Many Masons may have done some Internet research and discovered that the Grand Lodge of Ukraine (Великої Ложі України) is widely recognized as regular and is in amity with most of the regular grand lodges around the world, including the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the National Grand Lodge of France (GNLF), and forty U.S. grand lodges. Ironically, the Grand Lodge of Russia even got around to recognizing the Grand Lodge of Ukraine four years ago, in 2018. So it's absolutely a lousy (and arguably tasteless) thing to enter something as meaningless as Masonic recognition rules into a discussion of helping fellow human beings in a war.
(Photo: James Cullum from ALXNow website)
It’s frustrating to have to give a bureaucratic explanation to a question about extending aid and charity to Masons in any war-torn nation. However, our members need to remember that all communications at a grand lodge level must be conducted properly by going through our own Grand Lodge Secretaries, and not directly from our members. In fact, the Grand Secretary of the GL of Ukraine has already politely said in a form letter response being circulated online that he and their grand lodge have been overwhelmed by the volume of communications from Masons around the world, and he is unable to reply to them personally. I suspect they've been deluged with messages.
(Just so you know, there was no bank account info attached to the letter, despite him referencing it. Honestly, I suspect the Russians would love to have their bank account information, so it's just as well he didn't include it.)
Dear Brethren and Friends,
We at the Grand Lodge of New York are trying to do our part towards answering the call of the distressed in providing a source of much needed help to those adversely affected by these unprovoked acts of violence and war against the good citizens of the Ukraine. These unprecedented assaults and aggression are especially traumatic and harrowing to the population of children and the elderly residing in both the cities and countryside of the Ukraine.
Your Grand Master, Most Worshipful Richard J. Kessler, and the Grand Lodge of New York, in a strong showing of solidarity with our fellow brethren of the Grand Lodge of the Ukraine, we look to the members of our noble Craft to demonstrate their heartfelt compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings during this their hour of darkness. Together, we will emerge from this tragic and dispirited experience united with a renewed zeal of bringing back peace, harmony and brotherhood throughout the world. The essence of True Masonic Brotherhood will be a beacon of hope for all to see and emulate.
In the name of this charitable and humanitarian effort in support of our brothers and their families in the Ukraine, we are grateful to receive your contributions, both large and small, as checks payable to the Masonic Brotherhood Fund earmarked for the Grand Lodge Emergency Relief Fund. Please mail your checks directly to the Masonic Brotherhood Fund, 71 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010-4149. Rest assured that every penny received will be distributed to those in need and absolutely no monies will be deferred to cover expenses and related costs incurred by the Grand Lodge.
In anticipation of your most generous support, please accept the warmest fraternal thanks on behalf of the Grand Master, the officers and members of the Grand Lodge for your kind-spirited gift to the Grand Lodge Emergency Relief Fund. The noted humanitarian and physician, Dr. Albert Schweitzer said it best, “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” In memory of the many victims who are injured, maimed or have perished during this calamity, and in cohesion with their families and fellow countrymen, we gratefully bear witness to your genuine and unselfish expression of charity.
In closing, I would like to share a short but true story that is most apropos today as it was when originally told in 1941. During the height of World War II, the Pro Grand Master of Finland, R:.W:.Brother Marcus Tollet, spoke of a little boy at a local seaport in Finland who looking at the various sailing ships noticed one flying a strange flag on its masthead, asked his father, “What flag is that?” He knew the flags of the Scandinavian countries and of all the countries that border on the Baltic, but this was a different flag; and his father replied, “It is the Freemason’s Flag – It is the Stars and Stripes of the American Flag”.
Thank you once again for your thoughtfulness and generosity for our fellow human beings during these trying times.
Richard T. Schulz
Grand Lodge of F & AM Of the State of New York
Masonic Hall - 17th Floor
71 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010-4149 U.S.A.
Meanwhile, the Grand Lodge of Missouri this afternoon issued the following statement to its members:
The Grand Lodge office recieved an email request from the Grand Lodge of the Ukraine this morning.The Grand Lodge of Missouri considers requests from other jurisdictions for emergency aid and assistance, however, those requests must be recognized by the Masonic Service Association (MSA), that is a part of the Confrence of Grand Masters of North America.This request has been forwarded to the MSA for their consideration. Understandiably, with the volitity of the situation in the Ukraine, and the posability for fraud, the validity of the request has not yet been established.THEREFORE, it is the order of the Grand Master that NO Missouri Lodges contribute any lodge funds to this, or any similar request(s), at this time.If you or your lodge has recieved a similar request for assistance, please forward a copy of this request to the Grand Lodge of Missouri email@example.com so it may be forwarded to the MSA for their verification.Once the request for assistance has been verified by the Masonic Service Association, another notice will be sent out through the Missouri portal, permiting donations to the MAS for donation to Ukaine.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Masonic Service Association has NOT issued a Masonic Disaster Relief notice. This is likely because the GL of Ukraine has not formally or informally requested it. (I think we can all probably understand that they are a bit preoccupied right at the moment.)
U.S. Brethren are cautioned NOT to attempt to set up their own independent fundraising plans in the name of their individual lodge or grand lodge, or even just identifying oneself as acting on behalf of other Masons – that is the prerogative of your grand lodge and the MSA.
Further, the message from the Grand Secretary of Ukraine cites their most pressing need right now to be, not money, but a place to stay outside of the country as Ukrainian refugees continue to pour out across borders, followed by food and medicine.
This story will be updated if there are any substantive changes.
A word about recognition of the Grand Lodge of Ukraine
Masonic diplomacy and governance can be a tricky thing to understand, especially for newer Masons. Many Masons online have expressed dismay when they discover the GL of Ukraine isn't recognized by their own grand lodge. Indeed, in my own situation, the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana is one of eleven U.S. grand lodges that does not recognize the Grand Lodge of Ukraine at this time. The reason is simple, and there’s no underlying animosity for it. The Grand Lodge of Ukraine never formally applied to us in Indiana for recognition after it was regularly constituted in September 2005. We were initially informed of their founding by their Grand Secretary at that time, but the Grand Lodge of Indiana has a longstanding waiting period at least five years following the formation of a brand new grand lodge before taking up the matter of its recognition. Waiting periods are designed to make sure a newborn GL isn't contested by others already in amity with us, as well as to let enough time lapse in case of bitterness or ego inflation, since so many spurious GLs come into being under hotheaded situations.
Further, established Masonic protocol expects that the newer grand lodge must formally request recognition of the older established one. But the GL of Ukraine never followed through with us, and we could not unilaterally extend recognition to them without their formal request to do so. It’s unfortunate, as our assembled grand lodge would have doubtless extended mutual recognition to them any time after 2010, had they asked.
This is partially why the MSA was created in the first place. In the advent of a catastrophe, MSA acts as a single voice of North American Freemasons, instead of 51 (or 100) grand lodges and more than a million of us who all think we need to chime in on every given topic these days. If the MSA is contacted by the GL of Ukraine and its board of governors decide to act on their request for donations, those of us in the eleven GLs who don't recognize Ukraine's grand lodge are still able to contribute legitimately as Masons, and in a much greater collective capacity than any GoFundMe page you or I could ever set up.