From the East
At our July Stated Communication I submitted an amendment to our By-Laws in conformance with The Code of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina as state:
When voting upon issues requiring the use of the ballot box (Petitions for the Degrees, Applications for Affiliation, Honorary or Life Memberships), if one black cube is found on the examination of the ballot, the Master shall destroy the ballot and require the members to ballot again, cautioning them that white balls elect, and black cubes reject and reminding them to vote for the good of masonry. If a single black cube is found after the second ballot, the Master shall not immediately announce the result, but shall require the person casting the black cube to communicate his reason for the negative vote to the Master, who shall keep the identity of the person making the objection in strictest confidence. At the next stated meeting, the Master shall reveal the reason given for the negative vote, but not the identity of the member casting the black cube.
The Master will then ask the lodge to vote, by a show of hands, on the validity of the reason for the black cube.
The majority vote shall govern whether the candidate is elected.
If the brother casting the black cube does not present his reasons to the Master within one week, the Master shall, at the next stated communication, declare the candidate elected and the lodge shall proceed as if there had been no black cube cast. (The article amended, effective 1/1/2009.) Over the years, I’ve heard arguments for this amendment and against it. But to me what it comes down to is this – are we going to allow a single person to have an extremely disproportionate say when balloting.
We have processes in place to screen our candidates. First they are required to get the signatures from two Brothers.
These signatures should not be lightly given and should only be given when the Brother is comfortable putting his name on the line and state that the candidate is “well recommended”.
Second, they are subjected to a background check. This is performed by the Grand Lodge and will let us know if there is a criminal history that we may not be otherwise aware of.
Third, an investigating committee is assigned to investigate and make a recommendation. It is the investigating committee’s responsibility (again, not to be taken lightly) to meet with the candidate to ascertain their motives and suitability. They are also charged with contacted the candidates references to ensure that he is “of good report”.
And finally we have the ballot, where previous checks failing, the Brethren voting for the good Masonry and looking well to their ballot, have the opportunity to prevent a man who is unworthy from gaining membership in our fraternity.
I used to enjoy listening to Dennis Miller go on and on about a subject, ending with “but that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong”. I would argue that the reason we have a second ballot when a single Black Cube is cast is to give that Brother the opportunity to examine his reasons and motives to determine if he might be wrong, petty, or vindictive. Is he voting for the good of Masonry. Is his vote based on the candidate and not on other factors such as a protest against something or someone. Did he have a bad day and is striking out.
I would also argue that this amendment provides the same level of checks on that Brother’s vote that were applied in getting to the ballot. That if a Brother is certain that a candidate is not worthy and all else has failed, he should have the conviction of his opinion to inform his Brothers. I am asking you to join me in passing this amendment to our By-Laws and ensuring that we are Voting for the Good of Masonry.
I look forward to seeing you in Lodge.
Bill Stout – Master
From the West
Why in the world do the Wardens of our lodge have columns at their stations? I can’t say I ever gave it much thought. They were just always there.
We have two columns bracketing the preparation room door between which, we all entered the lodge.
Is it those columns represented on the podiums in the West and the South? The jury is still out. All we know is that the practice began in the mid 1700’s. Some hold the position that the Junior Warden’s column represents Boaz, (Beauty) and is upright when we are at refreshment, and that the Senior Warden’s column stands for Jachin (Strength) and is upright when we are at labor. Far greater thinkers than I have attempted to glean the reason for the columns aside from signifying what office is in charge at any given time within the Master’s lodge.
There has also been consideration that they may represent two of the three principle orders of architecture, but if that was the case there is a third pillar we do not see within the lodge. The pillar of WISDOM, the Master’s pillar. Think back on your Masonic journey. What does our gentle craft attempt to do? Take good men and make them better. When each of us entered the lodge we were conducted between the pillars of Strength and Beauty where we stood – before entering to become; an Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and a Master Mason. We were placed there three times, and three times only. Could it be that within the mission of our fraternity that YOU stood between Jachin and Boaz … receiving more light … as that third pillar?
See you in lodge!
John Harder, SW, PM
From the Craft
A note from one of our Brothers regarding last month’s proposal to amend our bylaws with regard to changing how the lodge responds to two consecutive single black cube secret ballots: I find that fellow Brothers are very patriotic, as am I. Many are veterans and part of our tradition in Lodge is to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Other than those who have served and died for our country’s freedoms and liberties, the aspect of our country that makes me the most proud is a liberal democratic government. What affect did Masonry have in creating this liberal democratic form of government?
The first Grand Lodge, originated in London in 1717, adopted a constitution that looks very similar to our current democratic form of government. In fact, in 1723, Rev. James Anderson revised and printed the same in book form, known as “Anderson’s Constitutions.” In 1734, W.M. Ben Franklin reprinted it in America. Anderson’s Constitutions governed Lodges not only in Europe, but also here in America. Reading Anderson’s Constitutions it is clear that the government established for Masonic fraternity was a federal system with subordinate lodges controlling local matters and the Grand Lodge administering general affairs of the Order. However, Anderson’s Constitutions go much deeper as they also speak of “representative government and majority rule” (see Art. X), “all matters to be determined by a majority of votes” (see Art. XII), and freedom of speech and equality of participation and discussion (see Art. XXXVII). In sum, the basic principles of government employed by Anderson’s Constitutions, and practiced in Masonic Lodges are: popular sovereign-ty by majority rule, government limited by constitutions, local lodges self-governing, Grand Lodge supreme in a federal system, judicial review by the Grand Lodge, and implied powers exist in constitutional provisions. In the summer of 1787, representatives from the various states met in Philadelphia to attend the Philadelphia Convention (later named the Constitutional Convention), charged with fixing the Articles of Confederation and eventually drafting our current liberal democratic Constitution. 33 of the 55 representatives were “known” Masons. These Brothers were intimately familiar with the democratic principles practiced in their respective Lodges. It is therefore not a stretch to assume that many of the democratic principles practiced in Masonic Lodges in some way affected the creation of our constitutional government as we know it today.
Last month, an amendment to Phalanx #31’s Bylaws was put before the Brethren pertaining to a long standing practice of anonymous black balling of new and transferring members. The practice of a single Brother anonymously holding up business, unilaterally, with no appeal, and without any discourse or debate among the Brethren, is clearly inconsistent with these foundational democratic principles of Masonry. It is human nature to be adverse to change. The way someone or an organization has always done things is familiar and comfortable. This amendment is such a change as to how our Lodge deals with new and transferring member petitions. However, anyone who is proud and passionate about America and democracy should think about this issue far more deeper than merely being adverse to change because Lodges that still permit such an undemocratic and disruptive practice have veered away from the important traditions of democracy practiced by Masons for centuries, of which many of our Brothers died and risked their lives defending.
Respectfully and fraternally,
Brother Nick Voelker