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


Monday, November 27, 2023

Grand Priory of America (CBCS) Tries To Halt Texas Educational Lecture

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATED - Wednesday, November 29, 3:55PM: An earlier version of this post wrongly identified Bryan Leroy Hill as the current Great Prior of the Grand Priory of America. He was succeeded in office by Allan Surratt. I've also made corrections to Roberto Sanchez' Masonic record. Both errors were mine alone, and I apologize for any confusion they may have caused.

MW Roberto Sanchez is an extremely energetic and dedicated Texas Freemason, and has been for more than two decades. If you regularly attend Masonic Week outside of Washington DC, you might very well have met him. In addition to his Texas membership, he's also a Past Grand Master and the sitting Grand Chancellor of the Gran Logia del Estado de Mexico (Grand Lodge of the State of Mexico). He served as Master of Gray Lodge 329 in Houston back in 2011, and was part of a group determined to provide a high-quality lodge experience to their members. Since then, he’s gained an international reputation as a popular speaker, and served as an officer in several appendant organizations. 

Back in 2006 WB Sanchez, along with Gray Lodge's Past Masters Lex Leckie and Greg Weisinger created what they hoped would become an American equivalent of the English Prestonian Lecture. It was named after the lodge's charter Master, Alfred Stephens Richardson. Roberto was an early speaker, and it continues through today. Gray Lodge's A.S. Richardson Lecture is usually held at a hotel or restaurant, and some of the top Masonic authors and historians have been invited to speak there over the years. (2011 must have been a lean year, as they invited me.)

This year will be the 15th annual A.S. Richardson Lecture, and the speaker will be Alun Thomas-Evans, a fascinating U.K. Mason who is well-versed in the history, development and philosophy of countless esoteric organizations, some related to Masonry, and some not. He will be speaking about the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (in English, the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City, or CBCS, using its French initials), the Rectified Scottish Rite, and a closely related body known as the Waite Order (named after Arthur Edward Waite, who is a topic all by himself). The event is to take place on December 1st at the Embassy Suites in the Energy Corridor in Houston ($80 apiece, in case you’re interested deadline for tickets is Thursday, November 30th). CLICK HERE to register through Facebook. Act fast. 

Now, longtime readers here may or may not remember over a dozen years ago when a dispute over this obscure, invitational, Masonic-related side organization most commonly referred to as the CBCS blew up into a national and international Masonic food fight. It was a mess. A BIG mess. This was truly Masonic minutiae of the most arcane kind, and to fully understand what was going on at the time took lots of explanation (here are some old links in case you really want to wade into this morass, or see the cheat sheet below). 

Well, just in case you thought the whole ugly, stinky mess finally died out, it’s back again.

Now it seems that Allan Surratt, the current Great Prior of the Grand Priory of America (the U.S. wing of the CBCS) has sent a letter to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas demanding that the A.S. Richardson Lecture be blocked because of its subject matter. It seems that the GPA doesn’t want anyone to even speak about their organization and its various related topics, and they are demanding that the Grand Master shut it down.

Only a tiny problem with making such a demand: the Grand Lodge of Texas has a swollen rule book that’s the size of the last Dallas phone book: it’s more than 500 pages long, which may be a sad record for US grand lodges. Texas Masons over the years have inserted reams of new and ever more tediously minute regulations into their Masonic code, and a big section of it deals with appendant and other Masonically-related organizations operating within their jurisdiction: the Grand Lodge must approve every single group that requires their participants to first be a Freemason. Every such group must petition the Grand Lodge of Texas for recognition, and must be approved by a vote of Grand Lodge. If it ain’t listed in their Code by name, it ain’t recognized in Texas. And it doesn’t matter how many Past Grands, 33rds, Sovereign-Thises-and-Thats, or Big Name Celebrity Masons happen to belong to it. It’s just like getting backstage at the Taylor Swift concert. You gotta be on the list, or the exit door is that way. And the Grand Priory of America (CBCS) isn’t on the list. 
It seems its storied and privileged officers and members never bothered to ask over almost 100 years. Whoops.

The Great Prior’s other objection is that WB Alun’s lecture will be talking about other versions of the CBCS and its related bodies outside of the US that the GPA isn’t part of.


The Great Prior of an unrecognized Templar-related organization that’s spent more than a decade and untold thousands of dollars in lawsuits defending their lineage, sovereignty and exclusivity in order to remain a tiny invitational supper club (“because them 33rds let in too much riffraff)” never got around to getting recognition in Texas, which is the home to several of its very own high-profile officers, members and – interestingly enough – attorneys. They include Reese Harrison, Michael Wiggins, and Brian Dodson – all Past Grand Masters of Texas. And the GPA doesn’t want anyone talking to Texas Masons about ANY un-recognized CBCS body, even though they themselves aren’t recognized in Texas, either.


The good news is that, as of Wednesday, November 29th, the Grand Master is apparently siding with the lodge in this little imbroglio, and was unmoved by the GPA's demand. The lecture will go forward.

If you don't know anything about this mess (or tried to put it out of your mind), here’s the cheat sheet on the history of this long tale of woe and misery: 

  • Portions of the European CBCS/Rectified Scottish Rite rituals and origins involve the Knights Templar, and have done so since the 1700s; 
  • The Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar (GEKT) found the GPA to be infringing on their sovereignty over all US Masonic Templary, in part because their charter clearly states that the CBCS is a Templar organization; 
  • The American wing of the CBCS – the Grand Priory of America (GPA), organized in the 1920s - promised by the 1930s not to work their Templar degrees or ever publicly claim they were Templars; 
  • The GPA stopped conferring the degrees and became a tiny, invitational, exclusive dinner club for Past Eminent Grand Masters of the KT and celebrity Masons; 
  • By 2000, officers of the GPA began representing themselves on foreign visits as a Templar organization, and protested that US Masons were receiving CBCS degrees in England, France, Belgium and elsewhere, violating their “exclusive” status - GPA would not permit CBCS members who joined European Priories to attend their meetings and would not honor their credentials; 
  • GEKT declared that the GPA was again illegally violating THEIR sovereignty; 
  • The GEKT's GM William H. Koon received a warrant from a French CBCS body to create their own American Grand Priory, and subsequently suspended existing GPA members who refused to drop their “old” GPA membership; 
  • Lawsuits more lawsuits and counter-lawsuits flew like bats out of a belfry; 
  • GPA leaned heavily on the Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America to withdraw recognition agreements from the GEKT and shut down all US Templar Commanderies; 
  • ME Grand Master Dixon of GEKT reluctantly shut down its “new” CBCS Priory; 
  • A decade later, GM Nelson of the GEKT acted to remove any holdover language from their regulations, reinstate the suspended GPA members, and finally put this quagmire to rest. (Knightly News from 2021 Grand Encampment Triennial
  • His immediate successor attempted to reverse that action, incurred the wrath of a weary mass of KT members, and got removed from office in an almost unprecedented action. (As the Sword Turns: Called Conclave Removes Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson


  1. The line from The Gondoliers applies, '
    "if everyone is somebody, nobody is anybody.' Gilbert and Sullivan were brethren.

  2. While living in Europe I was able to visit and receive several degrees that are invitational here in the USA. The problem with USA based Masonry is that it is maintaining regulations that were originally put in place to protect Thomas Smith Webb's monopoly. Noe he has long been dead, but his system has mechanisms built into the wording that protects itself while excluding others, so it is self perpetuating. Thus, while the Rectified Scottish Rite is a unique system with its own Blue Lodge degrees Apprentice, Companion, Master, Saint Andrew the USA attempted to suppress it since the time of Folger read the book entitled "Committed to the Flames". When I moved back ro the USA I couldn't visit the CBCS here even though the French one I joined is recognized here. The USA surpresses Masonic organizations by either making them invitational or as reading materials in the Grand College of Rites.

  3. In the words of the famous philosopher, Charlie Brown, "Good grief!"

  4. As always, Chris, your to-the-point clarification of issues is appreciated. I feel like shouting "excommunicated!" at someone, but it's the wrong venue.

  5. So, did the lecture go forward or was it stopped?

  6. Some of what you say about the Great Priory of America is just plain incorrect, and some of it may have been true over ten years ago, but is no longer true.

    1.) There are other Masonic lecture series that are older than the A.S. Richardson Lecture at Gray Lodge. It is a great annual event, but others are as well. So, it is not the Texas version of the Presonian Lecture. LOL

    2.) From my perspective, the big CBCS "food fight," as you describe it, was simply the Great Priory of America (GPA) defending itself against an unwarranted attack leveled against it by the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, because he was miffed that he had not been invited to join the CBCS. The GPA defended itself adequately, the old GM of the KT is now sulking.

    3.) The letter from Allan Surratt, Great Prior of the GPA, did not (as you state) object to Brother Thomas-Evans speaking about the CBCS (the Rectified Scottish Rite). Rather, Surratt objected to a member of an unrecognized Great Priory of the Rectified Scottish Rite speaking at a regular lodge. Where Surratt got it wrong was that it was an open meeting, not in a tiled meeting, and was an academic lecture by a regular Mason who is a member of an English lodge. (You could have said that.)

    Chris, you will never say anything good about the CBCS or the Rectified Scottish Rite because you are still smarting from having paid $750 for the bogus (and now defunct) version of the CBCS that you bought into several years ago.

    4.) The lawbook of the GL of Texas is NOT the size of the Dallas phone directory. It is a well-organized and indexed book of laws that includes the Constitution of the GL of Texas, the laws of the Grand Lodge, and copies of all the forms used by lodges. It is a useful tool for lodge officers and grand lodge officers and committeemen. Most of us have graduated from high school, and can read and write. I'll let you speak for the Indiana brethren.

    5.) Yes, the GL of Texas reserves the right to determine which affiliated or appendant organizations, predicating membership on being a Master Mason, that Texas Masons may join. We don't want every random organization with funny hats invading our jurisdiction and sucking dues money out of our members' pockets. On this matter, other jurisdictions may have a free-for-all, but Texas doesn't.

    6.) The Great Priory of America (GPA) has not spent "untold hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawsuits." Why you choose to surrender any shred of credibility by over-exaggerating like this, is a mystery. We often rely on you to provide us with good info. So, why do you choose to lie to us?

    Yes, the GPA did successfully defend itself against a bogus lawsuit brought by the GM of the Grand Encampment. But to my knowledge, it cost them a fraction of what you claim.

    And yes, the GPA is an exclusive Masonic organization. So is the Scottish Rite's 33rd Degree, the Red Cross of Constantine, the K.Y.C.H., the Allied Masonic Degrees, the Red Branch of Eri, and any number of other affiliated and appendant Masonic organizations. So, when are you going to start whining about them???

    There are a number of other members of the GPA in Texas, who are NOT Past Grand Masters, and all of them have been members longer that PGM Brian Dodson.

    7.) It is clear that you have used this latest issue as an opportunity to repeat the version of the story spun by William H. Koon, PGM of the GEKT. Is it any wonder that Brother Allan Surratt, Great Prior of the GPA is a little sensitive about a lecture featuring an alternative version of the CBCS history?

    After the GPA shed itself of about two dozen members who were followers of William H. Koon, the GPA was finally able to expand by tripling its maximum in the U.S. It was also able to start conferring the degrees of the Rite in full. This is all old information to many of us, even though it has apparently not filtered down to Chris Hodapp.

    Finally, most of us just wish you could learn to report the Masonic news, without letting us all know how YOU feel about it. Try to not make every story about you.

    1. Thanks for deigning to set me straight on this story – whomever you are. You say "most of us have graduated high school and can read and write." Perhaps that's so, but apparently comprehension wasn't part of your education, since you somehow managed to miss the message below the comment form that says "ATTENTION! SIGN YOUR NAME OR OTHERWISE IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN YOUR COMMENT POSTS IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOOGLE ACCOUNT." If you want to insult me, next time at least have the guts to let me know with whom I'm trading barbs.

      Regardless, I'll address a couple of points:

      1. Contrary to your belief that I'm still "smarting" over having joined the Grand Encampment's CBCS body over a decade ago, I assure you I never was particularly sore about it. Frankly, I was extremely disappointed for everyone on all sides that the whole exploit descended into the mess it became. Friendships lost, Masonic careers tarnished (or wrecked entirely), money and efforts wasted – and obviously, for some, the fight STILL isn't over, as demonstrated by this attempt to shut down the lecture.

      2. I NEVER claimed the Richardson Lecture was the oldest such educational lecture in Texas, nor did I claim it was on par with the Prestonian Lecture in England; I said the organizers at Gray Lodge "created what they hoped would become an American equivalent of the English Prestonian Lecture." That's taken from their own website. (There's that reading comprehension problem again.)

      3. You wrote, "Surratt objected to a member of an unrecognized Great Priory of the Rectified Scottish Rite speaking at a regular lodge. Where Surratt got it wrong was that it was an open meeting, not in a tiled meeting, and was an academic lecture by a regular Mason who is a member of an English lodge. (You could have said that.)" All very true. But Surratt made an even bigger mistake, specifically in Texas, since the GPA has never been recognized by the Grand Lodge, either. Seems astonishing, since several of the GPA's longtime members have been Texas Masons, and I believe more than one or two are attorneys. So despite the illustrious Masonic careers of several of these exalted Texas brethren, isn't this little argle-bargle equivalent to a complaint being filed by that clandestine Houston grand lodge Michael Jackson's doctor belonged to?

      4. I was glad to hear that GPA expanded its maximum membership in the U.S. and that it finally began actually conferring the RER degrees in full, something it hadn't done since its formation in the 1930s. It's just a damned shame it took all this infighting, backbiting, lawsuit-filing, friendship wrecking and revenge-seeking behavior to finally accomplish it. And I seriously doubt that it was those "two dozen members who were followers of William H. Koon" you referenced who were standing in the way of making those changes.

      As for all of this being "old information for many of us," not all the readers of this blog are the aged moss-backed turtles of the fraternity who've been around since 1717. Many are relatively new Masons who occasionally need to be brought up to speed on unfamiliar or obscure topics, especially when they hear about fights like this going on between purportedly respected Masons... (MORE)

    2. (CONTINUED)

      5. Okay, perhaps the last Dallas phone book WASN'T as long as the Texas Masonic Constitutions. To my knowledge, it's still the longest such book of Masonic regulations in the U.S. I'm astonished that Texas Masons have felt compelled to fill more than 500 pages with rules and regulations, especially since Rev. James Anderson managed to boil England's Constitutions down to just 92 (really just 82, if you don't count ten pages of songs).

      6. Where in this story did I make it "about me", apart from the off-handed mention that I spoke at the A.C. Richardson Lecture many years ago? You object to my editorializing, saying "most of us just wish you could learn to report the Masonic news, without letting us all know how YOU feel about it." In the 18 years I've been posting stories here, I've never once claimed to be an unbiased, dispassionate news service. Do feel free to start your own and show the rest of us how it's done.

  7. Dear Brother Hodapp: If I was too hard on you in my first posting, I apologize. I will not post my name because these comments are not about me. Either they are true on their face, or they are not. If they are not true, then adding my name will not make them true. And if they are true, then my name will add nothing.

    1.) Okay. Maybe you aren't smarting over the wasted $750 degree fee you paid to Brother Koon. But the two reasons the conflict between Brother Koon and the Great Priory of America (G.P.A.) descended into a sordid mess were: First, because Brother Koon, when he was GM of the GEKT issued an ultimatum to some of the highest ranking KTs in the U.S. that they must resign from the G.P.A.; and Second, because he subsequently filed a lawsuit against the G.P.A., forcing it to defend itself, which it did.

    We may wish that none of this ever happened, but it was Brother Koon who got the ball rolling. When someone files a lawsuit against you, then you have no choice but to defend yourself.

    2.) Sorry about the attribution on the bit about the Prestonian Lecture. That was Gray Lodge's claim, not yours, but as enjoyable an event as it may be, the Prestonian Lecture it is not.

    3.) Surratt was entirely wrong to write his letter to the Texas Grand Master. It is a mystery why the G.P.A. and the Rectified Scottish Rite have never been attempted to add their name to the approved list of appendant bodies in Texas. That fact alone left Surratt with no standing to complain about Gray Lodge's guest lecturer, in addition to the fact that an academic lecture should never be censored by the Grand Lodge.

    You wrote: "Several of the G.P.A.'s longtime members have been Texas Masons, and I believe more than one or two are attorneys." Well, you are wrong on both counts. Only one longtime G.P.A. member is a Texas Mason, and that is Past Grand Master Harrison. All the rest have been members of the G.P.A. for less than ten years. Further, as far as I know, PGM Harrison is the only Texas Mason in the G.P.A. that is an attorney. Rt. Wor. Brother Harrison is 85 years old.

    You really need to check your facts and stop exaggerating to make your points.

    4.) In reference to the G.P.A.s membership expansion, and its conferral of all its degrees in full, you wrote: "I seriously doubt that it was those two dozen members who were followers of William H. Koon ... who were standing in the way of making those changes."

    You may doubt it, but I have it on good authority from an older member of the G.P.A. that, for many years, the idea of expanding its membership or conferring the degrees in full, was always blocked by the old moss-backs from the Grand Encampment that stood in the way. But as soon as Brother Koon forced them to resign from the G.P.A., that cleared the way for the remaining members of the G.P.A. to triple their membership, and then start conferring the degrees in full, and even institute several St. Andrew's Lodges. (They didn't do this to make Billy Koon happy, I can assure you.)

    5.) When a GL lawbook is short, it leaves too much room for a dictatorial Grand Master to abuse his powers. An Indiana Mason who doesn't have to follow our GL Law may not like our Texas lawbook, but you don't have to follow it, and I don't hear our Texas members complaining about it.

    6.) In answer to your question, when you fill your reports with biased and slanted reportage, and they are filled with your opinion of matters, that's when you make it "about you." Lord knows that we are aware you have never claimed to be an unbiased news service. My point was that we just wish you were. I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but truthfully, we don't come here for your opinions. We just want to know what is happening in the fraternity. We can make our own judgments. Thank you.

    1. I’m guessing this is either Reese Harrison or Brian Dodson


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