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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

National Sojourners Make Important Membership Rule Change

The National Sojourners have just made an important change to their bylaws concerning membership eligibility. 

The  resolution passed with nine votes more than the 75% required for the change. It reads in part:

Whereas we believe that the Purposes of National Sojourners shall be to organize Master Masons who have honorably served their country as part of the uniformed Services, and other Master Masons as honorary members, into Chapters for the promotion of good fellowship among its members, for assisting such as may be overtaken by adversity or affliction, for cultivating Masonic ideals, for supporting all patriotic aims and activities in Masonry, for developing true patriotism and Americanism throughout the Nation, for bringing together representatives of the uniformed forces of the United States (past and present) in a united effort to further military need of national defense, and for opposing any influence whatsoever calculated to weaken the national security… 
Therefore, be it resolved that paragraph 3.1.1 of Article 3, National Bylaws, and National Regulations 3.1 be changed, amended, or administratively conformed to permit all recognized Master Masons currently in active military service or have in the past served and is now listed as honorably discharged or retired under such honorable status, to petition for active membership; and permit current members of National Sojourners Inc., who are in the same category and are carried on National Sojourner rolls as Honorary members, to elect conversion to active membership status.
What makes this change so important has to do with the way the organization was originally formed, and by whom. 

Early in 1900, after the North Dakota Regiment departed the Philippines with its Field Lodge dispensation, a group of military Masons organized an informal club and named it “Sojourners.” Most of the Philippine Sojourners eventually became scattered throughout the United States.

In 1917, some of the officers who were members of the club gathered together in Chicago to make the organization strictly for Commissioned Officers, and formally organized the “Chicago Sojourners Club.” When their membership began to shrink over time, the club decided to also admit Warrant Officers, and then Senior Non-Commission Officers (Rank E-7 and above).

In 1931, they officially chartered the National Sojourners as a nationwide organization. While it was indeed designed as a Masonic group, "Active" membership status remained restricted to Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, and Senior Non-Coms who were Master Masons. Other military Masons below these ranks were relegated to Honorary membership. These rules offended many brethren who felt that the rules of the organization did not place them "on the level," and inferred that their service to the nation was not as important as others.

Although the only true difference between "Active Member" and "Honorable Member" was that Honorary members could not become national officers in the organization, many veterans felt the difference to be far more significant, especially considering that a 2nd Lieutenant or Ensign, after one day of being a commissioned officer was considered by the rules to be more eligible for leadership than a Staff Sergeant or Petty Officer with 10 to 15 years of experience. But remember that in the past, there were also serious military rules about officers fraternizing with enlisted men, and this may have been part of the problem. For Masons, that justification was hard to swallow, considering Lodge membership rules and that Masons came from all ranks and services. 

Because of this, about ten years ago, a movement within the organization developed to change the national bylaws to make Active status available to all who are serving, or have served honorably, in the Uniformed Services of the United States, and Honorary status for those Master Masons who have not served. While some saw this as a means to simply get in more members, many more saw it as a way for the organization to get back to its roots of bringing all military Master Masons back on the level. 

So the way it now stands in the wake of the newly passed resolution is that all military Masons may now indeed be Active, and other non-military Masons may now join as Honorary members to likewise express their patriotism. Local Chapters are restricted to just 15% of their membership to be Honorary (i.e. non-military members).

Their renewed purpose is for the "promotion of good fellowship among its members, for assisting such as may be overtaken by adversity or affliction, for cultivating Masonic ideals, for supporting all patriotic aims and activities in Masonry, for developing true Patriotism and Americanism throughout the Nation, for bringing together representatives of the uniformed forces of the United States (past and present) in a united effort to further the military need of National Defense, and for opposing any influence whatsoever calculated to weaken the National Security."

Today, the NS provides public programs about the flag and patriotism, youth leadership programs, a national essay contest, and ROTC/JROTC awards. They also perform an inspirational period degree for Masons called the Heroes of '76

To find a local Chapter or for more detailed membership information, see the National Sojourners website HERE.


7 comments:

  1. Like anything else appendent body related ... membership numbers are suffering, thus the reasoning to open the doors to everyone. I don't buy the new "let's be on the Level" attitude. Not enough members to where it can be as exclusive as it once was. Meanwhile - Blue Lodges suffer when there's too many appendent bodies taking up valuable time from the Brethren ... who are only allowed out a few times a month per the wife ;)

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    1. I am sorry that you feel that way my Brother but there were many brethren who worked for many years on this endeavor who only thought it was a return to the Level. I pray that after plus ten years of these brethren working on this, that in posting here, the brethren would consider otherwise for these brethren's sake. Let us not belittle a good ending, especially after many fought a hard fight for this. Forgive if you feel that I have offended.

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  2. That's about 20 years over due & I am no longer interested
    T Thornton
    Mossisto0wn NJ

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  3. I applied several years ago and was told they were over quota for Honorary Members. So, my 5 years 5 months and 29 days wasn't good enough then and its not good enough now.

    Layrd Cunningham
    Columbus, Ohio

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  4. Actually, this membership change was a smart move. Despite their proud heritage and Masonic requirement, National Sojourners current leadership is aging and looking to the future. They are trying to stay relevant.

    Men (and women) of today who have served our great nation with Military Service have several good non-Masonic Military Service related organizations they may join during, and upon completion of their Service. VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and American Legion easily comes to mind. Both of these organizations are chartered by an act of Congress and have proud eligibility requirements for membership. And their emblems are trademarked.

    This post brought back some good memories and a smile. I used to help train military Cadets and 2nd Lieutenants.

    Tom- VFW, member at large.😃





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  5. I have never served in the armed forces, so I am talking out of my butt here. Having said that, I think I can understand the historic resentment over the previous policy, without having lived through it myself. It really did fly in the face of Masonic equality among members by making two classes of membership based solely on military rank. That was the culture of the time, and bear in mind that the group initially started as an officers club.

    On the other hand, from a practical standpoint, the only real restrictions between actives (higher ranking military officers) and honoraries (everybody below E-7) was the ability to hold national office. There was also a restriction to 15% of honoraries in a chapter. Now, that one WOULD have stuck in my craw, because it was obviously an attempt to make sure the officers dominated every chapter.

    But, while some of you may say that the change was simply motivated out of desperation for members now, that really denigrates the guys like Shelby Chandler and many, many others (many of whom were honoraries themselves) who spent the last decade or more doing the tough work locally and nationally to really push hard for this and make it happen. The Sojourners could have gone the way so many other groups have done, which is to ignore the problems and die rather than change. The Sojourners HAVE changed, and for the better.

    We all know that changing anything in Masonry is like steering an aircraft carrier. It takes a long time, and it takes dedicated men working their asses off. So I hope that some of you who felt snubbed over the years by the old policy take another look at them. They serve a worthwhile purpose and have now righted a situation that was long overdue.

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