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


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Arkansas's Holiday Surprises

Unfortunately, the Christmas weekend was not a joyful one for all of the Masons in Arkansas.

Alice and I have been traveling a lot over the last six weeks due to family obligations and the holidays, and it has been difficult for me to get to much of anything besides an iPhone keyboard for extended periods. So, I am a little behind in posting up to date information here. However, it seems that on Christmas Eve last Saturday, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM delivered up several suspension letters perfectly timed to drive a sprig of holly straight through the hearts of members preparing to celebrate the birth of the Light of Man with their families. 

Merry Christmas.

The letters contained the traditional (in Arkansas) opportunity to self-expel before any sort of Masonic trial even takes place, but a slightly new wrinkle has been added lately. If a member has any property in his possession at the time of his suspension belonging to his lodge, he is now ordered to turn said property over to the Grand Lodge, which will presumably then pass it along to the lodge, in due time. This includes any access to the lodge's tangible assets. The question immediately springs to mind as to why Little Rock is to now be the intermediary between the suspended member and the property's rightful owners. But I'm sure it's just a technical issue.

As has been pointed out previously, official punishments were at a record high there in 2015: 12 suspensions and a whopping 43 expulsions (in addition to 245 NPD suspensions). I'm sure many are related to now impermissible Shrine membership. But they continue to be doled out for offenses as petty as merely "liking" a Facebook post, and it will be of a certain morbid interest to see what 2016's statistics will be.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Arkansas' annual communication takes place in February, and the usual end-of-year mailing to lodges that has traditionally included texts of proposed resolutions, allowing voting delegates the opportunity to read them and discuss them in open lodge with the members they represent, failed to include them this year. Instead, a packet with the resolutions will be handed to delegates as they file into the auditorium, which will prevent any prior chance of careful consideration by delegates, or any input from non-voting lodge members. (One wag online compared it to a famous political reference that they will have to 'vote on it to find out what's in it.')

Another notable item missing from the packet was any provision for a representative "proxy" voter. Some grand lodges have a more complex list of eligible voters at their grand lodge sessions than others. In Arkansas, in addition to the elected, sitting Worshipful Master and the two lodge Wardens, a lodge's immediate Past Master also has a vote for twelve months after the expiration of his term, along with the lodge Secretary. However, Masters and Wardens may send proxies in their stead if they cannot attend in person.

From Section 1.4 of the Arkansas Grand Lodge Constitution:

Sec. 2. Every Master and Warden ought to attend the Annual Communication with the jewel of his office, but if he cannot personally attend, he may send a brother of his Lodge as a proxy, or the Lodge may send one or more of its members as a Representative; each Master and Warden, when present, shall have one vote.
Sec. 3. If only one Representative appears at any meeting of the Grand Lodge of the State of Arkansas, he shall have power to cast the full vote of the Lodge of which he may be the Representative; and if only two attend, the elective officer highest in rank shall cast two votes, and a proxy shall cast the votes only of the officers he represents.
From Section 3.2:
3.2.2 The Worshipful Master of the Subordinate Lodges is, by virtue of his office, a member of the Grand Lodge, and should attend it in person, if not prevented by urgent business or necessity. And if he can not personally attend he may send any Master Mason in good standing of the lodge for which the proxy or proxies are being issued. -Pro. 1911, Pro.2006, p. 24.

3.2.3 Every Subordinate Lodge shall be represented in the Grand Lodge by its officers, representatives or proxies, who must be Master Masons and members of the Lodge which they represent; and such appointment, whether of representatives or proxy, must be certified by the Secretary, and the seal of the Lodge affixed thereto. -Pro. 1856, p. 46.

3.2.4 The Master and Wardens of the Subordinate Lodges, being the proper representatives thereof in the Grand Lodge, should attend in person, if not prevented by urgent business or necessity. If they can not attend, they may appoint proxies to attend in their stead, from among the members of their respective Lodges. -Pro. 1852, p. 6.
3.2.10 If only one representative appears at any meeting of the Grand Lodge of the State of Arkansas, he shall have power to cast the full vote of the Lodge of which he may be the Representative; and if only two attend, the elective officer highest in rank shall cast two votes, and a proxy shall cast the votes only of the officers he represents. Art. 1, Sec. 3, Constitution.
3.2.11 Any Master Mason, in good standing, of the lodge for which the proxy or proxies are being issued, is entitled to represent that lodge as a voting delegate. Pro. 2006, p.24.
Past practice has been that the Grand Lodge office has included proxy forms in the December mailing to permit the assignment by the lodge of proxy representatives. However, this year no such forms were included for the lodge Secretaries to properly sign and seal (as required by their code). The accompanying letter in the packet further stated there would be no further mailings forthcoming prior to the annual meeting. This prevents anyone unable to attend in person from assigning anyone else to cast their vote. (It should be noted that the Grand Secretary has reportedly told several Secretaries who enquired about the lack of forms that they would subsequently be mailed out sometime in the coming weeks before the meeting. To date, no one has reported receiving theirs.)

Word is also coming that the balloting for grand line officers at the annual communication will not be secret this year, but will be done as an open roll call. If true, this will be a major shift from prior practice in previous sessions, and is especially important this year, given that both the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Senior Warden were suspended earlier in the year, along with a recent Past Grand Master. (Requiring roll call votes instead of secret ones has happened as recently as 2011, so it is not without precedent.) The high profile suspensions, and the enormous number of them within rank and file members as well, have had a chilling effect on any open dissension or discussions. 

It should be noted that over the summer, former Deputy Grand Master Patrick Carr was suspended for 25 years, Past Grand Master Jarrod Adkisson for 30 years, and most recently at the beginning of December, former Grand Senior Warden Aaron South has just received a 27 year suspension. By suspending these brethren for definite time periods, they are precluded by their Code from appealing their sentences at the annual communication. Over the centuries, grand lodges have become very adroit at preventing palace coups attempts of any kind. And Arkansas is especially good at it. If "good" is the proper word.

A pre-formatted document is currently being circulated among Arkansas lodges to begin the process of seceding from their Grand Lodge if the annual communication goes as badly as most believe it will. Meanwhile, the Masonic world outside of Arkansas' own borders continues to watch events unfold with interest similar to the viewing of a car accident. As the very brief event with the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma amply demonstrated in November, it doesn't appear that there will be any outside assistance or pressure brought to bear on the Grand Lodge of Arkansas by other jurisdictions anytime soon. It is ultimately up to their own membership to solve what are seen as their internal troubles. 

Unless a calming presence manages to make his way into the Grand East and cooler heads prevail, that leaves either open insurrection at the annual communication, or another year of turmoil. 


  1. While Masonic auxiliary and appendant bodies have increasing used formal nominations and unanimous ballots for unopposed candidates and some Grand Lodges including mine have used the "advance and retain" checkbox ballot option, the secret ballot has long been established as a custom for electing Lodge and Grand Lodge officers. Roll call voting is against long Masonic tradition for good reason: that tyrants could easily retaliate against those that vote against them.

  2. Going to jump JW to the East, that's why the intervening slots were cleared. Look for a ruling that nobody can pass to the grand East unless they have served as a grand warden. Look for nominations from the floor not to be permitted either. The latest set of suspensions is to get rid of possible opposition during the grand lodge meeting. Look for a couple more PGMs to get the boot too, to secure the balance of power. Chair of Law and Usage has a big bullseye on his back after he was defense counsel for Carr and Adkisson. And they are still looking for an opportunity to take out the SGIG who is also a big supporter.

    GM will probably be carrying too, in case some one gets too far out of line. It's all for the good of masonry.

    Remember brethren, Billy Joe loves you!

  3. Only the Brothers in Arkansas can do anything now. We either put our spines in and stand up and say NO to everything that is put forth or we all declare independence from this profane institution as it sits now. We all know what is going on. We all no its wrong. All other Jurisdictions I've spoken to agree it's wrong but would rather see us burn to the ground than help.
    My point being, we get these guys gone, or we light the match of rebellion as our fore fathers of this great Nation did, Declare independence and start over. Either way, there is a ton of trust to be rebuilt that only transparency and integrity will be able to accomplish.

  4. Looks as though the constituent lodges and the members are about to show the Grand Lodge of Arkansas what the voters of the USA have shown the government and establishment of the USA. Fare the well in this noble endeavor. There is never room for such tyrannical actions on the part of leaders of any organization.

  5. Is it possible to see what this declaration of independence form looks like? I'm appalled by the reign of terror (and error) that has been going on there for many years now, but my dispassionate side is a protocol and Masonic law wonk. I'm intensely curious about the language a chartered lodge would use to make such a declaration and how they would claim the authority under Masonic law.

    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

  6. Brother Brown,
    If you want to see it, search Grand lodge of Arkansas on Facebook. It is posted there.

    1. Well it took a while to find it, but I found it.

      I'm disappointed, to be honest. I think it could have been written better and certainly could have been researched a lot better. It should have been written by someone who's an expert in Masonic history and Masonic law, otherwise if they follow through they're just be immediately dismissed by all other jurisdictions as nothing but a bunch of clandestine lodges who should be shunned and ignored.

    2. Everything I know about the practicalities and truths of daily life actually came from the movies Network, 1776, and Warner Brothers cartoons.

      As Benjamin Franklin said in 1776:
      A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It is only in the third person - "their rebellion" - that it becomes illegal.

  7. Gotham,
    Where did the US get their laws or authority to secede from GB? A Declaration is just that. If you believe the US DoI the right to secede from tyranny is a God given right. Of course we will be clandestine. Recognition doesn't come overnight.
    But, has n your heart of hearts, you should know that corrupt Masonry isn't Masonry at all. And, corrupt is what it has become. If we do not use the delegate's power, the only thing left to do is secede.

    1. I don't oppose secession. I support Arkansas Masons' fight against the tyranny of their own leadership. Masons do not abide tyranny, and if all usual methods to address the issues have been exhausted - and we may have finally reached that point - secession may be the only option left. I get that.

      But the question is, "then what?" You'll find yourselves outside the fraternity, unable to visit any other lodges but your own. If the ultimate goal is to petition another Grand Lodge to withdraw recognition of the current Grand Lodge of Arkansas and charter a New Grand Lodge of Arkansas - like the events that led up to the eventual creation of GLNF after GODF became irregular - you have to be very careful about the language you use otherwise no other Grand Lodge will be willing to grant that charter.

      I realize this is all easier said than done because there are no clear rules and guidelines on how to do it, because "Masonic law" doesn't exist as some universally-accepted code. It's a series of traditions and precedents that are generally accepted but open to subjective interpretation. Grand Lodges in full amity with each other don't even fully agree on what the Ancient Landmarks are. And while I'm fascinated by Masonic law, I don't pretend to be an expert in it. In fact, I know very little about it. But I did notice that the words "time immemorial" were conspicuously absent from the declaration. And that brings up the question: "by what authority are you claiming the right to break away from your Grand Lodge?" It's not enough to have a list of grievances, as legitimate as those grievances are. You also need to lay out an argument for how you can claim the right to take such an extraordinary step. The grievances are only half the declaration.

      I think it was very clever to write a declaration that sounds very similar to the American Declaration of Independence. But I think the authors were a little too focused on recreating the tone of the DoI and left out an important part of the document.

      Like I said, I'm not an expert on these matters. But that's the nagging feeling I'm getting when I read that document, that it's going to lead to a dead end where the rump Grand Lodge continues to be recognized indefinitely and the independent lodges that broke away find themselves permanently on the outside.

      I'm sorry I neglected to sign my name earlier.

      Dave Brown
      Garden City Lodge, Newtonvile, MA


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