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


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Prince Hall North Carolina GM Takes Steps To Calm Diplomatic Amity Issues

It's a shame American history isn't properly taught in schools anymore. In Mrs. Adams' fifth grade class grade I first heard Thomas Jefferson's famous pronouncement; "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none."


GM Daniel L. DT Thompson
At the beginning of February, the Grand Lodge F&AM of Utah suspended recognition of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina in protest over a number of lodges established in Africa and France over the years that encroached on established Masonic jurisdictions (see previous story HERE). The announcement was undoubtedly something of an unpleasant welcome to the new job for North Carolina's Prince Hall Grand Master Daniel L. 'DT' Thompson, who had just been installed in late December. His predecessor, Milton F. 'Toby' Fitch, had served as Grand Master for fifteen years (long grand master terms are not that unusual in some Prince Hall jurisdictions). During his tenure between 2005-2018, Fitch had issued charters for lodges that invaded longstanding Masonic jurisdictions with their own established grand lodges in Cameroon, Benin, and Congo, and even a handful of French lodges, announcing a District Grand Lodge of France for North Carolina on his way out the door. 

As a result, the MWPHGL of North Carolina has incurred the fraternal grand wrath of France, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and by extension now, Utah. So far. I'm sure MW Thompson was hoping for a little more time to hang his own family photos on the wall and re-key all of the office locks before getting hit with this mess. I suspect there's probably some grand shouting going on about all of this at the annual Conference of Grand Masters of Masons of North America continuing this week in Rapid City, South Dakota. And unquestionably more to come at the analogous Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters in the Bahamas in May. (How is it that the mainstream guys meet in freezing cold February in snow belt cities, whereas the Prince Hall guys go the Bahamas this year? But I digress.)

It seems that GM Thompson is taking nearly immediate steps to try to extricate North Carolina's PHA Masons from the international imbroglio that Fitch left behind for them. On February 12th, Thompson issued a letter revoking the charter of Nicholas Blaise Adjibi Lodge 856 in Benin. The next day on February 13th, Thompson circulated an email announcing the suspension of the charters of Heart of Africa Lodge 852, Vasco Da Gama Lodge 853 and Faith Lodge 855 - all in Cameroon. The members of all of these lodges were placed in MWPHGL of NC's Tarheel Holding Lodge until a mutual fraternal recognition mitigation strategy can be satisfactorily worked out. 

(Click images to enlarge)

Letter revoking the charter of Nicholas Blaise Adjibi Lodge 856 in Benin
Email revoking three Cameroon lodge charters

The French situation is a bit stickier to try to work out. In researching my earlier post about this, I discovered references online that showed PGM Fitch and/ or his predecessors may have entered into various agreements with not one, not two, but all three of the major French grand lodges over the years. The Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) is currently in amity with UGLE, all 61 of the mainstream North American grand lodges, and eight U.S. Prince Hall Affiliated grand lodges (including North Carolina since 2008). As reported previously, the GLNF sent a letter last month objecting to the consecration of the new District Grand Lodge - France by North Carolina that was to take place this month (see below).


But until recently, the MWPHGL of North Carolina webpage had previously listed recognition from the Grand Orient de France (GOF). (Note: unfortunately there is no Internet Archive capture of their fraternal recognition page prior to today, and I neglected snag a screen shot before). The GOF may be the largest grand lodge in France, but it is overwhelmingly considered irregular by the bulk of the Masonic world for regarding a Volume of Sacred Law as optional for opening lodge, accepting atheists as members, admitting women, and openly engaging in and advocating political activities (among other issues). There is no question that the GOF does not adhere to what mainstream Freemasonry regards as the most basic landmark requirements of the fraternity, regardless of its popularity.

Because the GOF is institutionally one of those organizations that's so open minded that they won't even side with themselves in an argument, some Prince Hall grand lodges 30 and 40 years ago sought their recognition when they were being shunned by the majority of the predominantly white Masonic world. But as the mainstream Masons became more accepting of Prince Hall Masonic origin and regularity in the late 1980s and early 90s, that GOF recognition became something of a diplomatic liability. And not every grand secretary in the world has always paid strict attention to the details of international regularity and recognition issues. If it wasn't a typo, that website notation may have been an artifact hanging around in the files of the MWPHGL of NC from long ago that was forgotten. Or not.

And then to put a cherry on the top of this mess, it seems that PGM Fitch had also recently worked with the Grande Loge de France (GLdF) in setting up some of his African lodges, including establishing up a brand new new PHA grand lodge in Congo in 2015. The GLdF is the odd man out in French Masonry. It is the second largest grand lodge in France, perfectly regular in origin and practice, just not widely recognized outside of the country. The mainstream world has favored the UGLE-backed GLNF for more than 60 years. 

As of today, the MWPHGL of NC webpage now lists the Grande Loge de France as the one they currently recognize in France, which clearly has casual observers scratching their collective noggins. It certainly conflicts with the GLNF's record keeping. 

However, given the vicissitudes of web page designers and the minefield of French Masonic bodies (on top of the three large ones, there are at least a dozen more grand lodges in France at work currently – lock nine French Masons in a room and you'll wind up with three new grand lodges), I'm willing to believe someone may simply have gotten confused at the keyboard, especially in light of the letter from GLNF outlining their recognition status from 2008. (Which is why web pages need to be finely proofread by knowledgable brethren whenever changes get made, instead of just saying "Let Poindexter do that Internet stuff. He's real good at it...")

The upshot of all of this is that PGM Fitch had danced with at least two, and maybe all three, of the main grand lodges in France during his tenure, along with sticking his own flag in the ground and chartering new PH lodges in that country. All of this on top of the messes in Africa. Now, MW Thompson is stuck with trying extricate himself from those entangling alliances, which he seems to be doing so with admirable speed. His biography shows a background in military intelligence and law enforcement, and with a Masters degree in Homeland Security. I suspect he's just the guy for the job.

2 comments:

  1. As a member and Grand Lodge Officer of the MWPHGL of NC, speaking for myself, I am indeed most proud of our new MWGM Thompson and the expeditious actions he has taken on the recognition situation. Since taking office, he has been repeatedly handed a buffet plate of trials, tribulations, and hidden issues. I recently spoke with him in regards to things being done and said both home and abroad. GM Thompson assured me that he was "on the case" and trying to resolve the situation as best to ensure that "Peace and Harmony prevailed" for all. I have known GM Thompson for quite some time. I can assure you that it would be HARD to find a man with more Transparency, Decency, Integrity, and Love for ALL Freemasonry than my friend and Brother, Daniel T Thompson, whom I proudly call my MWPHGM of NC.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad that GM Thompson is diligently working towards clearing up all the confusion created by his predecessor... I pray that every thing works for the best ..
    PM Curtis Black
    James E. Carter #157
    MWPHGLoTX

    ReplyDelete

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