Well, that ends that, doesn’t it?
Ok, that’s hardly worth reading, so lets look at the issue seriously for a moment… but just a moment.
Periodically, the issue of a National Grand Lodge comes up, with brothers taking one side or another, and of course, a few in the middle. The issue of a National Grand Lodge first came up after the American Civil war (the one we call the Revolutionary War), when, at the instigation of American Union Lodge he was suggested for the office of Grand Master of a National Grand Lodge -- a non-existent body. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and some others agreed, but too many others disagreed with the concept of a National Grand Lodge and the idea was dropped.
The issue is raised by brothers who, seeing the plethora of rules (and sometimes conflicting rule) under which the almost 100 regular Grand Lodges in the United States operate, desire to establish a single, unified, overarching authority. Their purpose, while laudable, seems contradictory to the traditions of Freemasonry that have been established over the previous 300 years.
We all know that there exists the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), but, what exactly does it Unite? The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) and the Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLoI) are independent Grand bodies, in amity with the UGLE, and those august bodies are both members of the same
So, what does the UGLE unite? The answer is, it unites the Moderns and the Antients into one Grand Lodge. Time is too short here to address that whole issue, suffice it to say that was an early schism in the Grand Lodge of England, the one that was formed in 1717. The "Antients" wanted to “preserve” the mystic elements of freemasonry and the "Moderns" wanted to create a more progressive Freemasonry, one of enlightenment through morality, science, contemplation and natural philosophy. In 1813, the "Antients" won the conflict which had started in 1751 and the Masonry we have today is a result of that victory.
They united themselves, the Antients and the Moderns, so the United Grand Lodge of England is more accurately, the Grand Lodge of England, they are still the Premiere Grand Lodge from which all Regular Grand Lodges descend. They are the fount of today’s modern Freemasonry, for even the Grand Orient d’France, the primary “other” Freemasonry in the world was originally chartered by the UGLE.
The question then is: Why a National Grand Lodge of America? Well, one already exists for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges. It fell apart in 1877 (an issue that is still in dispute), and still exists to this day. There also used to be a United Grand Lodge of America, a pretender to Masonry that existed mainly in a suburb of
However, there is no Mainstream, Regular Grand Lodge of the
1. To standardize issues of regularity.
2. To standardize rules and regulations.
3. To standardize ritual.
4. To standardize the way Grand Lodges operate.
5. To standardize our message to the world.
6. To eliminate racism in the little pockets where it still exists.
1. Regularity, while it is handled in a variety of ways across the world, pretty much follows the recommendations of the Commission on Regularity, a committee of the Grand Masters in all the grand lodges in the
. As an example of this, the Grand Lodges in the United States all recognize as regular, the Grande Oriente d’Italia, while the UGLE recognizes the Regolare Grande Loggia d’Italia. United States
The point here is that the Grand Lodges in the
are already working together on this issue, and with very rare exceptions, are all on the same page. This issue is does not seem sufficient to justify a national authority. United States
2. Rules and Regulations are fairly standard, and where they are not standard, it is due to local conditions. One issue that is mentioned most often in this regard is that a few of the Southern Grand Lodges hold that selling or dealing in alcohol will prevent a man from being considered for membership, and will subject a brother to a Masonic trial and possible expulsion.
Another issue is Grand Lodges that retain the ability of the Grand Master to expel masons at sight, as well as make masons at sight. While most grand lodges do not seem to allow this authority to the Grand Master, it is quintessentially Masonic to consider that a man who rises to the Grand Oriental Chair is of such character that he will not abuse the authority. Once more, these are relatively minor issues, differences in law and process and do not seem sufficient to justify a national authority.
3. Ritual should be an issue for the individual lodges, and should probably not even be an issue for a grand lodge to decide upon. The idea that a national body could provide guidance to local lodges just does not seem appropriate, and therefore does not seem sufficient to justify a national authority.
4. Operations of a Grand Lodge are in large part, dependent upon local conditions. The operation of the Grand Lodge of California will be different than the operations of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. The needs will be different due to the difference in members, the difference in local laws and so on. These differences are also, to a large extent, better determined by the local lodge/Grand Lodge than a body entirely removed.
To be sure, there are differences. For instance, the Grand Lodge of California’s constitution requires all decisions and edicts issued by the Grand Master between sessions of the Grand Communication to be ratified by the voting members. The voting members are the elected Junior and Senior Warden, the Master, and a single past masters vote, coupled with the votes of all the Past Grand Masters, the District Deputy Grand Masters, and the elected Grand Officers, the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the Senior Grand Warden, the Junior Grand Warden, the Grand Secretary, the Grand Lecturer and Grand Treasurer.
Legislation can also be proposed by the brethren, with the signature of three master masons. This legislation is voted on at the Grand Communication, and if it receives the 5/6ths super majority, it will pass. If it only receives a majority, it is carried forward to the next Grand Communication, and if it receives 60% plus one vote, the legislation passes.
It is not always the case that the Grand Master and Grand Lodge has such a rein by the brethren, and while it is true that a certain degree of standardization can be useful, it does not seem that the need for this comes anywhere near to rising to the level that would justify a national governing authority.
5. Standardizing our message to the world is the one area where I think a national governing authority would be useful. For instance, the Shrine decided some time back that their reputation needed polishing. They undertook a national ad campaign, in magazines, newspapers, on radio and television, on bill boards, on trucks… everywhere, showing the iconic image of a Shriner carrying a girl on his shoulders with her crutches in his other hand.
Thirty years later, the image of the Shrine is of a bunch of men in little cars, wearing silly hats and supporting hospitals for children. They could do this because THEY have a national governing authority, and can mold and direct their message. Blue Lodges could do that now, through the Committee of Grand Masters which meets every year now to discuss issues of interest to all the Grand Lodges. In a sense, we already have a national authority… only its not an authority and certainly not a governing one.
Regardless, this national committee hasn’t even tried to undertake such a project for many good reasons, too many to go into in this article. However, that being the case, and they having never taken advantage of the opportunity, it again does not seem to necessitate a National Governing Authority.
6. Racism is ugly, and it is certainly not a Masonic virtue. Quite the opposite. The problem it, if that was a stated goal of the National Governing Authority, there are 12 Grand Lodges extent that would never go along with it. As a result, we would end up with a national body that 12 out of a hundred would not recognize or be recognized, and regularity would be compromised.
While it is anathema to Masonry that racism is allowed to even exist, at this point there is little the regular Grand Lodges can do other than withdraw recognition from those 12 Grand Lodges, wait a time with patience until they join the 21st century, or continue what is being done… whispering good counsel to seek to bring about a reformation.
This issue alone, if addressed, would mean the death of the idea of a National Governing Authority, and if this issue is NOT addressed, a National Governing Authority would have no moral authority under which to operate. It would be hamstrung on its first day. Therefore, if for no other reason than this one, there should be no National Governing Authority.
One last consideration is that we already have almost a hundred Regular Grand Lodges in the
Adding an additional layer of bureaucracy would seem, therefore, to be contraindicated. It’s a nice thought, on an emotional level, to have one single overarching National Grand Authority, but on reflection, it just does not seem to be a practical idea, on many levels, and is one that is just not needed.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.