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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Lodge Presents Charges Against South Carolina Grand Master and Officers


by Christopher Hodapp

It was almost 160 years ago to the day, on April 12, 1861, when the South Carolina militia opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and kicked off the Civil War, the bloodiest war in U.S. history. I was thinking of that today as I went through all this material.

Union-Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 is the oldest continuously operating Masonic lodge in South Carolina. Yesterday, Past Master William 'Billy' Wall, who serves as Secretary of Union-Kilwinning Lodge, sent a 10-page packet of material detailing charges his lodge is making alleging un-Masonic conduct against current Grand Master Cal M. Disher, Deputy Grand Master O. Bruce Smith, and District Deputy Grand Master Steve Hiott.

Click image to enlarge

To get the fullest possible understanding of the situation, you need to start with the Union-Kilwinning webpage and a blog entry titled, "The First Encounter." (CLICK HERE) That long entry details events in November and December last year when the lodge attempted to hold its meetings and officer elections.

In October, GM Disher issued new guidelines detailing what lodges needed to do in order to restart stated meetings under COVID restrictions: as few members as constitutionally allowed; masks and social distancing; no electronic communication... all the standard stuff.  Apparently, all hell broke out at the December meeting of Union Kilwinning and their elections when "three ruffians" showed up in succession in the course of the evening: Steve Hiott, District Deputy Grand Master, O. Bruce Smith, Deputy Grand Master, and the Grand Master himself, Cal M. Disher. Disher revoked their charter and reportedly ordered an arrest warrant issued by the sheriff's office, accusing the lodge of stealing its own property.

(Interestingly, one curious aspect of the story is that neither the DGM nor the GM identified themselves, and were wearing their COVID masks when they angrily demanded entry and ordered all activity to cease. Face it - with these masks all of us have to wear, we all look like we're dressed for a liquor store holdup, and muffled conversations sound like a hostage phone call.)

The material is much too detailed and complex for me to properly encapsulate it here, so I encourage you to read "The First Encounter" for yourself. Part of this fight turns on the minimum number of members required to open a MM lodge. South Carolina's rules and adopted 'Landmarks' are among the oldest in the United States, and they are sometimes quite different from the way the majority of grand lodges operate. According to Secretary Walls' account, South Carolina requires only six attending, whereas the majority of the U.S. requires seven. According to the allegations, GM Disher improperly issued an edict late in the year declaring the minimum must be seven. 

The lodge is also alleging that the Grand Master did not have the authority to cancel the annual meeting and remain in office beyond his term, and that he has issued multiple edicts that violate their Ahimon Rezon book of constitutions.

And then there are the assault and battery charges...

The information packet sent to all of the lodges in South Carolina was posted online HERE. The lodge has taken their case to the voting members before their scheduled communication in April. That is also when they are expecting their Masonic trial to be held. 

Not to be easily thwarted, the Grand Secretary for South Carolina pronounced that the letter and its contents may NOT be read in open lodge, and has further demanded that every single lodge pack up their letter and mail it directly to him. Right.

Because, you know, cell phones, Xeroxes, computer copies, scanners, printers, and other forms of duplicating and sharing documents don't exist in South Carolina. One could just faintly hear the collective laughter of SC secretaries here, from five states away.

I wish the brethren of Union-Killwinning lots of luck going forward, but suspect this won't end well. Their blog post "Why Cal Disher is the Past Grand Master, and the GL is irregular" is a curious logic thread to attempt to follow. Their reasoning is that, because Cal Disher cancelled 2020's annual meeting, he violated their constitution. At the close of the meeting, the GM and all GL officers must renew their oath of office (SC GMs generally serve two years). That wasn't done, because no meeting. According to the post:

Ahiman Rezon, Article 38. (~Pg. 308) reads "In the absence of the Grand Master from the Grand Lodge, the Chair SHALL (there is that word again) be taken by the Deputy Grand Master; in his absence by the Grand Wardens, in order of priority of rank; and in the absence of all these officers, by the Master of the oldest Lodge on the registry of the Jurisdiction." There is also a rule in the Ahiman Rezon, Chapter IV Rule 4. (~Pg.196), which reads "When the Grand Master is absent from the Grand Lodge, the chair SHALL be taken by the Deputy. If both are absent, the Senior Grand Warden, or if he be likewise absent, the Junior Grand Warden MUST take the chair. If all these offices are absent, the duties of the Grand Lodge WILL (another word meaning required) devolve upon the Master of the OLDEST LODGE present. Vacancies in the other chairs are to be supplied by the Masters of Lodges, according to seniority."
And without just coming out and saying it, since their lodge is the oldest established, continuously operating lodge in the state, the post is essentially stating their own Worshipful Master is the de facto Grand Master for South Carolina because of this rule, which makes all of Cal Disher's actions since last April null and void. I don't enjoy being a soggy blanket in their time of tribulation, but this can't possibly go well. Especially since their charter's been revoked.

It's entirely possible that the 2021 annual meeting of South Carolina turns out like a Scottish mud wrestling match by the time it's all over, with everybody covered in filth but still yukking it up and hugging each other at the pub afterwards. Or it could turn out to be the equivalent of first shots fired on Fort Sumter, setting off a bloody, bitter war. 

Let's all hope it's the former instead of the latter.

35 comments:

  1. Conceptually, is easy to draw a connection between the events described and alluded to in "The First Encounter" and the MW Grand Master of SC's insistence on totally banning all on-line meetings between SC Masons (which led to the expulsion of a MW Past Grand Master) in that he didn't want the grievances described. and alluded to, being discussed amongst the Brethren.

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  2. I hope that this situation can be resolved . These actions dont shed a good light on Masonry.

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  3. Think of the good that could be done with the efforts of these brothers.

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  4. I plan on being there at our grand lodge

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    1. I'm showing up with my vote, and depending on how it goes it may be my last Masonic event. This is years if not decades worth of issues with the Grand Lodge coming to a head.

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  5. I've been seriously considering leaving the craft because of how the past year has gone for those of us in South Carolina. Every time we turn around there is something else that gives me reason to stop attending and walk away.

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    1. Hang in there Brother. He will be gone soon and the sooner the better.

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    2. O.B. will be no better.

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  6. Cal Disher is a black on the face of Masons here in South Carolina.

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  7. I read "The First Encounter", and all I could think of what 'what did they leave out'? The article is just way too absurd to take at face value, there has to be something missing.

    "And without just coming out and saying it, since their lodge is the oldest established lodge in the state, the post is essentially stating their own Worshipful Master is the de facto Grand Master for South Carolina because of this rule, which makes all of Cal Disher's actions since last April null and void. I don't enjoy being a soggy blanket in their time of tribulation, but this can't possibly go well. Especially since their charter's been revoked."

    Hoo boy, I think some of those lodge officers might have watched too many Linn Wood and Mike Lindell videos. I can't see this ending without some people demitting or being expelled.

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  8. This is NOT an April Fool's joke, but the situation makes South Carolina Freemasonry look like a joke.

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  9. Ha! I love these outlandish and convoluted April Fools' Jokes.

    Oh, wait...

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  10. Union-Kilwinning was erected in 1755, under the Provisional Grand Lodge of England This is obviously a typo : please read under the Provincial Grand Lodge of England

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  11. Somehow the saying “to the victor goes the spoils” seems well... it just seems.

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  12. THIS WANT TO BE A TRUTHFUL SET OF FACTS SOUNDS A LOT LIKE WASHINGTON, DC KNOW IT ALL'S. ALL I SAY IS, "BE DAMN CAREFULL WHAT YOU WISH FOR". THIS IS NOT WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO STAND FOR. WE ARE, FAITH, HOPE & CHAIRITY. FRIENDSHIP, MORALITY & BROTHERLY LOVE IS OUR ONLY PATH. I HAVE BEEN A MASTER MASON FOR 46 YEARS & I NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD GO FROM OLD SCHOOL TO STUPIDITY & PETTINESS IN MY LIFE TIME. MOST MASONS ARE ASHAMED TO BE A MASON WHEN SEEING THE GREATEST FRATURNITY ON EARTH ACT LIKE A BOUNCH OF SPOILED BRATTS. NUFF SAID

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  13. Obviously, none of us can really know all of the "ins and outs" of governance within the SC jurisdiction. From what I've seen about other stories on this website about SC, it seems that the MWGM is pretty authoritarian. (Do what I say, when I say it, or I will personally throw you out of the Craft.) It sounds much too familiar. Re: Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee, and New York. All seem to have a familiar thread--Grand Masters seeing themselves not as "servants" of the Craft, but as "Masters" who must be obeyed without question. If I had wanted to live under an authoritarian system, I would have moved to Russia or China, instead of becoming a Freemason. Something to think about. Just my 2 cents.

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  14. This is another indication of how Masonic leadership has deteriorated. It is another of a multiple number of incidents that have helped along the membership loss. Being a Masonic leader is today a sign of failure in career and life, and compensating by dressing up in a gold apron like a drag queen.

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    1. That may be BUT you & I elect our respective GL officers - toomahy Lodges do not attend GL or, if they do, are not seeking to become informed voters on any & all issues/officers, etc. Gerald Edgar - Mosaic #125 & Bethel #319 - Iowa

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  15. Trying to control the narrative in a comment thread is a lost cause. The GL can no more unring a bell than they can spin their chicanery as somehow good for the Craft.

    Disher has bragged about being a genius and member of Mensa, the problem with the constellation Mensa is that it is the faintest of all the constellations, contains no bright stars, and cannot even be seen from North America. We here in SC certainly don't see anything close to a genius in our Grand East; even an idiot would realize that he is not personally covered under the Grand Lodge liability insurance policy. Let's all be Civil, because that is certainly on the horizon. It's too late to hide assets from what's coming. Disher's best hope is to resign now, before he is not only expelled but also bankrupted. Genius indeed.

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  16. The following comment was submitted here, but the Brother wished to hide his identity for obvious reasons. I'm re-posting it for him (with his errors intact) because his Google account settings automatically stuck his name on it:

    "[I've been] a member for 42 years and have never seen a grand master totally disreguard the advice of his pastgrand masters . from where i sit and as a past master of 2 lodges cal has done more damage to masonary than any other grand master in the history of masonary in sc .many of his actions are more in line with a spoilled 8 year old thast a man and mason. sorry i can not use my name but would problile to expelled and i plan on voting at grand lodge ."

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  17. The tyrant’s power to command is definitely waning. His end is near, and the apocalypse of his authority is already upon him. Increasingly isolated from even his most sycophantic of supporters, Cal ‘the genius’ Disher has found himself forced to walk a tight rope suspended between the bounds of ego and insanity.

    With ever increasing levels of scrutiny, his actions and foibles are being tallied as evidence of his unworthiness, recorded and cataloged for all posterity, to certify the outcome of his dark legacy.

    He, and those in his circle, will forever serve as Masonic pariahs, acting as examples of the imperative to guard the Grand West Gate with the crucial diligence necessary to prevent such ilk from ever infecting South Carolina Freemasonry again.

    The reckoning is nigh, our Brothers will have their voices heard; there is no escape for the donkey clad in a lion’s skin.

    Cal ‘the genius’ Disher had ordered his Grand Lodge Chancellors, those Esquires appointed to legally defend the honor of our Grand Jurisdiction, to attend a war council to be held in Lexington on Good Friday’s eve, that they might help defend his previous actions and assist in his future strategies.

    Not a single Chancellor bent the knee to appear or participate in the mad king’s tightrope walk of incredulity. Huzzah!

    No doubt Cal ‘the genius’ Disher retreated into his office locking his door as always, and hiding behind the mounds of abrogated correspondences. Perhaps then he considered the regrets of his failures and the high prices he will pay for following the bad council of one whom he considered to be a friend and Brother, but who only sought to manipulate ‘the genius’ for his own selfish ends.

    Genius indeed…

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    1. I think I understand why Brian and others say they're thinking of leaving Freemasonry. This post really loses perspective. It is way too much drama for something that, at the end of the day, is just a fraternity that we join for fun and making ourselves better.

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    2. If by drama, you mean when an egotistical tyrant shuts down fundraising for crucial services that benefit needy children with learning disabilities or physical impairments, and the Masonically supported centers that support those needs are shuttered because of it, then yeah, I guess it is dramatic.

      For some Freemasonry is just a social club, for others it is a vehicle to effect good in the community. Shutting down those noble effects for the sake of a personal vendetta is vile and abhorrent.

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    3. When I hear "egotistical tyrant", I tend to think of Gaddafi, KJU, Putin, etc etc. Not some elected leader of a 501(C)(10) who will be out of office in a year regardless of what he does. You weren't drafted, you voluntarily petitioned to be a Mason. If you don't like something, you can live with it, try to change it, or leave, but at the end of the day it is not a life-or-death situation and he isn't anybody's enemy. He's just running it the way he thinks it should be run. Vote him out if he chose edicts poorly. But don't escalate the rhetoric to the point that a duel might break out.

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  18. Folk outside of Sc do not know the full scope of the things things this GM has done or how it has hurt people and families even outside the fraternity.

    Dishher even went so far as to stop a fundraiser a Lodge was holding for a finacially distressed Brother with advanced cancer. Disher chose to classify the fundraiser letter as a 'begging letter' and literally put his authority above the life of the sick Brother.

    No matter what anyone thinks they know about what has been going on in SC, it is way worse than can be shared in public.

    This will all come out in the courts because Disher's action have much further reach an implications than a few missed meetings and pancake dinners.

    Everyone will know more soon, it will be shocking.

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  19. Brethren,
    The "trial" for the offenses of Union Kilwinning Lodge #4 is set for April 17th. Perhaps this was done to thwart the charges against the Grand Line officers from being brought at Grand Lodge.

    Please continue in earnest prayer for our state.

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    1. Is there a way for us to see updates on this matter? (outside of this forum of course)

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  20. After reading this thread, I tried to do a little on-line research into MWGM Disher's background. From the GLSC website, it appears that, like many GL's, you can simply "run for office." In other words, anyone can be elected to any GL office. There is no "progression." In the GL that I belong to, office is elective AND progressive. To become MWGM, a brother has to have been WM, a SR officer, and a DDGM. It then helps to be appointed to a GL chair. After all that, THEN you start out at GLJW. Terms of office are two years, so once one becomes GLJW, you will have to spend six years "going through the chairs" at GL before you are elected MWGM. This ensures that you don't get anyone who simply wants to attain high office and "throw his weight around." Just a thought.

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    1. In SC, the progression to GM takes six years after having been a WM. Serving GL in other ways helps. Not defending Disher. Just informing of information that is not quite correct.

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    2. Thanks Brother! It was unclear from what was on the SC website. Within my GL it takes, on average, close to 20 years to become MWGM, and that is after one is elected a WM.

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  21. In my part of Australia, the GL is happily closing down temples where it has some ownership and selling the properties.

    The Masonic homes have been sold too - can't have a charity losing money we were told.

    The Masonic charity has already been moved out - with approved officers getting large salaries and bonuses for giving away money.

    Once an organization has assets well beyond that justified by the income stream, the asset strippers move in. It is nothing personal - although the lodge brethren are taking it hard.

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