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


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reprehend With Justice

When you write publicly about Freemasonry, especially in a forum that is frequented by its members and officers, it is not uncommon to receive plenty of criticism and attempts at correcting what are presumed by some to be errors in fact or judgement. So it is with me. I don't get reams of such messages, but I do get them. Depending on the nature of the subject or the contents, I usually try to answer them privately, unless the Brother who sent the missive clearly wants his message circulated more widely. Anyone who has read this blog over time knows that I am not reticent to oblige when a Brother wants to publicly excoriate me for some post I've made.  I always stand by my statements, and am likewise always quick to correct my mistakes when they are rightly pointed out.

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."


  1. I am extremely surprised to see a Past Grand Master making so many statements about people violating their obligations. Particularly a Past Grand Master of a jurisdiction removed from the accused. Those accusations are far more than a bit of a stretch.

  2. "... my first observation concerns your web page and upon reflection affirm it is appropriately titled recognizing the depth of ignorance you have regarding our Fraternity."

    I have to admit, that was pretty funny. The rest of the letter was ridiculous, but I definitely got a chuckle from that paragraph.

    1. Not really. It's certainly not new. It was being said in 2006.

      I don't mind somebody taking a cheap swipe at me, but break down and find a new punchline. That one's pretty moth-eaten.

  3. "This is the time and now is the place"? Oops lol

    If you need to write many pages of error-ridden grammar to excoriate someone while hiding behind an alleged intent to educate, you probably should have picked up the phone. Especially considering there were many questions posed within the bullets that could or should be answered before ending with an edict of "you are in error" and *especially* before accusing of masonic offense.

    This is a highly offensive, angry, thinly veiled and unproductive communication. Nay more, it was counter productive..I imagine most readers of this will walk away with lower opinions of GMs.

  4. "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." Well said.

  5. I've received some lame emails from know-it-alls as well, never from a PGM. Congrats, Chris! If you're not pissing someone off, you're not working hard enough. I stand by you and so do countless other brothers.

    Keep on being amazing, Chris.


  6. Wow. That hurt to read. I think the letterhead provides a lens through which this entire diatribe can be viewed.

    1. Wow... i thought i was thinking to deep when i first saw it as well

  7. It is a poorly written and meandering letter, verging on the incoherent. On the specific point of being on honorary member, I'm an honorary member of various bodies and would never dream of that giving me any voice. The grandiose letterhead is a good indication of his viewpoint.

  8. Apparently the letter writer is unfamiliar with the host of "Dummies" books, such as deck building, using Excel, gardening, etc. Actually he offends me as one of your audience by referring to me and others as dummies, maybe I should wear it as a badge of honor. I'm not sure what nerve you struck but Chris, you definitely hit the nerve dead center. I feel you are very well versed in Freemasonry...and you write just like you talk in person. Keep up the great work and consider the source I suppose.

  9. In rereading this thing this morning, I was struck again by something i didn't mention in the original post, but stands out as what may be the most ironically tragic comment on Masonic leadership I have read in 17 years of membership:

    "Perhaps R.W. Brother Carr should have remained in the present remembering his Masonic Obligations rather than casting them off to be regarded as forward thinking?"

    1. Yes, we wouldn't want anyone to mistake Freemasonry as a Fraternity of forward-thinking men. Heaven forfend!

  10. You have minions? Which body do I join to get minions?

    1. Meh. They come with the 33rd ring. It's a big secret. Everybody knows about it.

    2. Wait is that the gold-plated ring?

  11. Rarely have I read a more condescending letter. If that is the method, I doubt the motive will be reached.
    And if it's a violation to comment on s trial wouldn't it be the same to make a retort?

  12. Your honor, I object! Prejudicial! Witnessing the badger!

  13. Chris,
    My first thought in regards to this Most Worshipful Brother's letter, is I am offended. I'm a reader of "for dummies" books of all sorts and for him insult my ignorance simply because I try to do what we as Masons are instructed to do, overcome ignorance, by reading such books. Is not just the condescending insult to your site and it's followers but extends to all who read the "for dummies" books.
    Now as for one of his remarks, I have to ask what is meant by it. How is being regarded as forward thinking a violation of our Masonic obligations? I'm a fairly new Master Mason and I hope that someone, possibly MWB Jay Adam Pearsom himself, can possibly provide me with an edifying explanation.
    Chris thank you for all you and please keep shining more light against the darkness.

  14. Good post, WBro.Chris. Someone said if you meet an Alpha Male and he shakes your hand with a bone crushing grip, it is a good thing because now you know you should avoid this man for the rest of your life! Hahaha.

    Keep daring us to face the sensitive issues and our fears. Help take us out of our comfort zones with more or less transparency in an effort to better our selves. Remind us to not take ourselves too seriously, but take our work and others very seriously. And finally, keep being the Mason who is never afraid to remimd his fellow Brothers (of whatever rank) that the word "PAST", means just what it says.

  15. I think he said "Literal" not "liberal" minded Mason. Whatever the meaning, it is interesting to be admonishing you for not following the rules (literally breaking your obligation) and being a literal mason (accepting what you read as is with no reflexion and/or following the rules as is) which is a contradictory statement in one letter (And sometimes the same paragraph). I am just confused on the purpose of the letter but as usual will just take that as another piece of information until such time arrives when we will know what really happens from the goat's mouth...or is it the horse's mouth? Always confused the Ancient with the Modern fauna ritual...

    1. Well, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and went back and reread. No, it was definitely "liberal."

      Funny calling me liberal. I've actually been very conservative in most of my views since the age of 9, when I stumped for Nixon.

    2. Was it use in multiple places in the letter? I checked the scan and on the first paragraph after the laundry list (bullets/arrow points), it shows literal. I may have missed others in the letter which then would be a spellchecker change and we would never know which one between liberal and literal was the label he used.

  16. It is truly heartening to read, even at this early moment, the many encouraging posts from those whom I've known for many years online. It's also SO very discouraging to see those who've held important places in Freemasonry offering advice along with denigrating comments to Brother Masons.

    For Brother Hambrecht, in your Masonic career - if indeed you can stand some of the stench that passes for 'good advice' - there are times when you'll just scratch your head and wonder what the heck some interpret as 'brotherhood'. It's disappointing, particularly when you've built up an ideal of high-minded men only doing 'the right thing'. However, for every incident like this, there are a thousand (once upon a time, perhaps ten thousand) other great, (dare I say) grand, and glorious things that will, hopefully, make your ongoing support and eager involvement worthwhile.

    I've often been guilty of not following the admonition that it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. When I see it in others, I cringe!

    Hang in there, Chris, my Friend and Brother!

    Ed King

  17. Oh, and one VERY big question this raises: if we cannot SPEAK to a suspended or expelled Mason (as contrasted with 'holding Masonic communication with one), by extension it would presume that we can ONLY speak to Masons in good standing and no other persons. Is that the rule which applies to Masons there? You can not talk to another man or woman except he (and surely not she) be a Mason???? WOW!!!

  18. Well it seems that the shoe is on the other foot now. When I talk about New Jersey I'm sticking my nose into places where it is not welcome, but..

    Fuzzy CurmudgeonMay 29, 2016 11:28 AM
    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


    but when you, Chris stick your nose into Arkansas' business, well that's different.

    You go on to say:

    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.

    Again where is the big difference on the nature of my report on New Jersey and your report on Arkansas?

    Actually I sympathize with you Chris. And I applaud you sticking your neck out for the betterment of Freemasonry. And now you have seen, perhaps, how Southern Freemasonry thinks and how it is different from Northern Freemasonry.

    I do what I do sometimes in bringing attention to unmasonic conduct by Grand Lodges because what one Grand Lodge does reflects on us all. The public doesn't remember all the good things we do when a rogue Grand Lodge is making headlines by doing something that gives Freemasonry a bad name. We are never going to get the current generation into Freemasonry if we dicriminate against African Americans, insist that they be Christians and are anti Gay. And if we allow Grand Lodges to get away with positions such as these then we deserve what we get.

    1. Fred, I'm fully aware of how things are different in GLs across the US. Maybe you and I just approach what we post differently. In my case, I have my own smell test for a story, and my own criteria as to what I'll put up and how I phrase it. But you are certainly free to run your own blog any way you see fit.

  19. A century and a half of American Masonic jurisprudence makes pretty clear: one cannot communicate *Masonically* with a Mason suspended or expelled, but one is still allowed to say "good morning," without perjury.

    Thus, any suspended or expelled Mason in any N. American jurisdiction can announce their unfortunate suspension, and even answer questions about the reason therefore, without penalty. Otherwise, how would a suspended Mason engage Masonic counsel for his trial, lest his Masonic "lawyer" be immediately sanctioned?

    I was surprised MWB Jay was unaware of this distinction as I know him to be a very thoughtful brother Mason.

  20. Old men in purple aprons circling wagons for other old men in purple aprons and telling the rest of us to shut up and mind our own business, and that we're stupid and don't know what our own fraternity is all about.

    All to defend the unconscionable practice of using trumped up Masonic charges and kangaroo courts to settle their childish petty disputes with their brethren, and silence dissenters because they lack the maturity and self-confidence to let criticism roll off their backs.


    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

  21. Brother Dave,

    I have not had the honor of meeting you, therefore if you are a Past Master, I apologize for not using the masonic title you earned. I am 53 if that is old Oh LORD my God I am in trouble. My prevailing point remains until the case has been adjudicated, no one knows if the charges are trumped up. To your second point, I often wear a white apron in lodge, because I know we all meet on the level.

    Jay Adam

  22. As always, Chris.....thanks for bringing important issues such as this to the forefront. Carry on!

  23. That letter is the epitome of why Freemasonry is dying.

    I'm glad we can post publicly about this grand lodge political crap otherwise where's the accountability for these noobs.


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