Grand Lodge of Washington DC
(District of Columbia)
Our Grand Master requested a evaluation of Grand Masters Classes, a term that refers to the events that have been sponsored by every Grand Master in our jurisdiction since 1992, in which degrees are conferred on classes of candidates who receive some or all of their Craft degrees from Friday evening through Saturday evening. We also provide instruction between each degree in the modes of recognition, and a Table Lodge at the end of the Grand Masters Class to welcome the new Brethren.
(The data used to prepare this report was obtained from our Grand Lodge Proceedings, Annual Reports by Lodges to our Grand Lodge, and information provided from the personal records of Jerold J. Samet, Dan L Frederick, and Bruce A. Dehlin, whose cheerful cooperation was extremely helpful.)
Grand Masters Classes in D.C. and Similar Events in Other Jurisdictions
Our 1992 Grand Master, Jerold J. Samet, instituted the idea of a Grand Masters Class to confer the EA, FC, and MM degrees on large numbers of candidates together, in a 2-day degree conferral. This was the first time this idea was used in the United States. In a little more than 7 years, this idea has been used by more than half of all the Grand Lodges in the United States. Grand Master Class type degree conferrals have been used in at least the following 31 Grand Lodges:
However, it appears that most Grand Lodges have implemented this idea of One-Day Classes or Conferrals or "All the Way in One Day" in the same manner in which the Scottish Rite degrees are conferred, with one candidate going through the degrees, while all the others in the class sit in an auditorium and watch what the candidate is doing and going through. It should be noted that some other jurisdictions have some differences, sometimes only providing "Classes" for those who have already received their Entered Apprentice degree in the traditional manner, or sometimes only for those who have not advanced. Also, some jurisdictions have only held one or a small number of one day classes, but apparently do not intend to continue to have them, or to only do so once in a while.
Our jurisdiction remains unique in having had Grand Masters Classes every year since 1992, seeing that all candidates are clothed as candidates are in the traditional manner of conferring the degrees, and in insuring that all candidates experience all the same things they would go through in a traditional degree conferral, the only differences being that they are receiving their degrees in the company of a large number of other candidates and they are receiving them in a two-day period.
Possible Benefits or Problems with Grand Masters Classes
Grand Masters Classes or One-Day Classes or similar ideas are, to say the least, very controversial among Masons and Masonic leaders. Some of the pro's and con's that have been expressed include:
The classes bring into Masonry some candidates who would otherwise not be able or willing to join. But are these the type of men we want? But are some of them exactly the type we want, but who simply do not have the time to go through the degrees in any other way? And is there proof that men get something more from the traditional degree conferral than from the Grand Masters classes?
The classes help increase our membership numbers. But is this valuing quantity over quality? But do we have any basis to assume we get higher quality men from the traditional degree conferrals than from the Grand Masters classes? But don't we want men who are willing to commit the time to go through the degrees slowly? But are some men who do not enjoy "slow degrees" just as good, if not better quality Masons?
The classes help us obtain men who are busier than most in their careers, and younger, too. But should we want to attract younger men, who might not be mature enough to value Masonry? But don't we need younger, more professional men if Masonry is to survive in the future? But shouldn't we not care about this, and if Masonry can't survive in any other way then we should "go down with our flag flying high"?
Some of those who support or oppose Grand Masters classes say some of these things, and also make statements about facts that can be checked. The purpose of this report is to provide facts, not to attempt to evaluate any of the subjective opinions of those on any side.
Analysis of Data
No matter what an analysis shows about Grand Masters Classes, those who advocate continuing them and those who advocate killing the idea can both claim to find proof of their claims.
If we find that many of our new members are coming through these classes, it could be argued that this proves how useful they are, or it could be argued that this shows that too many lodges are "taking the easy way." If we find that many lodges are continuing to confer the degrees in the traditional manner in addition to the Grand Masters Classes, some could say that this proves that lodges still learn how to do their own degrees, or it could be argued that this proves that lodges do not need to have Grand Masters Classes. If we find that many of those who received their degrees in Grand Masters Classes became active in Freemasonry this could be proof that men who go through their degrees in this method are just as active as those who receive their degrees in the traditional manner, or it could be argued that this proves only that we are desperate for people to take leadership roles in the Craft and will pressure anyone into taking them.
So, there is probably no way to convince those who support Grand Masters Classes that they are not successful, and there is probably no way to convince those who oppose these Classes that they are proving to be successful.
Still, information and facts are always useful to have, so it is worthwhile to analyze the information we can about the results of Grand Masters Classes.
In our jurisdiction, Grand Masters Classes have been held as shown in the following chart:
From the 1992-1993 membership year through 1999-2000, 934 Brethren have been Raised, with 404, or 43%, Raised in Grand Masters Classes. The range each year was from 55% to 37%.
Question -- Have the Grand Masters Classes had any significant impact on membership in our jurisdiction?
Some say Grand Masters Classes take men who would have gone through the degrees in the traditional manner, and thus there is no long-term effect on membership.
Since 1947, we have had a long term decline in Raisings in our Grand Lodge, as shown by the chart below. After a decline of 45 years, starting with the 1992-1993 year Raisings greatly increased, and has remained at a higher level.
Since 1992, the number of Raisings has remained significantly higher than it was before. The average number of Raisings in the 8 years before there were Grand Masters Classes was 66, and since then it has been 119, almost double.
Question -- Have those who received degrees in Grand Masters Classes remained in Masonry or dropped out?
Some say that men who receive their degrees quickly will not have any strong bond to Masonry and will drop out in a much larger proportion than those who receive their degrees in the traditional manner. Again, statistics can be measured objectively to determine if this is what has happened.
As shown by the chart below, the proportion of men who were raised in our jurisdiction since 1992 and who are still Masons (not having dimitted or been dropped for non-payment of dues -- deaths are not counted as that is involuntary), is just about the same for those who received their degrees in Grand Masters Classes as for the others -- 84% and 89%. To see if this was a statistical accident, an examination was made of those who were raised each year, to see what proportion of men in each category are still in Masonry.
As shown below, it appears clear that men who receive degrees in Grand Masters classes are not significantly more or less likely to remain in or drop out of Masonry.
The percent of Grand Masters Class men who have dropped out of Masonry since 1992 has ranged from 30% of some classes to 5% of others. The percent of men who received their degrees in the traditional manner in the same years has ranged from 26% in some years to 5% in others. What is significant is not the difference, which hardly exists, but the fact that almost of those who became Masons in our jurisdiction as recently as 8 years ago, using any method to become Masons, have already voluntarily dropped out of Masonry.
Question -- Even if those Raised in Grand Masters Classes remain in Masonry, are they active or merely Masons in name only?
One of the questions that has been asked is whether those who have obtained their degrees in Grand Masters Classes have been active. This is usually expressed by those who claim: "Men who get degrees in one or two days won't care about Masonry and won't be active members," and by those who say, "Men who go through Grand Masters Classes will be just as active as those who obtained their degrees in other ways." Recognizing, again, that no matter what the facts show, those who support one side or the other will undoubtedly claim that their side's case is proven, it will be useful to see what the facts show.
Those who received degrees since 1992 in Grand Masters Classes, and in the traditional manner, again appear to be approximately equal in terms of their participation as Lodge Officers and active members of their Lodges and Grand Lodge. If anything, in certain years the proportion of Grand Masters Class men who are active in Lodges is significantly higher than that of men who went through the degrees in the traditional manner.
Question -- Does the existence of Grand Masters Classes cause Lodges to do less Degree work themselves?
Some say that one of the harmful effects of Grand Masters Classes is that they cause Lodges to do less degree work, relying instead on the short degree work.
The percent of our Lodges that have used the Grand Masters Classes, and that have used the traditional method, has remained about the same every year since Grand Masters Classes have existed. Also, in every year since the first Grand Masters Class, the percentage of Lodges using traditional methods of Raising has been higher than those using the Grand Masters Class. During the years before Grand Masters Classes were used, and since, the percent of lodges in our jurisdiction that have conferred degrees in the traditional manner has ranged each year from 35% to 45%, with no change since 1992 when Grand Masters Classes began.
Looked at another way, the chart below shows that since 1993, after the first Grand Masters Class, each year 25% to 33% of our Lodges the percent of our Lodges have used only Grand Masters Classes for Raisings, while 32% to 35% have used only the traditional method, and 37% to 43% have used both. In each year, most Lodges use both methods, and more use only the traditional method than use only Grand Masters Classes. Most of our Lodges thus find it useful to have both of these methods available to them, and the existence of Grand Masters Classes is not causing a decline in the number or percent of Lodges that use the traditional method of Raising new Brethren. Grand Masters Classes supplement the traditional method, allowing a larger number of men to become Masons than had done so in the past.
First, to facilitate future evaluations of Grand Masters Classes, it would be helpful if our Grand Lodge office would maintain files containing: (a) Dates and other details of each Grand Masters Class, including numbers of those receiving each degree; (b) Names of each candidate receiving each degree, and each one's lodge, age, and profession, plus the average age and range of ages of men in each Class, and similar information about those who receive their degrees during the same years in the traditional manner; (c) Details about the Masonic offices or other indication of involvement of each Mason who received his degrees in the Grand Masters class, as well as details about if and when each one dimits, is dropped for non payment of dues, or dies, and similar information about those who receive their degrees during the same years in the traditional manner
As for the substantive questions presented, some Masons will never support Grand Masters classes and will hope they will be abolished. Some equally good Masons feel these classes are good methods to bring new men into the Craft, and some other Masons see some value in both arguments or do not think it matters much whether or not we use Grand Masters classes, perhaps feeling that what really matters is not how men are made Masons, but what we do to teach them Masonry after they become Brethren.
Still, some wonder if we should continue to use Grand Masters classes. An objective evaluation of the data has to conclude that the statistics in our jurisdiction prove that since 1992, when Grand Masters Classes began in our jurisdiction:
In short, it is reasonable to conclude that the Grand Masters Classes are a useful tool for some lodges and some men, and at the same time there are some who prefer to use the traditional degree methods or a combination of the two. There is no evidence that proves any of these choices are harmful to Freemasonry.
Therefore, it would probably be reasonable to continue to use Grand Masters Classes in our jurisdiction, and also assist lodges that also want to do traditional degree conferrals. And, we should keep better records to allow our Grand Lodge in the future to make continuing evaluations of the effects of Grand Masters Classes.
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