Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

22 November 2006

Grand Lodge Government

Tim Bryce, a fabulous Freemason from Florida, has posted a number of articles about problems in the Grand Lodge system. Each of those highlighted a different area of concern: Prince Hall recognition, free speech, unelected Grand Lines, and Grand Dictatorships. Each of these blog postings made me glad to be a Maine Mason since we are largely unaffected by those issues, though we struggle with our own problem ( One-Day Classes ).

The Grand Lodge of Maine has recognized Prince Hall Masonry for years. I was fortunate to be present at a number of important moments, largely because the Master of my lodge at the time, Wor. Bro. James Dufresne, was a prime mover in the recognition process. I was present at the first opened Lodge between Maine Masons and Prince Hall Masons of Massachusetts (an RCMP Degree team event). I was present at the first meeting of a Maine Lodge where Prince Hall Brethren were present (my Mother Lodge, Deering No. 183 in Portland). I was also fortunate to attend, and participate in, the first shared ritual between Prince Hall and Maine Masons: a re-dedication, re-obligation ceremony where I was permitted to recite the "Letter 'G' Lecture". These events were wonderful fun and the Prince Hall Brethren I met were smart, dedicated Masons. Yes, we do share concurrent jurisdiction with a Prince Hall Lodge in Bangor, sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

I have never found my own freedom of speech restricted in the Grand Lodge of Maine, and I have been more than willing to speak out. Heck at the Grand Lodge two years ago I got in the middle of the One-Day Classes debated and pointed out that both sides were being irrational and playing on unfounded fears (Fear and Loathing in the Craft). Even our most forceful, authoritarian Grand Master, in my experience, always managed to stay on the "Good Guy" side of the line. While he clearly communicated that he believed his power exceeded that which can be granted by election, which he was, he really never used it. It was a strange mix since it sent the message "I can make you do what I want, but I won't." In the end, he convinced me on a number of issues which I disagreed with, particularly the idea of Fellowship Nights. I think this is one of the beautiful things about the people of my adopted State. There is such a strong vein of rugged individualism, that anyone attempting to use unbridled power would break on the rocks. Go Maine!

We have an elected, non-progressive Grand Line. Each year you can change the officers around and we most certainly do. The Grand Wardens regularly shift under the feet of the Grand Master, who presides for two years, which gives a fair degree of control of who rises to the positions of Deputy Grand Master and Grand Master. This vests control in the hands of the Brethren rather than in a particular Grand Master who ended his term years ago. The Grand Lodge also rejected a proposal to give Past District Deputy Grand Master's a vote in Grand Lodge. This is a good thing since the Grand Lodge system already has enough power, better to reduce the vote count and keep in firmly tipped on the side of the lodges.

Enough with the greatness list. What would I change about the Grand Lodge of Maine if I could?

  1. Arrange the Committees according to controversality
    There is no changing the facts, many Brethren leave the Grand Lodge session at the lunch break. We should recognize that fact and adjust to it. The issues with the greatest potential for controversy and debate should be placed first on the docket. The Committee reports with no issues to vote on should be placed last. Then the Brethren would be present to vote on the issues of importance.

  2. Ban negative motions
    The Committee on Constitutions has frequently been using the parliamentary tactic of negative motions (a.k.a. dirty pool) to block legislation they dislike. The way this tactic works is that they read the legislation and then submit a motion where a "Yes" vote defeats and a "No" vote passes. Few are sure how to vote to get the outcome they want and many of these issues go down in defeat when they ought to have passed. All motions should be forced to be a "Yes" to pass and a "No" to defeat.

  3. Appoint a Parliamentarian
    Since Grand Masters cannot be expected to commit Section 44, Rules 1-20 to memory before running their first Grand Lodge Annual Communication, someone should be appointed to help the Grand Master navigate the parliamentary waters. A parliamentarian would keep track of what is on the floor and what actions are permissible. I have been at too many Grand Lodges where there where motions made atop of other motions and amendments to amendments and so forth. The Grand Master has enough to fully occupy his attention, but being responsible for the state of all of the motions and amendments on the floor might be too much to ask.
Clearly none of these issues have the importance of those suggested by Wor. Bro. Bryce. They are fine-tuning of the Grand Lodge of Maine, and organization which runs pretty darn well. Its successful organization is due in large part to the very nature of the people who inhabit this State. I am glad to know them, I am glad to live here, I am glad to be a Maine Mason.

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