by Christopher Hodapp
UPDATED Friday 9/11/2021-
Instead of posting new articles every time a new letter is issued or becomes available, I am adding updates to this original message. This most recent update adds a letter written by David Kussman in response to Templar Grand Master Johnson's demand for his resignation on September 4th. I also include a rebuttal penned by Past Grand Master Nelson this past week.
As Katherine Hepburn famously quipped in The Lion In Winter, "What family doesn't have its little ups and downs..."
I was hoping for at least one good news story to post between last week's Grand Encampment vs. Great Priory of America CBCS related drama, but, alas, no. Masonic social media was atwitter over the Labor Day weekend with more drama out of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar in the United States (GEKT). On Friday, September 3rd, Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson issued a letter to his Deputy Grand Master, David J. Kussman, calling for his resignation (image below):
On Saturday, DGM Kussman responded to GM Johnson's demand with the following letter:
(Please note that these letters were posted to a public website that was created to call for a special conclave to deal with issues of the last two weeks. I have not obtained them improperly.)
In response, GM Johnson formally removed DGM Kussman from office on Monday in a letter that was circulated to officers, Past KT Grand Masters and others (image below):
Yes, Kussman's removal is at least partially related to the GPA drama and attempts to negotiate some kind of mutually agreeable truce between the two organizations. The word is that the Grand Encampment officer line will be advanced this coming Saturday, September 11th to fill Kussman's vacancy, and a new Captain General will be appointed.
Meanwhile, Sir Knight Ben Williams has devoted today's episode of his Rocky Mountain Mason Podcast, RMM-060, to explaining the ongoing situation within the GEKT. Ben was named by the immediate Past Grand Master Jeff Nelson to chair the Jurisprudence Committee at the Triennial last week when its appointed chairman was unable to attend. HEAR IT HERE.
UPDATED 9/8/2021 4:43PMMy understanding late Wednesday is that Sir Knights Bolstad and Harper shall be advancing to R.E. Deputy Grand Master and R.E. Grand Generalissimo, respectively, and that Past Department Commander James McGee shall be appointed as Grand Captain General.
Two large documents were prepared for the Triennial explaining the origins and opposing positions of the Great Priory of America/CBCS and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. You need to read both documents to see the disagreement from both sides. These two pdf documents can be accessed HERE.
UPDATED 9/10/2021 11:50PM:Past Grand Master Jeffrey N. Nelson has now weighed in with his own statement in defense of David Kussman:
Seriously considering demitting from the York Rite altogether.ReplyDelete
This isn't helping.
By my count, REGM Johnson is now the FIFTH consecutive Grand Master of Templars to be dealing with this issue. That's not counting earlier GMs in the 1970s and 90s who tried to address the controversy, as well. Apart from "never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "stay the hell out of Afghanistan," I can't think of a more contentious struggle that does nothing but suck down resources, upturns emotions, wrecks careers, and worse, destroys friendships.Delete
The York bodies have been declining even more rapidly than they were. But so are the Shrine and the Scottish Rite, and the blue lodges. The virus is going to close many, many lodge buildings that lack ventilation. In the face of all of this, we simply don't have leadership. in general, with exceptions, being an officer indicates someone who has not been successful in real life and is compensating.ReplyDelete
Agreed. The authoritarian cancer that seems to be growing is getting out of hand. I enjoy being an officer of my craft lodge, and have a successful business and family outside of the lodge, but remember my obligations to each other. Seems like thats unfortunately needing to be reviewed by many people.Delete
Being an officer indicates someone who has not been successful in life and is compensating? Boy you must be joining horrible lodges/chapters/councils.....Delete
Well,Fuzzy, as a bias past presiding officer of the York Rite bodies, I encourage you to hang onto membership in at least the Holy Royal Arch, if you can.ReplyDelete
Regarding the CBCS in the United States and its relationship with GEKT, that's a tough pickle. But neither body is going anywhere.
One possible solution may be for the GPA to attach a Lodge of St. Andrew (LSA) to the GEKT and for the GEKT to accept it. The presiding officer for the LSA would probably have to be a member of the GEKT and a 6th degree member of GPA.
This Brother would act as an official liaison by helping to determine the select amount of Brothers who are to join the LSA and those select few chosen for advancement beyond it.
In other words, the GPA and GEKT working together. Just a thought.
I was secretary/recorder of all three bodies of my local York Rite for five years. I saw the sausage being made. I also saw how to fix the problem, but my solution was not acceptable, I knew it, and I kept my mouth shut like a good little soldier in the trenches.Delete
The York Rite's problems are not solvable short of a complete rework of how the three bodies interact and recruit. In this state alone there are too many subordinate chapters, councils, and commanderies. Close down the underperforming ones and consolidate their membership where it can do the most good. There are three Grand Secretaries/Recorders where there should be one (not to mention three incompatible reporting systems between them). In addition, there are serious top-down problems that need to be fixed at all levels. The first thing that needs to happen is that the nationwide bodies need to go away. Follow the Grand Lodge approach and let state-level Grand bodies handle things themselves. And yes, I understand that is rank heresy, at least as far as the GEKT is concerned.
As far as the GEKT/GPA argument goes, I'm completely unconcerned about it, short of it being a total waste of time that concentrates resources in areas that could be better used in other areas. The Sir Knights in Conclave decided, by a supermajority, that the argument was over. The new REGM turned right around and basically told them they were wrong. How does the new REGM expect to get any support or confidence when he won't listen to his own Sir Knights?
What a mess. Why should I continue to support it?
This controversy is archetypal for the infantilism that characterizes our timeReplyDelete
We all know that there is one man on the Grand Encampment side who is behind all this. He started this war in 2010, and has influenced (or bullied) his successors to carry on the fight. The current GM of the GEKT is being used.ReplyDelete
This came as shocking news. I admit I do not know all sides of this story, however, as a past commander of California Commandery #1, KT, Calif., and someone who has observed SK David Kussman for many years, I stand behind this man who has always acted, spoken, and carried himself with honor. In public and private conversation, he continuously demonstrated the highest integrity. SK David is one of the best prepared and most eloquent public speakers of our Craft.ReplyDelete
Masonic membership everywhere, but especially Grand Encampment sorely needs these bright, charismatic leaders who have that special ability to connect with an audience. We are already filled with good men that command by authority of position, but only connect until the droning end of their speech.
Our declining memberships is because we can’t get out of our own way. Firing the men who think and voice opinions, because they don’t fit the current box, is why perception is “it’s an old mans organization” that the younger generation is becoming more disconnected from.
SK Robert Whitfield, KYGCH KCT EKA OSV
This is very very sad. When I joined the York Rite, I thought it was odd that there were so many "invite only" bodies and titles and groups to join. I was excited at all the light that could be had. As I progressed through the Chapter, Council, and eventually the Commandery, I unfortunately saw many more title chaser than those willing to continue to carry the torch of the York Rite forward.ReplyDelete
I have been considering withdrawing from the York Rite all together, and between this and and some other events in my jurisdiction, I think its time to hang it up.
Thanks for your stellar reporting on this, Chris.
You make a good point, William. The vast majority of American Freemasons can probably only base their Masonic decisions on their local AMERICAN Masonic experience and may not have had the opportunity or desire to explore and experience the WORLDWIDE Fraternity.ReplyDelete
Turns out, each Masonic jurisdiction around the world has its own unique set of challenges, strengths, and problems. A lot of that has to do with the history, customs, and culture of the region.
To say different Masonic jurisdictions around the world can learn from each other may be a gross understatement.
Masons everywhere should always be working towards a more perfect union and Freemasonry (proper) was never meant to be (borrowing the biblical) hidden under a bushel.
Part of the genius of the Craft is that all the degrees, titles, and exclusive "Invite" only associations a Brother may have mean very little if he is not properly clothed and jeweled as a Master Mason.
I have long ago adopted the popular British viewpoint (which is a result of how Freemasonry developed in their region) regarding the relationship between the Craft and Holy Royal Arch. So if you decide to demit, I do encourage you to keep your Chapter affiliation, if you are able to do so.
Thanks to all who have posted here. I am a newly raised MM and have been contemplating whether to further my education through the York or the Scottish Rites. I'm 83yo, and have wasted many years since I served as MC of a Chapter of DeMolay. My family is steeped in Freemasonry, both male and female, and one of my grandfathers, who went all the way in both York & Scottish was crowned a prince with the 33rd degree, Scottish Rite. In 1950, at age 12, I played Onward Christian Soldiers on the Lodge organ during my father's installation as EC of Northern Commandery No. 16, Towanda, PA. I leaned toward the Yorkists; however, with what I read here, I will petition the Royal Arch, and upon receiving their four degrees, pursue the 32 degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry. Too bad; it appears to me that GEKT (USA), is old man's/little boy's club and I don't need to waste the few years I have left following these Jack... (burros). Thanks again! RJ McCracken, MM.ReplyDelete
Johnson should be brought up on Masonic Charges.ReplyDelete
A lot of respect just got thrown out the window for and by Michael Johnson. There was a lot of "ME" in there. Anyone who needs loyalty to themselves personally above all else is not a true Mason. It amazes me he got to the top. He should be brought up on Masonic Charges. If he is removed or suspended as a Freemason - he will not be a KT!
I am not close to SK Kussman... but have been in Lodge and Conclave with him. He is a consummate gentleman, kind, smart and a Great Freemason!