Well, yesterday, another one of those moments occurred during an email answer to a brother in Iraq regarding his issue with the Grand Lodge of Kentucky and a Prince Hall Lodge.
For instance, regarding the whole Prince Hall Recognition issue. We all know, of should know by now that there are 13 Grand Lodges in the United States that do not yet recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular Masonry. The coincidence that the 13 Grand Lodges were ALSO core Confederate States in the southern United States is also not lost on the casual observer.
This is NOT to say that all the brethren in the southern United States are racists! A point must be made here that this is a complex issue.
There is also a somewhat logical argument that can be offered and rationally defended that it is ALSO about territorial sovereignty, and not about race. As an example of that, I have been reliably informed that men of color and and have joined lodges in Florida, and served as officers and are treated as good and true brothers as they should be, yet the GLoFL is one of the 13 that does not recognize Prince Hall Masonry.
By the way, I have never liked the term "Mainstream Masonry". Its very use denigrates all other "Masonries". Calling the 51 United States grand lodges UGLE lodges is incorrect, since we are all independent grand bodies. We refer to the one other regular Masonic group in the United States as "Prince Hall Lodges" or PHA (Prince Hall Affiliation) and a perfectly good term was offered recently: George Washington Masonry. THis seems a more appropriate designation than that of "Mainstream Masonry" since the later term says that PHA is NOT "Mainstream" and by implication Regular.
Wr. George Washington was once offered the Grand Mastership of a group to be called the Grand Lodge of America and he is arguably the single most famous "UGLE Type" Mason. Therefore, I will henceforth refer to the larger group of regular Grand Lodges, GLoCA, GLoNV, GLoCo for example, as "George Washington Masonry".
The very real fact that not all Prince Hall Grand Lodges WANT to be recognized. There are considerations for them, to wit they have fought long and hard against racism and long odds to survive and thrive while ignored, resented and yes, attacked in courts and elsewhere, by George Washington Masonry. There is a thought that if they accept recognition, intervisitation and amity, their member base will slowly erode into the George Washington system and they will just vanish. There is also, truth be told, some racism in the Prince Hall lodges.
This information is not offered to surprise anyone, or make a point one way or the other regarding Prince Hall recognition, but to lay the foundation for the epiphany, if it can be called that, I had the other day. Bear with me as I lay another course in that foundation.
I have, in the past, called for the George Washington Grand Lodges to withdraw recognition from any of their Grand Lodge that do not recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular in all respects. However, on careful reflection, I realized that this would be counter productive, and have said so here .
My thoughts not withstanding, it has been brought to my attention that there is at least one (and it may be several from other reports) Grand Lodge that will be, in the next two years, entertaining a vote by the brethren to withdraw amity/recognition of regularity from any Grand Lodge anywhere that does not at least recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular. That train IO once advocated is now arriving, for good or bad and we can only watch to see how it plays out. I cannot at this time reveal the Grand Lodges that are contemplating this legislation, but it will become obvious over the next year. ESPECIALLY if the legislation passes.
Now that the foundation is laid, let me present to you my epiphany: What would happen if a progressive Grand Lodge were to remove its residency requirement for joining a lodge under it for any Master Mason in good standing? For this to work effectively, it would also almost be necessary that a "Grand Master's" Lodge be created (an additional financial incentive to the Grand Lodges as well...) so that a brother from outside the state would not need to find a lodge inside the state willing to be a "host".
This "Grand Masters" lodge has been offered in my grand lodge previously, as a potential solution to other issues, but has been turned down because it would burden a lodge with members for which it was receiving no financial support. This rational alone is one reason why I think it would make a serious impact on the Grand Lodges the brethren left to join the "open" grand lodge. Therefore, the "Grand Master's" Lodge would have to be restricted to members outside the open Grand Lodge. That is a detail for legislative consideration, however.
Based on the current rules of visitation, if this rule were removed (and perhaps a Grand Master's Lodge created for these out of state brothers) any Master Mason in good standing in a regular lodge in amity with that Grand Lodge would be able to petition for membership in the "Grand Master's Lodge"... and then if he desired, dimit from the Grand Lodge he is currently a member of without impacting his lodge meetings.
He could continue attending his lodge, though of course, he could no longer be an officer. A good brother would continue to support his lodge with "donations" instead of dues, because the lodge is not the problem, and the donations would not go to the grand lodge.
What this means in real terms is that if a brother is unhappy with his Grand Lodge, for whatever reason (and to hear it on the smoldering stub, all the posters there hate their grand lodges and policies and procedures) they could join a different Grand Lodge, without residency, and no longer be "restricted" by their own Grand Lodge.
If we consider Freemasonry as a product for a moment (a concept I personally find anathema, but it will do as a metaphor) and we are not happy with the product as it is being presented by the "company" presenting it, then if we have a choice in what "company" to buy it from, market forces will effect change. What we have today is Freemasonry as it existed in the 1700s. Local. Issues were dealt with by the lodges locally then, but today, we have Grand Lodges that span hundreds of thousands of square miles. Look at a map, the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island operates pretty much the same way as the Grand Lodge of Texas or California.
Today, we have telephones and internet, which makes all issues local, whether is a lodge in Bangor, Big Sur, Los Angeles or Dallas. Yet the Grand Lodges still operate on territorial boundaries, and to a certain extent, that is a good thing. But it also means that if a Grand Lodge is unresponsive, or "repressive" of the needs or perceived needs of the brethren in that jurisdiction, the brethren have no choice.
If even one Grand Lodge dropped its residency requirement, other Grand Lodges would follow, they would HAVE to, market forces would drive them. Market forces... remember that term.
If the Grand Lodge of XYZ would not allow a brother to speak or run a web forum, for whatever reason, and he quit that Grand Lodge and joined another, the Grand Lodge could STILL silence him, for make no mistake, the Grand Master is still sovereign in his territory no matter where your dues card is from, but the Grand Lodge would not be receiving income from your membership. If enough brethren quit the grand lodge that was repressive over its policies, it would either suffer from a declining membership (income) to itself and its constituent lodges (and imagine the influence the lodges, suffering from declining paying membership and eligible brothers because of Grand Lodge policies will have with the Grand Lodge).
Market Forces would drive the Grand Lodge that is not responsive to learn to become responsive, or fade away while the membership in its state maintains or even grows. A logical progression of this is the survival of progressive, responsive, responsible Grand Lodges, and the withering of... other Grand Lodges.
If this works, this simple concept may be the acorn from which a new Freemasonry grows, it may be a turning point which our future brethren may look back and say: Like the 1717 meeting, THAT is where Freemasonry made the second turn which made it viable into the digital age.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!