Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Benefits of Checks and Balances - Part III

This is the third of a three part series.



Just in case anyone missed the salient point of Part II let me emphasize that if you cannot publisize reforms you would like to see your Grand Lodge support and if you cannot contact Brethren about issues then how can you effectively work for change in your Grand Lodge? And what kind of Masonic government are you working under? Which leads into Part III - Masonic Government.

It was a pleasure to listen to Tim Bryce on Masonic Central, Freemasonry's #1 podcast, this last Sunday.

Brother Bryce prompted by a question from me explained that Freemasonry grew up in the age of Monarchies and adopted the form of government for itself that was in vogue in the civil world at that time. But is that the type of Masonic government that suits the 21st century best, he mused? Having promulgated the exact same views for awhile I E-Mailed Bro. Bryce after the show and asked him if he had any more material on his position. It seems he has previously written two papers on this subject.


Let me take this a bit further and play devil's advocate for a moment and ask, if we were to invent a Grand Lodge in the 21st century, would we truly design the government of our institution in the same manner as our forefathers? Come on, would we really? Knowing what we do today in terms of government, politics, and Freemasonry, I doubt it seriously.

A big part of the problem is the top-down approach I just mentioned. Too often the Craft feels powerless against the will of the Grand Lodge and believes, right or wrong, their voice is not heard. This results in apathy and distrust in the Grand Lodge system. Instead, what if we were to institute a Congress or Parliament (or whatever you want to call it) of delegates elected by the Craft and representing the various Districts of the grand jurisdiction? This body would meet regularly (perhaps bimonthly or quarterly) for the purpose of drafting legislation for the Craft to vote upon at the Grand Communications. This would inevitably result in some very well thought-out and articulate resolutions. As there are currently no real "checks and balances" in Masonic government, such a body would contribute to this purpose as its members would be elected by the Craft and not appointed by the Grand Master.

You can read Tim's other article on the subject - "THE NEED FOR A MASONIC LEGISLATURE" at:

Think a moment of how impossible it would be to operate our civil government if we had no Congress but instead all 300 million citizens were invited to a session for the purpose of drafting, debating and voting on legislation. That's why we have a republican form of government whereby we elect a much smaller group to represent us.

Similarly a Grand Lodge Grand Session operates with great difficulty when all Master Masons can attend and voice their opinion if not vote. All you need is one hotly contested issue to gum up the works. I saw that in the Grand Lodge of Texas when they debated closing their Masonic School. Fifty or more Brothers all lined up waiting for the microphone to speak on the subject in a Grand Lodge Room with about 8000 Brothers present. Grand Lodges that limit Grand Session to Past Masters and the top three sitting officers of a Lodge is slightly better but still too unwieldy.

Why not elect Masonic Representatives to a Grand Lodge Masonic Legislature, perhaps one for each Masonic District? In the huge Grand Lodges perhaps area Representatives would have to be chosen. This would limit the session to 25 to 75 members. Now you could get something done. And while we are at it let's make campaigning a legal procedure so all Master Masons can know the positions of those who will represent them. And also let's make it perfectly legal for any Mason to push for and advertise the programs and agenda he thinks would be most beneficial to his Grand Lodge.

Next add in a three man Supreme Court who would rule on any appeal as to whether the actions of The Grand Master or The Legislature were Constitutional, conforming to the by-laws and Landmarks of that Grand Lodge's Constitution and you would have the makings of a 21st century Masonic government responive to the needs and desires of its constituency. There are just a few more final touches to add.

While the Masonic Legislature would decide what programs and changes would be adopted by the Grand Lodge, let's not reduce the power of the Grand Master so drastically. Anything passed by the Legislature could be vetoed by the Grand Master and it would take a 75% vote of agreement to over ride the veto.

Finally let's extend the Grand Master's term of office to three years but with a yearly election. A one year term makes a GM a lame duck just a few months after he is installed and does not give him time to see through his agenda nor does it provide for the continuity the Grand Lodge needs.

Now we would have a 21st century Grand Lodge responsive to all Master Masons in the jurisdiction and one not prone to the abuses of power and the dictatorial mania evidenced so often recently. A Grand Lodge operating in the style and agenda of West Virginia would not be able to survive unless 75% of its members wanted it to be so. There is nothing cast in stone that says that Masonry has to be a top down society forever. It is time now in our present age to realize the benefits of a Masonic governemntal system which makes full use of the checks and balances which have proven to be so successful in our civil government.

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