This has morphed into a three part series revolving around the issue of how some Mainstream Grand Lodges have mishandled their leadership responsibilities.
Part One was THE DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS AND GRAND MASTERS which you can find in an earlier post.
I always feel duty bound to write a disclaimer as when I point out the deficiences of Grand Lodges and the need to adjust the system of Masonic government I am often told that I am a Grand Lodge Basher and by Traditionalists that I am trying to remake and reinvent Masonry which they find quite odious and blatantly unmasonic. So let me make it clear that there are many good to great USA Mainstream Grand Lodges - like Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania,Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, Arizona, and California. Perhaps more but I am not up on every single one. There are just as many fair to awful ones however.
I see two developments or pressures placed on late 20th and 21st century Mainstream Grand Lodges that some have handled poorly.
MEMBERSHIP & MONEY LOSS
At the very time membership and revenues were down and dropping faster by the month, Grand Lodges committed themselves to huge Institutionalized Charity Programs with enormous budgets in order to sell Freemasonry to the public and bail them out of a downward spiral. This proved to be a very poor decision, mainly because it did not yield the results expected. Moreover it turned Freemasonry into a Service Club rather than a Philosophical Society. In doing so Grand Lodges were digging their own grave. When they realized how big a hole they were in they panicked and became desparate. Local Lodges were dragging their feet and in any power vacuum the need is fulfilled by he who pounces and accepts the responsibility. In marched Grand Masters assuming extraordinary powers much like our civil President would in wartime. And for many Grand Masters this was Masonic wartime for them and they were the Commander-in-Chief. And as often happens in critical times the general population (Brethren all) look to a strong leader who can bail them out. But sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Grand Masters acting unilaterally or within the framework of a Grand Lodge Oligarchy often ruled by edict, bypassing democratic voting provisions of their Constitutions. It works well for a benevolent Dictator but get the wrong person behind the helm and it can be a disaster, and in many cases that is exactly what it turned out to be. One overblown ego often could not solve the pressing problems of a Fraternity in trouble but often could make it worse and in the process so trample on the rights and priveleges of the Brethren at large that general morale suffered.
INTERNET & INTERNET MASONRY
Most Grand Masters were totally befuddled by the advent of the Internet and Internet Masonry. They should have embraced it and used it to be on the cutting edge of facilitating a new Masonic Renaissance. Instead they shuned it and in many cases outlawed or prohibited participation in it. When Masons in their jurisdiction went ahead and set up private Masonic websites with Forums they took them over or closed them down. In the process they bungled a golden opportunity to identify with the next generation of possible applicants. Grand Lodges today are playing catch up with the computer information age and are still not utilizing the Internet to its fullest potential. If you find that hard to believe then show me a Grand Master's podcast.
Now lets look back at the West Virgina situation again. Grand Master Haas submitted some reforms to his Grand Lodge to be voted on at Grand Session. The proposed reforms were accepted by a democratic vote of all those attending. Grand Master Haas steps down and in comes Grand Master Coleman who recinds all the reforms by edict in direct violation of his Grand Lodge Constitution and By-Laws. He makes an unsubtantiated claim that there were "procedural violations."
So Past Grand Master Haas sets out to have the reforms resubmitted for vote at a future Grand Session. In so doing he contacts Brethren throughout the state to rally support for these measures. And this is what gets him expeled by the next Grand Master, Most Worshipful Montgomery. PGM Haas' website calling for reconsideration of the previously passed reforms was declared campaigning which is against the laws of West Virginia and he was told that he had sought to subvert the priciples of his Grand Lodge and West Virginia Masonry by seeking the repeal of "OUR LAWS". His E-Mails and telephone calls to Brethren in the state was declared to be insubordination and conduct unbecoming a Mason. For these offenses he was expeled without a Masonic trial, again a violation of the Grand Lodge Constitution and By-Laws.
Now here is where I need to comment on all those who keep telling me that if I don't like the way my Grand Lodge is run to get involved, work to get your program submitted, voted on and passed and become active in Grand Lodge. Isn't that what Frank Haas was trying to do?
There seems to be a disconnect between the reality of how Grand Lodge operates and how theoretically it is supposed to operate. Everytime we have a Grand Lodge meltdown and an abuse of power Brethren come out of the woodwork to make sure I understand how Brethren can democratically correct any missteps that Grand Lodge might make. They have no idea of the inner workings of a Grand Lodge or what Grand Lodge politics is like. Their naviete only adds fuel to the fire.
In some Mainstream Grand Lodges ( I SAID SOME NOT ALL, FELLAS!) The Grand Master nominates the slate of elective officers. It is a hand picked group of Brethren who owe their loyalty to their Grand Master. It is true by the rules that there can be nominations from the floor. But if you were to do so you would be blackballed from ever getting a Grand Lodge nomination or appointment to any office or committee. The same fate awaits you if you submit any legislation to Grand Session for a vote that is not highly regarded by the Grand Master. Your Masonic career is over. So now you know why the Brethren of West Virginia have not called their Grand Master on his violations of the Grand Lodge Constitution & By-Laws.
If the laws pushed through a Grand Lodge actually sabotage and thwart the democratic process previously laid out in its Constitution and By-Laws, then trying to institute reforms is a sham and prosecuting any Brethren who disagree with the Grand Master a travesty of justice and constitutes the hijacking of a Grand Lodge.