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


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Imperial Potentate Issues Update on Shrine in Arkansas

Recent efforts to restore the Shrine's Masonic connections in Arkansas are yielding some new developments this week (See GL of Arkansas and Shriners International May Be Burying the Hatchet At Last). 

Since November 2012, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has forbidden the Masons in its jurisdiction to be members of the Shrine, and expelled numerous Masons over it.

On Tuesday, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, Jesse D. Sexton, issued an edict recognizing Shriners International as a “civic organization.” The result of this decision permits Arkansas Masons to again be members of Shriners International for the first time since 2013.

Yesterday, the Imperial Potentate for Shriners International, Jeffrey L. Sowder, circulated a letter to all Arkansas Shriners to announce the new changes.

"In response to significant positive steps taken by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas at its February 2019 Grand Communication, Shriners International passed a resolution during its 2019 Imperial Session, that as of July 16, 2019, all new initiates for Shrine membership in Arkansas must be Master Masons in good standing.
"The resolution has no current impact on Arkansas Shriners who are not currently Masons. However, Arkansas Masons are now immediately permitted to petition for membership in our two Arkansas Shrine Temples, Scimitar Shriners and Sahara Shriners."
Click to enlarge

As reported last week, the recommendation first proposed by PGM Bradley Phillips (now Grand Secretary) and accepted by the members of the Grand Lodge lays out a transition period of three years so that proper steps can be taken to return the Shrine to its former status as a "fraternal organization that predicates its membership on Masonic membership." If all goes well, at the end of three years all Arkansas Shriners should be Freemasons again, or they will be suspended by the Shrine at that time.

Arkansas Masons wishing to enquire about the current status of the Shrine should contact Grand Secretary Phillips in Arkansas directly. Arkansas Shriners who were previously Masons or now seek to more information should contact Brian Van Norman, Chief Membership Officer for Shriners International in Tampa.

UPDATE 7/18/2019 3:00PM

Arkansas Masons Can Become Shriners

The Grand Master of Arkansas, Jesse D. Sexton, issued an edict on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 that recognizes Shriners International as a “Civic Organization”. The result of this decision permits Arkansas Masons, for the first time in more than five years, to be members of Shriners International.

Arkansas Masons are now permitted to immediately begin petitioning for membership in the Shrine following the decision of the Grand Master of Arkansas. In response to significant positive steps taken by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas at its 2019 February Communication, Shriners International passed a resolution during its 2019 Imperial Session. As result of this resolution and resulting action taken by the Grand Lodge, as of July 16, 2019, all new initiates for Shrine membership in Arkansas must be Master Masons in good standing. The resolution has no current impact on Arkansas Shriners who are not currently Masons.

The 145th Imperial Session of Shriners International adjourned on July 4, 2019. In addition to the historic action taken by the Representatives related to requiring a masonic prerequisite in Arkansas, Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder was elected Imperial Potentate for the 2019-2020 year. Imperial Sir Sowder is the first Past Grand Master ever to serve as the Imperial Potentate of Shriners International. “We welcome our brothers from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to take advantage of the opportunity that now exists to become a Shriner”, said Imperial Potentate Jeff Sowder.

As a Past Grand Master and as a long-time Shrine Membership leader, Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder is extraordinarily well equipped to lead the Shrine through this period of productive transition. Both organizations are strengthened by the continuing collaborative efforts that have established a pathway for mutual success.

About Shriners InternationalShriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples (chapters) in several countries, and thousands of clubs around the world. For more information, please visitshrinersinternational.org.


  1. There are complications. For example, if among the non Masons who joined the Shrine during these years when that was allowed there are those who responded to the energetic charitable appeals to become life members, will those life memberships be rescinded, and if a non Mason Shrine member is blackballed when obeying the new edict to join the blue lodge, will he then be dropped from the Shrine?

  2. Im am so glad piece and harmony prevailed once again !!!!

  3. If not Masons do not let them join Shrine..Make them earn this right by deeds and deditcation and hard work like thousands of us before where made to do!!!!! What about the Blacks..my Lodge said not meetings if not F&AM meetings...Prince Hall is not F&AM.....only fair to us old guys who towed the line for decades now you sign a letter all that we did means nothing?????

    1. I think you missed the long saga in Arkansas that got to this point, starting seven years ago. When a former GM there got crossways with the Shrine over a member he had expelled, they refused to remove him because he still was a Mason in another state. So the Arkansas GM declared the Shrine clandestine in Arkansas and expelled Masons who retained their Shrine memberships. The Shrine faced the no-win situation of either violating their own rules in decisions involving their own members, or shutting down entirely in Arkansas. Their answer was to allow non-Masons IN ARKANSAS to be Shriners there. That was not opened up to non-Masons anywhere but in Arkansas. All of that is what is being rectified with this new agreement, and the Shrine is agreeing to a three year transition period precisely so that any non-Mason Shriners IN ARKANSAS have the new opportunity to join a lodge there or elsewhere. After the three years, the belief is that the Shrine will then suspend or expel any remaining non-Masons and all will be right with the world again.

    2. The Shrine not only refused to remove the member in question from membership, but also allowed him to continue as Potentate of Scimitar Shrine. That is a bit more defiant and "in your face" than simply allowing him to remain a Shriner.

      None of that changes the facts, but it may help better understand the tone and flavor of the resulting edict.

    3. I think you missed the main point in his response. The said member was a Mason in good standing in another state. Typically, if suspended in one state, then you are suspended in all. But, in this case, the other state felt so strongly about the situation (which should set off alarm bells), that state refused to suspend him, too. Therefore, the Shrine had no real choice. He was a Mason in good standing, therefore they could not suspend him without violating Shrine Law. In all honesty, the issue was with the Arkansas GM (who many believe was wrong) and at the very least with the other state which refused to suspend. The Shrine was not the villain here. It was a bunch of Masons who could not remember their obligations and follow its own runs and bylaws.

    4. TY for additional details. My dad was 3rd generation Mason; also Shriner & Jester. It is absurd that anyone allowed to become Shriner w/out being Mason. So tired of those joining an org and then setting out to change everything about it. If you don't like it, don't join it.

  4. Pleased to hear the results of stability. Greetings and blessings to all in Arkansas.

  5. It may be as little tough for some Masons who remember the earlier relationship of the Shrine and Craft. For example, the earlier requirement to be a Masonic Knight Templar or Scottish Rite Mason in order to join the Shrine, but times have changed.

    Now it may be best to consider the relationship of the Shrine and Craft today as being one based on a partnership and mutual agreement between two organizations that could, theoretically, operate completely as separate organizations. For example, I have met many Americans who were not even aware Shriners are also Masons.

    This is just a thought. I am aware of the Shriners Masonic origins and I am not advocating a total separation of the two organizations even though that may naturally happen down the road.

    What I am advocating is a more positive change of attitude towards the relationship of the two organizations and Arkansas has taken a first step in that direction.

    Speaking of relationships, consider the Scottish Rite, for example. It may surprise some Brethren, but the Scottish Rite is a totally separate Rite (and therefore, potentially separate organization) from Craft Freemasonry because the Scottish Rite has its own three Craft Degrees.

    The reason the Craft and Scottish Rite is organized in America and other parts of the world (but not all) the way we practice it, is because of agreement.

    Freemasonry must have AGREEMENT in order to survive.


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