Hannity…………er Palmetto Bug presents a cogent and well reasoned rebuttal and at first it might seem difficult to disagree with the points he has made.
Let’s talk specifically first and then we can get to general comments. In this fictional Lodge’s case the Old Guard or retired Past Masters ruled the Lodge. They pretty much let the Lodge run down hill constrained by the mindset of doing things as they had always done them. New younger leadership came in gradually to the point where the Old Guard lost their iron grip on the Lodge. I would maintain that this is a scenario often times repeated over and over again in Lodges across the USA. This newer younger leadership wasn’t used to doing things a certain way.
At first they tried to stay in the system and work within the rules. They petitioned the Grand Master for financial help, which was denied. They asked for an end to Masonic Prohibition (alcohol in the Masonic building) so they could attract paying functions. Request denied. They asked the Grand Master to allow them to rent their facilities to a Boxing Club who would put a gym in the building. The Grand Master said he didn’t think that a Boxing Club matched the image he wanted the Lodges in his jurisdiction to portray. Request denied. The new leadership of the Lodge was trying to find paying tenants who could use the building when it was idle to boost revenue and allow them to pay the operational costs and repair and restore what had been neglected.
The Masonic building had other Masonic tenants, an Eastern Star Chapter and York Rite – Chapter, Council and Commandery. The rent these other Bodies were paying had not been increased in 50 years. The new leadership of the Lodge raised the rent on these Bodies and rather than pay it they all moved out to another Masonic building whose leadership accepted them at their old cheap rate. The Master of the Lodge asked the Grand Master to prohibit that transfer. The Grand Master declined.
The Lodge asked the Grand Master to allow them to rent space to a Prince Hall Lodge. The Grand Master said no. The Lodge asked the Grand Master to allow them to rent space to the Knights of Columbus. The Grand Master said no.
The Lodge asked the Grand Lodge to allow the Lodge a by-laws change whereby the Lodge would reorganize itself into a charitable corporation and thereby apply for 501©3 tax relief. The Grand Lodge failed to approve the by-law change.
The Lodge approved a by-laws change that would increase their dues from $50 per year to $150; the last dues increase having been 1962. It was rumored that a Past Master with clout called the Grand Master to ask him to refuse to approve that by-law change. The Grand Lodge denied the dues increase. When asked why they said it was too drastic. Amore realistic increase would have been to $75.
Now generally speaking what we have here is the modern concept of Masonic management whereby the seat of power rests solely with Grand Lodge. But it wasn’t always that way which is why the chicken and the egg question is pertinent. If you look back at the 1800s you will find a good percentage of power rested with the local Lodge and Grand Lodge was not able to dictate every little thing to its charted Lodges. Grand Lodge then was more of a helper, an enabler. Modern Masonry has seen the rise of total Grand Lodge control where in many jurisdictions Grand Lodges micro manage the Craft. A local Lodge today cannot breathe without the Grand Master’s approval. And what has followed is that Grand Lodges are all about rules and regs. Many of them govern today using the US Army as a role model.
The first comment on the original post was made by the esteemed Robert Davis who reminds us that all Masonry is local. He said this:
"But your larger point is that all Masonry should be local. Grand Lodges should rarely enforce rules which threaten the closure of a local lodge; nor should they impede creative ideas which are otherwise legal under civil law and aimed at solving local problems. Every lodge should be sovereign enough to endow its membership and its phsyical plant, and otherwise employ all legal means to secure its financial future."
If we keep concentrating on an overly strict adherence to rules and regulations then we have a Society that truly reveres its Institution above everything else. But Grand Lodges are pushing people away with their top down authoritative rules orientated government. The forces of necessary change and local creativity are being held back by an Old Guard who would rather see Freemasonry wither and die then do things differently. And by gosh they may just get their death wish.