"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A National Grand Lodge?

Every once in a while when I go traveling or read online discussions about Freemasonry in the U.S., some poor misguided soul will bring up a wistful lament that we should consider forming one, single, national Grand Lodge of the United States. Just think of all of the problems it would solve, they say. And there will be a few nodding heads around the room.

I just read an Associated Press article about a council to be held in Crete of fourteen independent Orthodox Catholic churches, representing some 300 million Orthodox Catholics around the world. This would be the very first meeting of its kind since 787 AD - over twelve centuries. The planning for this meeting - just the PLANNING - has taken 55 years. It's scheduled for next Friday.

Well, it's falling apart. Apparently, the Russians and three others have backed out, and others are squabbling. What's the big sore point? 

The seating arrangements.

Some wanted a long table, but the Russians and the Bulgarians wanted a round table. So, they're not coming. But they do send their thoughts and prayers to everybody else.

There are other gripes, like how documents will be handled, or if the unspoken intent is to really get too cozy with the Roman Catholics. Meanwhile on the sidelines, the Antioch church and the Jerusalem church are squabbling with each other right now, and they demand that fight be settled first. And the unspoken sentiment is probably that Istanbul's Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople who organized this thing in the first place, is being regarded as the guy in charge of the meeting, because he's been referred to as "the first among equals." So, you know, egos.

Sound familiar?

Now, of course I fully realize this is a completely different situation, and there are loads of other reasons why it's not really a perfect comparison between the catholics and us Masons, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a meeting called of all of the grand masters in the U.S. with the express mission of creating one united grand lodge for the whole country after more than two centuries of independence would yield a similar result. 

And never mind agreeing on a world takeover plan...


  1. As a PA Mason, where our ritual is a bit different than other jurisdictions as are our requirements for advancement, attire for officers etc..I have to wonder what ritual would be agreed upon, what attire approved for officers and on and on.
    The there are jurisdictions that have instituted policies regarding sexual orientation which would open up another Pandora's box. If this were to ever take place, I can imagine it would create many more problems than it would resolve.

  2. Bro. Chris - Well said. I know from some rather personal experience of why this would not work in American Freemasonry. /s/ John Cooper, California

  3. Connecticut is a fairly laissez-faire jurisdiction with regard to administration and to overseeing the work. Other states are much less so. Personally, I like how we do things here; lodges have some freedom to add bits which makes it interesting to travel.

    I could imagine a National GL dominated by some of the Midwestern or Southern states which are less open to change or individual expression. IMO, we already have a number of brothers who regard Freemasonry as something akin to a religion. A national GL would only bring us one step closer to seeing that attitude all over the US.

  4. Shades of Baltimore... If we assume that the average Grand Line is about five years, and that there are 52 GS's in the USA, that makes 260 brothers - good and true - who have designs on being the ultimate Masonic authority in their Grand Jurisdictions. That puts the odds against you from the outset. And no one has ever explained to me what problems they believe would be resolved, if you beat them (the odds, not the brothers)...

  5. The principal objection I have to a national governing body is that the government that is farthest removed from you is the one you have the least influence over. If Masons are frustrated now by what they see as a governing line that ignores their issues and gripes, wait until it's a federalized one. There will be a rush for standardized lodge practices, which would stifle any sort of individuality or experimentation (although I'd guess there's be such an uproar over ritual that states would retain their right to use either the ritual they use currently, or voluntarily adopt the new standard). But if anybody feels they are powerless now to influence a grand master, wait until he's one you've never met, never seen, and never spoken to.

    When was the last time any individual member in this organization actually convinced a national leader of one of the appendant bodies to adopt a change you came up with at the grassroots level? And even if you did, how long did it take to accomplish?

    While there are plenty of examples of national GLs around the world, none of them deal with as many lodges and members as we have in the US - not even close. And no national GL (or appendant body leadership) has ever developed successfully after more than 200 years of separate operation. The ego problem alone - both individual and institutional - will never be solved enough to even attempt such an endeavor.

    On the flip side, what happens when a national GM gets into office for a protracted term that would undoubtedly exist who veers off on a mission such as the one in GA last year? Or FL a couple of years ago? Imagine the nightmare that would happen then. An example for us happened in France several years ago, when GM Stifani of the GLNF went off the rails and refused to step down. A huge swath of lodges and members erupted over him, split off from the GLNF, and formed yet ANOTHER GL (just what France needed). While Stifani eventually got the boot, the damage was done and the new separate GL still exists.

  6. I cannot imagine anything worse for the state of Freemasonry in the United States than the creation of a single National Grand Lodge. What Bro. Chris says in the original post speaks to the impracticality of it ever coming about, but his Comment speaks of many of the reasons _why_ this would be a bad idea if it succeeded in coming about.

    One of the good aspects about the way Masonry functions now in the U.S. is that, in a sense, the various GLs function as a crude system of checks and balances on each other. Almost nobody (_almost_ nobody) wants to risk having fraternal recognition withdrawn by "going off the rails."

    It's important to realize that the USA is quite heterogeneous as a _country_, in every conceivable way. A one-size-fits-all National Grand Lodge could not hope to deal with that.

  7. Worshipful Brother Hodapp,

    You know we tried that in Prince Hall Freemasonry and it failed miserably. The only way that a National Grand Lodge would happen in America is if circumstance or an individual found a way to force our Grand Lodges to unite. I don't think it's particularly needed and I appreciate the fact that you have nearly 100 independent, legitimate Grand Lodges in the United States. The goal should be to one day have them all in fraternal harmony, something that has never occurred.

    1. Brother James,

      We are in accord on the recognition issue in the US. How the status quo remains in the last nine states is astonishing to me. I continue to say that the only way it will be solved is for two men to agree between themselves quietly as they progress through their respective grand lines, and when they become GMs, to move their respective GLs towards joint recognition. Once one of the really entrenched states like Georgia or Mississippi does it, the rest will slowly follow suit. But again, egos are a mighty tough challenge to overcome.

      I am very aware of the National Compact era. Fast forward to today. I do not understand why the MWPHA GLs and the PHO don't merge at this point, if no other reason than simple survival. I asked the PHA Grand Secretary in our jurisdiction almost 15 years ago how many members they had in our state. He didn't want to say, so a PGM pulled me aside and said less than 3,000. That was in 2002, and I can't imagine that it would have increased since then. I have no idea how many PHO members there are here, but there's only one lodge I know of in Indianapolis. So it can't be more than a few hundred members statewide.

      I am well aware that both PHA and PHO have far greater numbers in states like Georgia and other southern states, so maybe they don't believe they have a problem to solve. But outside of that region, it seems institutionally suicidal not to join forces. As time and society progress and the "mainstream" GLs initiate more and more black members, the "separate but equal" situation will become less and less acceptable to young, professional black men - that's been happening already. The analogy I regularly use is that of the old Negro Baseball Leagues: Once Major League Baseball became integrated, they lost their reason to exist.

  8. I think that diversity with unity is a good model of working for Freemasonry, not only in each country, but worldwide. My mother Lodge's ritual differs in many respects from the ritual in my Massachusetts lodge, but the oaths we take are virtually identical, as are the charges given to the candidate. I think that if there were need in the United States, there would be some movement toward unity. There doesn't seem to be that need at the moment.

    While England and Wales are under one Grand Jurisdiction, Scotland and Ireland, both parts of the United Kingdom (at least part of Ireland is), are under two different Grand Jurisdictions. The Grand Officers of these three Grand Lodges coordinate among themselves when a united front is necessary (as it was when laws were proposed making it illegal for public servants to be Freemasons). That is sufficient.

    W.Bro Chris Hansen, PM, Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE

  9. Aim small, miss small.. but achieve small.
    Aim large, believe large and achieve large.

    A larger group is more easily corrupted or distracted only according to its founding. America was well founded, and thus has well traveled its 2+ centuries to become one of the world's most important cultures. There is no reason another group cannot be well founded, so long as equal care and passion are dedicated to its birthing.

    "We brethren, in order to form a more perfect fraternal organization, assure Justice and harmony, promote the general fraternal Welfare and survival for the ages, secure the Blessings of Liberty and Posterity, and the Blessings of the Great Architect, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United... "


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