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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alexandria-Washington 22 Developments


In April, I reported that one of the nation's most famous lodges,  Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22 in Alexandria, Virginia, suddenly had its charter removed with no warning by that state's Grand Master, Vernon S. Cook. His reasons have remained unexpressed to the lodge's members at large.

After more than two months of silent unease, a letter was received last week by the members of AW 22, informing them of the subsequent actions of the GM and the officers, and their current situation. The letter dated June 19th was signed by Michael P. Bible PM, the new Worshipful Master Designate of Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22. It reads in part:

"I would like to update you concerning the status of our Lodge charter and some information, as I know it. I share your frustration with regards to the lack of communication with our membership throughout this process.
"On April 13, 2017, the Grand Master of Masons in Virginia arrested our Lodge Charter. The Grand Master directed the Worshipful Master to contact the Grand Lodge Office for a meeting to discuss getting the charter restored.
"On April 21, 2017, the Worshipful Master, 8 days later, contacted the Grand Lodge for an appointment date with the Grand Master.
"On May 10, 2017, the officers of the Lodge, with the exception of the Senior Warden, met with the Grand Master in Richmond, Virginia. During that meeting the Grand Master requested the Worshipful Master and the Secretary to write and send letters to him, explaining how the lodge plans to address and correct the issues for which the charter was arrested.
"We believe the Grand Lodge received the requested letters sometime during later part of May.
"On June 2, 2017, the Grand Master sent letters to the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden, the Treasurer, and the Secretary, removing them from their officer responsibilities. After a personal meeting between the Grand Master and the Treasurer, the Grand Master rescinded removing the Treasurer from office.

"The Grand Master has made the following decisions; I have been selected to serve as Worshipful Master, RW Mark Underwood, DDGM, will serve as Senior Warden, and RW Jack Canard, PDDGM, will serve as Secretary. The charter will be returned and the new officers will be installed at our Stated Communication July 13, 2017. The Grand Master will also address the lodge at that time.
"Brethren, the last few months have been an emotional and challenging time for all of us. We, who make up the membership of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, at this particular moment in history, are the caretakers of our lodge and will determine its path forward from this fragile time in the life of our lodge. Together we will restore our lodge and her great traditions and fraternal relationships. I ask for your participation and support, but more importantly your prayers. I ask prayers for relationships to be healed and prayers for our lodge and our great fraternally. I hope to see all of you at our July 13, 2017 stated meeting."
There is much that I can't and won't comment on right now, however nothing good will come out of any of this, I'm afraid. 

The dust has not entirely settled and there isn't even a charter back on their wall yet. If you have been planning an upcoming visit to a meeting of AW22, which is located inside the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, you are still unable to do that at this time

Also, if you have an upcoming event scheduled with author WB Andrew Hammer who is a very popular speaker, I suggest you contact him PRIVATELY and NOT through the lodge's appointed interim Secretary, nor via the generic lodge email link to AW22's Secretary you might have had from the lodge website. That link will NOT reach him anymore.

As I posted before about this, all Virginia Masons are duly admonished to be aware of, and fully comply with, the Grand Lodge of Virginia's extraordinarily draconian rules regarding online communications. Take notice and govern yourselves accordingly. 

Sadly, grand lodges that enact such rules only create a sense of bolder defiance when un-Masonic activity or overreach happens, and the result is never good for anybody. Politicians, entertainers, and corporate executives have all demonstrated there's no such thing as 'keeping it all quiet' anymore. Masons haven't figured it out yet, I'm afraid. Masonic secrecy was always about honor, and never about covering up less than honorable behavior.

At least, that's what it's supposed to be about.

37 comments:

  1. Wor. Bro. Hodapp, this is very unfortunate in so many ways. Worshipful Bro. Hammer's work Observing The Craft left a very lasting impact on myself as a newly raised Mason when it was released.

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  2. Okay, I'm really lost. What exactly triggered this action set to begin with??

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  3. If only I could tell you a cohesive, sensible story about what happened and how all this will benefit the craft, but I cannot. So much gossip has been spread about what happened and who is at fault, that it is getting hard to distill the facts in the situation and make sense of them. It has been fodder for disharmony in the area and I look forward to it being behind us. It is sad to see this kind of thing happen.

    At any rate, anyone talking about it would run afoul of the GL's policy on communication. It is a shame that we cannot discuss these situations because we could come to understand things better and maybe build a set of best practices on how to run a lodge. But that would be a travesty, apparently. When I preside in the East, am I doing the same things that got this WM removed? Who knows. Too bad we can't all learn from what happened and thus become better or more effective at doing what we need to do.

    I only give a non-answer to let you know not to dig too deeply for answers. There really is a lot of gossip on the topic, so whatever you hear should be taken with a grain of salt.

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    1. Brother Carl, thank you for stating this so plainly. I have been told so many conflicting stories that I can't bring myself to put them out for public consumption. Worse, I have no desire to make things more difficult for everyone to resolve this situation.

      When things get settled, the competition to write history will begin in earnest. Dedicated Masons' reputations are going to be either risked or even ruined, and truth will be hard to come by.

      So right now, I am simply relating the most basic facts and let the brethren involved choose to either go public, or stay silent, to protect their careers and reputations.

      I hate this...

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    2. Return of the old guard, perhaps?

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  4. Bro. Chris,

    I agree with your frustration. When real information is not allowed to come out, the rumor mill does its best to kick into high gear. Rumors are almost always worse than the real reason.

    Fraternally,

    Frank J. Kautz, II
    Past Master, Mt Hermon Lodge, AF&AM, Woburn, MA
    Past Master, Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge, AF&AM, Medford, MA

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  5. Alexandria-Washington Lodge has a very special status in terms of Masonic Washington DC and American fraternalism. Often visited by Masons from overseas,its lodge room and treasures are a "must see" on visits to the Masonic memorial building in Alexandria. In fact, its existence was one compelling reason for the memorial to be placed in Alexandria, and the story is told in a book published by Westphalia Press:

    https://westphaliapress.org/2013/09/20/the-lodge-of-washington-and-his-neighbors/

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    1. Who is the master now? First you said the Worshipful Master Designate now was Michael P. Bible. Then you said the Grand Master was selected to serve as Worshipful Master.

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    2. Grand Master Cook has designated Michael Bible to be the new Master of the lodge, Mark Underwood will be the new Senior Warden, and Jack Canard will be made Secretary. The Treasurer has not been removed and will remain in his originally elected position.

      The newly appointed officers have not yet been installed, as the lodge does not currently have its charter back yet. That will be done at the meeting in July by GM Cook.

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  6. And so, with a GL "gag order" in place, we must wait for whatever scraps of information are thrown from the table in Richmond. 2+ months is a long time to be in limbo!

    With the sincere affection that so many Brethren hold for A-W #22 and for the dedicated efforts of WB Hammer, one can only hope for an early resolution.

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  7. Brother Hammer's books on the Craft are outstanding and enduring. The lodge is of immense historic importance. So the situation is deeply, deeply unfortunate, and calls for tactful, speedy and reconciling solution.

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  8. It is because of WB Hammer's thoughts on Masonry and the wide audience he reaches that this witch hunt was orchestrated.

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    1. I admit that was the first thing that occurred to me, but didn't (and still don't) want to believe that level of pettiness at a jurisdictional level. Like them or not, Andrew Hammer's writings seek to address our deepest issues and to challenge us to find long-term solutions.

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    2. I'm not familiar with WB Hammer's thoughts on Masonry. Could you point me to specific examples that would engender a witch hunt? Sincere question here, as I simply do not know.

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  9. Another sad moment for Freemasonry. You might think that with a 300 year history Masonry would have moved beyond petty wrangling. Evidently not. I hope this situation is quickly, and amicably, resolved.
    Fraternally,
    Michael D. Gillard OPC:. KYCH:.
    PM #229, IN & DSL LOR F&AM IN

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  10. Where do they think they are, New Jersey?

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    1. Possibly West Virginia. or Tennessee, or Georgia, or Arkansas.

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  11. A sad moment in American Freemasonry. We should all be embarrassed by the way this has been handled.

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  12. I caution everyone to not leap to any conclusions in the vacuum of public information. I think everyone will discover eventually that this was not sudden and that it will be difficult if not impossible to point the finger of total blame in any one direction.

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    1. Sadly, I cannot find anything in your comment to dispute. I've always said being a Mason doesn't make the man, it's the man that makes the Mason.

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  13. What is the Lodge or the officers accused of? Am I just not reading it somewhere? Thank you for reporting this news, but we need to hear the other side of the argument.

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    1. It has not been made public, nor has it been communicated to the membership of Virginia or the lodge itself. Only the current and now former officers have been informed of the specifics.

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    2. *all* the current and former officers, or only those who sat and/or sit in the chairs you mentioned? I could see (not that I would agree) the Grand Master and the newly selected officers withholding the information from deacons and stewards....

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  14. I do think that the GL propensity to cover things up or keep situation quiet hurts their image. We are meant to be on the level and morally astute in our actions. That philosophy lends itself to transparency in my mind. GL fall all over themselves trying to cover every little disagreement up. It's almost like they have something to hide... Or maybe they're pretentious morons who desperately want everyone to think that Freemasons are infallible and unflappable.

    Ethan Coker

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    1. As little confidence as we may have for these actions to prove justified and methods appropriate, I believe too that we owe our Brethren (including the Grand Lodge of VA) latitude in the exercise of their authority and, at least, the courtesy of not judging in almost the total absence of evidence: certainly not regarding who is in the right or wrong; even less in terms of disparaging motives of which we are unaware or the character of those we do not know.

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    2. The American legal system, rooted in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, relies on the swift specifying of charges when there is arrest or seizure. One reason is that it is unfair to have a black cloud hanging over the accused without explanation. People are not defamed and removed, and then weeks later the reasons finally disclosed, Of course, possibly such rights are part of civil society rather than fraternalism.

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    3. Bro. Coker: I agree that keeping everything behind closed doors gives the impression that there is something to hide. In my industry (associations and non-profits), something we generally hold to be important is transparency. Should every little thing be seen by the members? Probably not. But outcomes and reasons for those outcomes and even a no-fault post-mortem discussion are really pretty important for big events such as this.

      We are lucky in Virginia that we have a grand line that is made up of good men. We don't have the type of shenanigans you see in other grand lines. This event is an anomaly of sorts because it happened to a very prominent lodge and there is no official word on what happened or why, except from those who are directly involved, and even then you get a weird Rashomon-like set of tales that are not cohesive.

      But the Grand Master can do these things and does not have to give a reason. He can be capricious and petty if he desires and there is nothing that can happen to him except that his decisions are overruled by the body of the GL at the end of the year. We are lucky in Virginia that these things are not common. But at the end of the day, whether we think he was right and wise or wrong and misguided, he is still the GM and what he does stands, at least for now.

      But transparency and discussion at the right time would be helpful to the brothers who say he overstepped his bounds and those who say that the Grand Lodge is getting a little too grand. At least if we know the situation, we can maybe see a different angle we just don't know about today and understand someone else's stream of thoughts. And we can still disagree, but at least we will have been informed.

      In the end, the leaders of groups such as ours need to be aware that they are there to serve the members and provide a function beyond being an entity for us to obey. We are not here to prop them up, but we should have the type of organization we would choose to support. I believe in my Grand Lodge and trust that the GM had good counsel of various types whispered in his ear and made a decision he thought was best. That is not to say that I agree or disagree.

      But increased transparency would certainly strengthen trust in the grand body state-wide. We don't need every detail but we should know, when the time is right, and that is about now, since the officers are replaced and the Lodge is almost open for business again, generally what happened. How can you replace three officers like that? What did they do that was so bad they could no longer be officers but not so bad that they were not suspended?

      Transparency fixes many things.

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    4. I cannot under penalty of expulsion provide my name but I can assure you this was an egregious violation of Masonic principles on the part of the GL of VA. Brother Hadapp is to be commended for taking the high road but this situation is not worthy of that approach. There was no "real" offense on the part of the officers. This simply comes down to a group of Past Masters not liking the change from what they were used to a million years ago and simply want it to go back to something more akin to an Elks Club than a Masonic Lodge. Shame. Shame.

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  15. I don't agree that "no good can come from this."

    In my jurisdiction (Massachusetts) I've seen lodges placed in receivership with the Grand Master (or District Deputy) assigning a Master and Wardens to run the lodge until its problems are sorted out. They emerged stronger when it was all over. The alternative was to smother the lodge, and nobody wants to do that. Few Grand Masters want their legacy to be "he smothered X number of lodges during his tenure." They'd rather be remembered for helping to save a lodge.

    It's a form of tough love.

    I don't know if good WILL come of it. This could still end badly. But I don't agree that a bad ending is inevitable.

    Dave Brown
    Garden City Lodge, Newtonville, MA

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  16. Your statement is predicated on your assumption that AW22 was/is in need of "saving." It is the Grand Lodge of VA that is in need of saving and not AW22 I assure you. In this instance the GM's legacy is already cemented as one of extreme overreach with a total lack of due process. His motto is "A force for good." He is all force and no good. He will be recorded as the worst GM in the history of American Freemasonry. And justly so.

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  17. I was there as a guest 13 April from another Grand Jurustiction. I couldn't believe what I witnessed and at 1st thought it was a poor attempt at Madonic Education. I would like to share my observations further but will seek advice before doing so. As a guest I observed a private matter but as a Freemason I was most upset with what I observed.

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    1. Aye brother. It was a ridiculous display of overreach and use of vested authority. The entire grand line and their newly "installed" puppet officers Mike Bible, Mark Underwood, and Jack Canard (who were forced onto the lodge without even consulting the membership)should demit from Freemasonry for direct violation of the tenets of the fraternity. They should at a minimum be shunned by all as a result of their unmasonic behavior. The puppets are no better in character than the three ruffians. All should be ashamed to show their faces in public.

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  18. http://www.thepastbastard.com/2017/07/grand-master-moves-to-posthumously.html?showComment=1500212778004#c799250196325227013

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  19. Any updates following the July 13 meeting?

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