Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joint Wrap-Up to “Preventing Lodge Foreclosures”

Part of a Cooperative Effort between The Beehive and The Masonic Line

The original article on The Beehive is here.
The 1st response on The Masonic Line is here.
The 2nd response on The Beehive is here.
The 3rd response on The Masonic Line is here.
The 4th response on The Beehive is here.
The 5th response on The Masonic Line is here.

STOP. This is a series that builds on each new post. Make sure you have read past posts before proceeding.

And now the JOINT WRAP UP is before you on both blogs.

From Squire Bentley:

Well it’s time to wrap this issue up. Hopefully it has been a lesson, a learning experience. Both of us are going to add our ending comments and then let you the reader think over the give and take that has led to two Brothers with different styles and different concepts of Freemasonry come together to try to raise awareness to a looming disaster.

You see we both agree that the ever declining economy is going to adversely affect American Freemasonry. And we both agree that now is the time to take steps to meet the challenges that we all will face in the coming months.

The fictional Lodge was only a means to an end. What they did or did not do is not the issue. What the choices available are and what could be done was what the lesson was. For in that it will be what others CAN do. To answer a question on the by-laws change to a tax exempt organization is that the by-laws change is referred to the Grand Lodge by-laws committee who rules on the matter. The recommendations of the committee are voted on by the Grand Lodge which is in most cases a formality since very few know the particulars.

It is true that this fictional Lodge let things go too long without calling the Lodge and any Masonic family tenants together to hold a congregational meeting on the problems. But that was the old guard. That’s the way they operated. The new guard came in and forced the issue. Now I wrote it this way because that is what is happening to many Lodges. We are going from 75 year olds in control to 25 and 30 year olds in control across our nation. We skipped a whole generation of Masons.

The plot was designed to see what the reaction would be to the clash between the old and the new both in the Lodge and between the Lodge and Grand Lodge where the 75 year olds are also entrenched. The Oldsters are entrenched in their ways and are very inflexible. The new Young Turks are hot headed and rash and know it alls. This is a scenario lived out in many other areas of organization in many different times.

The questions that need to be faced are can Grand Lodges across our nation in a time of crisis respond by allowing some departures from the norm? Can they meet the Young Turks halfway? Will they negotiate? Will they get out of the way and let local Masonry manage its own affairs? Do they have to enforce the letter of the law?

And will the Young Turks listen and respect the age old advice of their elders who have had much more experience than they have? Can they try to stay inside the rules and come up with Masonic solutions? Are they willing to work for solutions in combination with others instead of trying to go it alone? Will they avoid confrontation and seek accommodation?

I don’t have a lot of answers, just a bunch of questions. It’s up to you the reader to decide and hopefully carry the message and discussion into your Grand Lodge. Both of us hope that we have been some help to you.

From Palmetto Bug:

As Fred has already stated, the downturn in the economy is going to have a negative effect on lodges and Grand Lodges. Since these entities require money to operate, there is no way around it. The trick is figuring out now how to deal with the situation. Time may be running out for those lodges that were already hanging on by a shoestring.

Lodges that have developed schisms within their ranks – an example of which would be what Fred described when he mentioned the Oldsters and the Young Turks – will have an especially difficult time when it comes to meeting the economic challenges head on. I submit that existing schisms must be met addressed before any hope of positively dealing with economic matters can be realized.

It really all boils down to communication, openness, and being proactive rather than reactive. The players, which are ultimately all of the members of Freemasonry, also have to understand that there are rules and limitations that must be considered and adhered to while developing possible courses of action. This is no different that what we, as individuals, have to consider and deal with when faced with our own economic challenges. Example: Though robbing a bank is a possible solution to the problem of not having enough money to pay your mortgage and other bills, it is a solution that falls outside of the established rules and limitations.

Should the Grand Lodges be trying to help? Of course they should – though they also have economic issues to deal with while staying within certain limitations. The leadership of Grand Lodges should be facilitating discussion, calling together the financial experts of the Fraternity, and helping struggling lodges to make contact with the successful ones. I think that financial workshops may be a useful tool in assisting the lodges and the Grand Lodge to develop solutions – or at least to allow for brainstorming about the issues.

If a lodge is unable to find a solution to its financial problems, it is still not the end of the world. Lodges have come and gone since the earliest recordings of the existence of Masonic lodges and the merging of lodges is certainly not a new idea. Schisms are also not always the worst of things. Looking back over the years, we can find evidence that shows schisms sometimes led to the birth of new lodges. Either way, though the edifices of brink and mortar may fall, Freemasonry will survive.

Like Fred, I do not have the answers. I do know that a failure to be proactive will probably lead a lodge into a reactive mode. This leads to desperate and – sometimes – drastic actions, which are rarely a good thing. The real losers in a bad economy will be those Freemasons that choose a desperate and drastic solution that falls outside of the known rules and, by doing so, remove themselves from the Fraternity – kind of like the bank robber. It should never have to end that way.

I’ll end by quoting and agreeing with the Squire. “Both of us hope that we have been some help to you.”

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