame today, at the time, certain members within our grand lodge wanted us all to be hunted down and expelled for questioning the status quo. So I am perhaps being hypocritical.  

On the one hand, given the apparent powers granted to New Jersey Grand Masters, it is understandable that these ongoing information leaks probably must remain anonymous. They appear to be coming from someone well placed within the GL officer or committee structure, given the nature of the documents, and that person is walking a very dangerous line by circulating them.  

On the other hand, those 3.600 New Jersey Masons on the Lone Ranger's mailing list aren't all necessarily sympathizers to his cause. They are just names on a listserv. If all 3,600 agreed with his estimation of their lineup of leadership over the last two years or more, there would have been open insurrection at their annual communication, the grand officers' line would have been disrupted, and these allegations would have crept beyond New Jersey's borders a long time ago.

This situation is not like other circumstances that smear the rest of the fraternity outside of their state by dragging the rest of the Masonic world 's reputation through the mud, or by violating the Ancient Charges, or even by affecting issues like recognition. This isn't remotely like the Georgia/Tennessee issue. 

I don't live there, I don't know any of the men involved, and I don't pretend to understand their situation. Most important, it''s not within the scope of anyone outside of the voting members of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey to solve. 

Every family has its problems, but that doesn't always give all of the neighbors the right to interfere. Sure, sometimes you have to call the cops, or even just knock on the door to make sure everybody's alright. But it's ultimately their business, and sometimes you have to just let them yell at each other.

8 comments:

  1. On the gripping hand, t'ain't nobody's business but New Jersey's.

    Fred needs to stop sticking his nose into places where it's not welcome.

    Nathan Brindle, PM

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  2. This information should be taken off the internet. There is more to it than anyone except the lodge and the Grand Lodge knows. Making this little piece of information available does nothing to rectify the situation.

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    Replies
    1. I was trying to clarify the tangled message Milliken had already posted. But I have taken down the details after giving it more thought. Those interested can find it elsewhere.

      Delete
  3. I did find it, and read Fred's post on the perceived problem. I am an English Mason (with a joining membership in Massachusetts), so will not attempt to comment on the case as presented in his post. I would say, however, that such difficulties crop up in political institutions, large corporations, charities, and the Church. The antiseptic that prevents great damage is transparency.

    A Masonic side order here in England came under financial pressure a few years ago. I happened to know one of its Assistant Grand Secretaries, and talked to him about the matter. He told me that the accounts were audited and no legal difficulties were found. I asked him who the auditors were, and he told me, "That's not public information." Oh. There was no legal duty to public accounts of a private association such as ours. There was quite a bit of strong feeling among the Brethren in that side order and financial consequences for them from this situation.

    I feel sympathy with my Brethren in New Jersey. I wish for them total transparency in the business dealings of their Lodges and their Grand Lodge. Only in that way can all the Brethren be in possession of the facts they need to make informed choices.

    W.Bro Chris Hansen

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  4. This is deeply disappointing. Without knowing the genesis and details of both sides, it is difficult to come to a judgement. Of all the democratic institutions that Freemasonry helped along in the centuries since its birth, the fraternity operates more as a dictatorship than as a democracy. We should practice what we preach.

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  5. "But those of us in Indiana resented the interference of outsiders when the letter was posted on Facebook."

    Imagine that, resenting outsiders interfering in your business?

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    Replies
    1. Note the qualifier:

      "This situation is not like other circumstances that smear the rest of the fraternity outside of their state by dragging the rest of the Masonic world 's reputation through the mud, or by violating the Ancient Charges, or even by affecting issues like recognition. This isn't remotely like the Georgia/Tennessee issue. "

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  6. I just want to say 1) I am not the "Lone Ranger," nor do I know who it is, nor have I any connection to him, or them, and 2) I have safely demitted from New Jersey Freemasonry, and am enjoying my Masonic labors in a lodge under the Grand Lodge of New York.

    Jay

    PS See you Monday.

    ReplyDelete

ATTENTION!
Kindly sign your comment posts. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers, as far as I am concerned, and may be deleted if I don't recognize you or if I'm in a grumpy mood.