This morning, I received a four page email from MWB Jay Adam Pearson, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of AFM of South Carolina between 2011 and 2013. It was in reference to my post from June 19th ("Arkansas Rumblings"), in which I reported that Grand Master Billy Joe Holder of Arkansas had suspended the Deputy Grand Master, Patrick Carr, and Past Grand Master, Jarrod Adkisson, on charges that have not been disclosed publicly. Neither of these facts are incorrect. However, in MWB Pearson's letter, he points out ten "irregularities" from my original post that he deems to be "in error." He also seeks to call out the " depth of ignorance you have regarding our Fraternity."
He states right up front that he has "little confidence" that his message would be shared on this website. As I have done so often in the past, I post his letter below in its entirety. (To read MWB Pearson's letter, click each page below to enlarge.)
MWB Pearson states it his "ardent desire to enlighten" me, and points out that he is an "honorary member of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas," which apparently makes him feel qualified to speak on their behalf (although, in my own jurisdiction, such a title - if it indeed has ever been bestowed - carries no rights, privileges, or standing of any kind that I have been able to find in our code). In my own case, I am an "honorary member" of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, but I have never felt compelled to speak on their behalf. But I digress.
Despite his inference, and just for the record, I did not correspond with the suspended Arkansas Brethren concerning their circumstances. I received the initial news from Masons outside of Arkansas, and neither of the two men in question provided any information of any kind to me. Whatever they are accused of, they did not violate their obligations in any way by directly or indirectly communicating with me about it.
MWB Pearson believes that I have apparently not read Dr. Albert Mackey's Jurisprudence of Freemasonry. He writes:
"It is a difficult read and the text is not for dummies and will require time, temperance, perseverance, and a willingness to study and reflect on our rich Masonic tradition. The text is not for liberal thinking Masons and I perceive it may hold little interest for you."I find his use of the term "liberal thinking Mason" to be curious, and am unclear as to what is especially liberal thinking about expecting a prudent and wise application of Masonic justice - especially in a fraternity founded on the principles we hold so dear. However, I can assure MWB Pearson that I own two copies of Dr. Mackey's book, and have actually read the 1953 annotated and revised edition from cover to cover in the past. I also own Roscoe Pound's Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence, and have read it as well. I comprehend both works. But nothing that I wrote in my original post had anything whatsoever to say about my own judgement of the current Grand Master of Arkansas' previous exercise of Masonic jurisprudence, or in anticipation of his future actions. However, I DID speak in very general terms against the practice of SOME grand masters around the country in the past to abuse their position, and I do not retract that point.
The obligation taken by incoming Worshipful Masters in many states before being permitted to assume the Oriental Chair contains some variation of this wording:
"I will not govern this Lodge, or any other over which I may be called to preside, in a haughty and arbitrary manner, but will at all times use my utmost endeavors to preserve peace and harmony among the brethren."Many jurisdictions also use similar words in their obligation for incoming grand masters. Yet, almost every single one of us has seen abuses by some grand masters somewhere if we've been around for any length of time, and if we have paid attention. Perhaps MWB Pearson hadn't noticed.
No other organization I can think of anywhere chooses its leadership by an advancing line of officers who change every year or so (in South Carolina, it's two), with absolutely zero prerequisite for qualifications, and then gives the guy in charge absolute authority to act virtually any way he sees fit. In many jurisdictions, grand masters have the "Divine Right of Kings," and can suspend or expel members with little or no judicial review. We can claim that we vote, but we all know how hollow a claim that can sometimes be, particularly at the grand lodge level. (Yes, of course there are indeed exceptions to this, where potential grand masters actually run for office and face the possibility of an opposition candidate, and even nominations from the floor of the annual communication. But they are rare.) How many times have we all sat in an election and heard, 'It's hard to stop a train?'
The reason we do this comes down to one simple word that we invest in the entire enterprise: trust.
When a grand master breaks that trust, it can have devastating repercussions, both for a man whose entire Masonic career rests solely on a grand master's actions, and for the entire membership body over which he presides.
When I spoke at the Conference of Grand Masters earlier this year, I implored the assembled grand line officers to consider that suspension or expulsion should not be the first arrow out of their quivers, but the last. Yes, I have read Mackey and Pound. But we are all Brothers before we are lawyers. It is noteworthy to point out that neither book on jurisprudence by those two exalted Masons contains the phrase from the most commonly used Fellow Craft ritual, "judge with candor, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with justice."
The obligations Masonic officers take as they progress over time do not ever eradicate the ones they took in their very first three degrees. We are not merely asked to "whisper good counsel in the ear of a brother, and in the most tender manner remind him of his faults, and aid in his reformation." It is one of our most fundamental duties.
That is worth mentioning in public every once in a while, if for no other reason than to remind the occasional men who consider misusing their brief but trusted positions that other Masons are indeed watching, and that "all glory is fleeting."