U.S. Lodges Conducting Business on the 1st or Any Degree:
History & Current Status of this Issue
by Paul M. Bessel, February 11, 2000
Paper prepared for Pythagoras Lodge of Research, F.A.A.M., District of Columbia
(Important facts mentioned in this introduction have footnote reference citations later in this paper.)
Until recently, every U.S. Grand Lodge required all its lodges to conduct business only when they were open on the 3rd or Master Mason degree. However, in almost every other country in the world, Grand Lodges allow lodges to conduct business when open in any degree, usually the 1st or EA. Many Freemasons have wondered how and why this difference came about, and whether it should be maintained.
Starting about 10 years ago, some U.S. Grand Lodges changed their policies to permit their lodges and Grand Lodges to conduct business while open on the 1st or any degree. As of January 2000, there are 12 (24%) where this is permitted, and several more are considering it.
The topics to be covered in this paper are:
1. When, why, and how did U.S. Grand Lodges, unlike others in the world, come to require that business be conducted only in lodges open on the 3rd degree?
2. When, why, and how did one-quarter of U.S. Grand Lodges recently change their policies to permit lodges to conduct business while open on the 1st or any degree,, and which Grand Lodges have rejected this change or are still considering it?
3. What are the possible benefits or problems when lodges either (a) have to conduct business on the 3rd degree, or (b) can conduct business on the 1st or any degree?
And, in the conclusion section, what should Grand Lodges evaluate when considering whether to allow lodges in their jurisdiction to conduct business on the 1st or any degree, and what details should be considered, such as whether EAs and FCs can vote or ballot, hold elective or appointive permanent or pro-tem offices, receive or participate in Masonic funerals, pay dues, receive dues cards, etc.?
|Grand Lodges that have Approved Business on the 1st Degree|
|1||Connecticut||April 1, 1987|
|2||Missouri||September 24, 1994|
|3||Washington||June 13, 1996|
|4||Idaho||September 20, 1996|
|7||Arizona||June 7, 1997|
|8||Nevada||November 11, 1997|
|9||Alabama||June 14, 1998|
|10||Minnesota||April 15-17, 1999|
|12||Maryland||November 15, 1999|
|Grand Lodges that are Believed to be Considering Business on the 1st Degree|
|2||District of Columbia|
History of U.S. Grand Lodges’ Requiring Business on the 3rd Degree
Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia tells us:
“[F]or many persons, the First Degree was the whole substance of Freemasonry, and this early preeminence of that degree persists in England even to the present day; for the Entered Apprentice’s lodge is the lodge, that is, the place where all business of the Craft is transacted…. But just the opposite system developed in America, where the Master’s lodge became predominant and the Entered Apprentice’s lodge became merely a meeting for degree work. The first Degree confers no privilege, except that of attending a lodge of that degree and witnessing the work on other candidates.” (1)
Masonic authorities generally say that in U.S. Grand Lodges during the 1700s and early 1800s, we followed the same rules as other Grand Lodges in the world, permitting business to be done in lodges and Grand Lodges open on the 1st (EA) or any degree. (2)
A Digest of Masonic Law published in 1863 said:
“The general rule now is, that all business, except conferring the first and second degrees, must be transacted while the lodge is opened on the master mason’s degree. This rule, however, is quite a modern one. We have carefully examined the records of many old lodges, and find that the prevailing custom among them was, to transact general business in any degree upon which they chanced to be open, when the business was brought forward, and to ballot for degrees when open on the degree to which the candidate asked to be admitted. This we believe to have been the general usage until within a very few years.” (3)
Albert Pike spoke for the Grand Lodge in Arkansas, in 1854:
“We greatly doubt the antiquity of the usage that requires all ballotings to be had in a master’s lodge. It certainly was not known when all the lodges were composed of fellow crafts, and entered apprentices spoke and voted in general assembly. It seems to us, on reason, and in justice also, that the rule should be otherwise. Let the other work be done in a master’s lodge. (4)
As late as 1841, a Massachusetts Grand Lodge committee considered a recommendation from the Grand Lodge of Missouri that lodges conduct business while open on the 3rd degree, but the Massachusetts committee, supported by a unanimous vote of its Grand Lodge, said it was the universal practice in Massachusetts lodges to discuss all matters “without any reference as to which of the three degrees they may be open upon at the time, and your committee are not aware that any evils have resulted from this practice. (5)
It is claimed that the change from American lodges conducting business on the 1st to the 3rd degree occurred in the 1840s.
Allen E. Roberts said the Washington convention in 1842 included, as one of its recommendations, that business should henceforth be done on the MM degree, and in less than a decade, by 1851, all U.S. Grand Lodges adopted this suggestion, so EAs no longer were considered entitled to “the franchise of members.” (6)
As late as 1856, a Masonic authority in Georgia said:
“Entered apprentices are masons, and by ancient usage were members of lodges. It was only in this country, and not here generally, if we are correctly informed, until after the Baltimore Convention, in 1843, that they were ousted of the latter right, by a resolution, that the business of the lodge should be conducted in the third degree only. This, we think, is wrong.” (7)
In 1843 the Kentucky Grand Lodge ordered its lodges to elect their officers in the 3rd degree of Masonry, (8) and the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 1844 received a committee proposal that the Grand Lodge “would recommend” that lodges in its jurisdiction do all their business in an MM lodge, except for conferral of the EA and FC degrees. (9)
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia are not clear about what policy was followed in our jurisdiction. In May 1833 the Grand Lodge was “opened in ample form on the third degree of Masonry” but just 3 months later Grand Lodge was “opened on the first degree on Masonry.” In January 1844 there was a Called Meeting of the Grand Lodge to perform a funeral service for the late Grand Treasurer, and this meeting, too, was “opened in the E.A. degree.” (10)
I have not been able to find any clear explanation of why U.S. Grand Lodges changed their policies to require that business be conducted in lodges open on the 3rd degree, or of what they hoped to accomplish by this innovation. Some Masons today say perhaps it was felt to be easier to prevent Masonic opponents from infiltrating our meetings by having business done only in lodges open on the 3rd degree, or that the additional time spent by a candidate leading up to that degree would show the lodge his sincerity, but these explanations do not appear to be persuasive. If a non-Mason wanted to improperly attend a Masonic meeting, he could learn the 3rd degree due guards and signs as easily as those of the 1st degree, and if someone was insincere when he took the 1st degree he would not be any more sincere for having taken the 2nd and 3rd.
Also, the great Antimasonic agitation in the United States occurred in the late 1820s and early 1830s. If there was a need for urgent efforts to prevent non-Masons from infiltrating Lodge meetings, those efforts would be expected to have taken place then, not 10 years later when the agitation was ended. It should also be noted that in the 1820s and 1830s it was extremely common to have exposures of Masonic secrets, of all the degrees. Antimasons, including those who had previously been active Masons but who had renounced or “seceded” from Freemasonry, held mock lodge meetings in initiations in public, in theaters, lecture halls, and on street corners. A decade later, when Grand Lodges started requiring that business in lodges be done on the 3rd degree, all the due guards, signs, and words in all the Masonic degrees, including the 3rd, were well known to the general public. (11) So what security purpose would be accomplished by requiring lodge business on the 3rd instead of the 1st degree?
Whether or not U.S. Masonry changed to requiring business to be done on the 3rd degree only in the 1840s, and in reaction to the Antimasonic movement, or as a result of the efforts at uniformity of the Washington and Baltimore Conventions of 1842 and 1843, it is clear that by the later 1800s and throughout most of the 1900s there was unanimity in the United States that all lodge business, and Grand Lodge work, had to be done while open on the 3rd degree. However, it was recognized that the idea of conducting business on the 3rd, rather than the 1st or 2nd degrees, was an innovation that occurred only in the United States, and only after Freemasonry had been established here for over a century.
Mackey’s Jurisprudence says:
“It seems now to be almost universally conceded that all mere business must be transacted in the Third Degree…. Originally…the Fellow Crafts constituted the great body of the Fraternity — the Master’s Degree being confined to that select few who presided over the Lodges. At that time the business of the Order was transacted in the Second Degree, because the possessors of that degree composed the body of the Craft. Afterwards, in the beginning, and up almost to the middle of the eighteenth century, this main body was made up of Entered Apprentices, and then the business of Lodges was necessarily transacted in the First Degree.
“Now, and ever since the middle of the eighteenth century, for over one hundred and fifty years, the body of the Craft has consisted only of Master Masons. Does it not then follow, by a parity of reasoning, that all business should be now transacted in the Third Degree? The ancient Charges and Constitutions give us no explicit law on the subject, but the whole spirit and tenor of Masonic usage has been that the business of Lodges should be conducted in that degree, the members of which constitute the main body of the Craft at this time. Whence it seems but a just deduction that at the present time, and in the present condition of the Fraternity, all business, except the mere ritual work of the inferior degrees, should be conducted in the Third Degree….” (12)
However, in England and most other countries where Freemasonry exists, they have a similar situation where the vast majority of Freemasons are Master Masons, and yet they continue to do their lodge business in lodges open on any degree, usually the 1st.
Recent U.S. Grand Lodge Actions Concerning Business on the 1st or Any Degree
Grand Lodges that Adopted This Change
In April 1987, Connecticut became the first U.S. Grand Lodge since the 1800s to specifically permit its lodges to conduct business while open on any degree. It did, however, require that only Master Masons could vote on candidates for degrees or affiliation, appropriation of lodge funds, bylaws, and “general business, permanently affecting the Lodge.” The stated purpose for this change was simply, “To permit Masons who have not attained the Degree of a Master Mason to attend the business meeting of Lodges.” (13)
Several years passed, but in 1994 the Grand Lodge of Missouri amended its Bylaws to say that Stated Communications, the ones where business is allowed to be done, may be open on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degrees. (14)
In 1996 there were 2 additional U.S. Grand Lodges that moved in the same direction.
The Washington State Grand Lodge adopted a resolution that presented reasons why it would be preferable to permit lodges to conduct business on the 1st degree, and that also allows the Worshipful Master to decide on which degree to open each meeting of his lodge. However, only Master Masons who have passed their proficiency can vote on petitions for degrees or affiliation, bylaws, trials and discipline, and other matters where that Grand Lodge’s Code refers to a vote by “members.” The Grand Lodge also adopted a resolution to limit the privilege of voting for or holding lodge office to Master Masons who have completed their proficiency in that degree. (15) It is reported by Washington Grand Lodge officials that the option that the Worshipful Master now has to conduct business in any degree he sees fit “has proved to be very popular in the Lodges and is now widely used….The benefits have been most rewarding….There are very few Lodges that have continued to limit the Stated Communication to the Master Mason degree.” (16)
A few months later, the Idaho Grand Lodge voted to allow lodges to open and conduct business on any degree, at the discretion of the Master. There is an exception that balloting on petitions may only be done when lodges are open on the 3rd degree. Also, even in 1st and 2nd degree lodges, EAs and FCs are not allowed to vote, and may participate in debate only at the discretion of the Worshipful Master. (17) The Grand Secretary of Idaho told the Grand Secretary of the District of Columbia that conducting business in lodges open in the 1st or 2nd degree occurs occasionally but by no means has it become “common practice.” He added that he feels this is worthwhile because it affords the Lodge an opportunity to invite initiates to partake in Masonic fellowship at an earlier stage in their Masonic travels. (18)
In 1997 another 4 U.S. Grand Lodges changed their policies on this subject, one of them in a very interesting, and controversial way.
In January 1997, the Grand Lodge of Colorado adopted a resolution permitting lodges to conduct business on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree, at the Worshipful Master’s will and pleasure. (19)
The Kansas Grand Lodge Proceedings for 1988 say a proposal to allow lodges to conduct business on any degree failed for the “want of the necessary two-thirds majority,” but it is reported that Kansas adopted this new policy in 1997. (20)
The Arizona Grand Lodge adopted a resolution that said business will be done in lodges of EAs, FCs, or MMs, as decided by the Worshipful Master, but only Master Masons can ballot and hold elective or appointive office, except as a member of a committee. It also provided a list of reasons for this change in policy. (21) After 2½ years of operating under this new policy, it has been called a “non-issue” and, “Almost everybody accepts is as a normal way of doing business.” (22)
Toward the end of 1997, the Nevada Grand Lodge adopted a resolution, by a 90% vote, again with a list of reasons for the change, saying that all business, except conferring of the FC and MM degrees, shall be done in a lodge of EAs, but again only Master Masons who are members of a lodge can vote in that lodge. (Two Past Grand Masters suggested at the Grand Lodge meeting that all should also be permitted to vote, since a large majority of those at meetings would be MMs and there would not be any harm in allowing all to vote.)
Note that this is the only Grand Lodge that does not leave it to the discretion of the Worshipful Master to decide on which degree to open a lodge. All business SHALL be done in lodges open on the 1st degree. This was controversial, because in 1998, and again in 1999, resolutions were introduced in the Grand Lodge of Nevada to (a) go back to the old rule, with all business done on the 3rd degree, or (b) allow Worshipful Masters to conduct business meetings on any of the 3 degrees, but these resolutions were rejected. So, in Nevada, all business must be done in lodges open on the 1st degree, and the only reason to open a FC or MM lodge is to confer those degrees. (23)
In 1998 the Grand Master of Alabama pointed out that there was nothing in that Grand Lodge’s rules that prevented a lodge from conducting business on any degree, and the Grand Lodge voted to specifically allow that. However, the Grand Master pointed out that EAs and FCs can only sit and listen, as they are spectators only. (24) The Grand Master told the author of this paper he supported allowing lodges to conduct business on the 1st degree if they wish, and most lodges in the upper part of the State are doing it, because:
“It is extremely time saving and I believe if the Brethren who have just received their EA or FC degrees can see what we actually do, it will make them want to finish their degree work and become an active member of the Fraternity. I believe if you bring a newly made Mason into your lodge and tell him how much he means to you and how proud you are of him, AND THEN turn around and tell him to go off and spend all this time to study a lesson, AND THEN if you think he has done a good enough job THEN he can sit in your lodge. This is not a very Fraternal way of treating a man who you just told how much you appreciated.” (25)
The Grand Secretary of Alabama told the Grand Secretary of the District of Columbia that no lodge had reported any problem with conducting business while open in degrees other than the 3rd. He added that while there is some opposition to this practice, especially by some of the older members, overall, Lodges that allow EAs and FCs to attend report that this is very beneficial in advancing candidates, and added a personal observation: “We open and conduct business in the EA & FC degrees at my Lodge (Andrew Jackson # 173). To date, all our FC & MM candidates attend Lodge regularly.” (26)
Then, in 1999 and 2000 there were 4 more Grand Lodges that allowed business to be conducted on the 1st, or any degree.
The Minnesota Grand Lodge, by a vote in April 1999, adopted a resolution that allows the Worshipful Master of each lodge to open and conduct business on any degree, but only Master Masons are considered to be members and only they can vote. (27) The Grand Secretary of Minnesota told the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia that he believes it is still rare for lodges in his jurisdiction to conduct business while open on the 1st or 2nd degrees, but he had heard of a few lodges doing so. He felt it was too soon to tell if this was worthwhile, but added that he had not heard of any problems, and “if one EA could attend then there is no harm done.” (28)
Montana handled this subject in an unusual manner. The Grand Lodge voted, and the Grand Master issued a Dispensation, granting authorization to 13 or 14 lodges to experiment, from October 1, 1999, to May 1, 2000, by conducing business on the EA or FC degrees if a Brother of one of those degrees is present, although, again, only MMs can ballot and vote in lodge. It does not appear there have been any reports about this experiment yet, either positive or negative. (29) Earlier, in 1996, a motion to permit business on the 1st degree failed by 4 votes to achieve a majority, which was needed for adoption by the Grand Lodge of Montana. (30)
The Grand Lodge of Maryland also adopted a resolution in late 1999 permitting, at the discretion of the Worshipful Master, lodges to be opened in any of the 3 degrees and to do all business in any degree except that which relates to a specific degree. Again, it was provided that only Master Masons who are members of the lodge may cast a ballot, vote, or participate in debate on any matter coming before the lodge, or exercise any other right or privilege of membership relating to the business of the lodge.
Grand Lodges that Rejected this Change or that are Considering It
Not every U.S. Grand Lodge that has considered this subject has adopted a change in its policy. The District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas are known to have rejected proposals to allow lodges to conduct business on the 1st degree.
In 1993 the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia considered a very detailed proposal to require lodge business on the EA degree, but this did not receive the vote needed for adoption. A special committee had been appointed to consider this proposal, and it was discussed at length at an annual leadership retreat. However, the special committee did not arrive at a consensus, and the Jurisprudence Committee recommended rejection. (31)
The District of Columbia again considered this subject in 1999, when a proposal was voted on that would have permitted lodges to conduct business on any degree was defeated. However, some of those voting against the proposal stated they would support this idea if a committee examined it in detail and presented a more detailed report in the future.
Oklahoma’s Grand Lodge rejected a 1995 proposal that would have permitted Worshipful Masters to open Stated Communications on any degree, with voting limited to Master Masons. In 1999 the Grand Master appointed a committee to look into this subject again, and late in 1999 the Grand Lodge voted on it. This time the proposal said EAs and FCs would not vote in lodges open on those degrees except on degree proficiencies or during Masonic trials in those degrees. A majority voted in favor of adoption, but it did not receive a majority that was needed for adoption.
It has been reported that the Grand Lodge of Texas considered proposals to allow business on the 1st degree several times, and defeated them by similar margins each time. In 1999 the Grand Master recommended that the Grand Lodge initiate a study of whether lodges should be permitted to conduct business on the EA degree.
In Indiana, in 1999 the Grand Master by edict permitted lodges to conduct business on the 1st degree, but it was not approved by Grand Lodge. It is not clear if it was defeated because of opposition to conducting business on the 1st degree or for other reasons.
Alaska’s Grand Lodge considered a resolution to allow Worshipful Masters to open and conduct business on any degree, with only Master Masons being allowed to vote. This was considered at the April 1999 meeting, and was “carried over” to the next Grand Communication.
In Illinois, a provision to permit business to be done at a Stated Communication on any degree, with voting restricted to Master Masons, was on the agenda to be considered at the 1999 Grand Communication, but it was said that it was likely to be laid over for a year.
In New York a proposal to open lodge on the 1st degree for all communications was referred to the Jurisprudence Committee and the Custodians of the work for further study. A vote is likely at the May 2000 meeting. (32)
Possible Benefits or Problems with Allowing Business in Lodges on Any Degree
Many of the resolutions that have been adopted or considered by Grand Lodges on this subject have described the benefits their proponents felt would result from allowing lodges to conduct business on the 1st, or any degree. These have included:
|A significant number of EAs and FCs fail to progress. If they can attend and participate in lodge business their interest and knowledge may increase at an earlier time and they will be more likely to continue as active Masons.|
|Conducting business on the MM degree was an innovation in U.S. Masonry in the 1840s, and we should return to the original Masonic way of conducting business on the 1st degree.|
|Restricting attendance at Stated Communications to MMs deprives EAs and FCs of fellowship and activity.|
|EAs and FCs should not be excluded from attending Stated Communications of lodges while they are subject to Masonic discipline.|
|It is desirable to include new members in lodge activities as soon as possible.|
|Educational programs in lodge meetings will be of interest to EAs and FCS.|
|EAs and FCS have enthusiasm which wanes while they wait to be allowed to attend lodge meetings.|
|Excluding EAs and FCS from lodge meetings minimizes the opportunities for new members and existing members of lodges to become better acquainted.|
|We tell men that they become Masonic Brethren when they complete their EA obligations, so we should include them as Brethren, including participation in our meetings where lodge business is conducted.|
|(From an Alabama PGM) If the Brethren who have just received their EA or FC degrees can see what we actually do, it will make them want to finish their degree work and become an active member of the Fraternity. If you bring a newly made Mason into your lodge and tell him how much he means to you and how proud you are of him, AND THEN turn around and tell him to go off and spend all this time to study a lesson, AND THEN if you think he has done a good enough job THEN he can sit in your lodge. This is not a very Fraternal way of treating a man who you just told how much you appreciated.|
|(From an Alaska resolution) Newly initiated Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft Masons have energy and enthusiasm toward Masonry and are assets to a Lodge; and, it generally takes several months before newly initiated Masons are passed to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason and their enthusiasm wanes as they languish in obscurity; and, with the present arrangements there is little time for Lodge members and the new members to get acquainted; and, it is very desirable to have new members attend Lodge meetings and to get involved in the workings and programs of the Lodge; and, this would encourage more participation in Masonry and Lodge activities.|
|(From an Arizona Grand Lodge officer) It allows EAs and FCS to sit in lodge, become familiar with how business is conducted and how we, as members, interact with one another, and become habituated to attending lodge. Another result has been that it often means that more members will attend the 2nd and/or 3rd degrees because they have gotten to know the EA or FC by sitting in lodge with him before he is Raised.|
|(From a PGM of Connecticut) This has proven to be a time saver, helped with attendance, and made the newly made Mason feel that he belongs. Time saver because lodge is opened and closed on the degree to be worked. After the degree work with the new Brother present, the lodge conducts its business (only MM’s can vote). The elimination of calling off and calling on does save time and has helped with attendance by eliminating what many believed to be unnecessary and therefore boring to them. The new Brother feels like he’s a member of the body because he’s allowed to see and hear what takes place – in fact, many Masters allow the new Brother to enter into the discussions even though he can’t vote.|
|(From a Minnesota resolution) Newly initiated Apprentices must now wait until conferral of the Master Mason degree to attend lodge meetings, which could be a waiting period of several months, and it is desirable to include newly initiated Apprentices in the activities of the lodge as soon after their initiation as possible, and the recommended new meeting agenda provides opportunities for educational and informative programs which will be of interest and benefit to a newly initiated Mason.|
|(From an Oklahoma resolution) It is the best interest of a lodge and of Masonry that newly initiated and passed brethren should become active and take an interest in the affairs of their lodge; and, opportunity to form friendship and relationships between the newly initiated or passed brothers and the members of the lodge is best found during the activity of the lodge; and, in ancient time, all business of the lodge except the conferring of a Fellow Craft or Master Mason Degree was done in a Lodge of Entered Apprentices; and, most international jurisdictions and many States of the United States regularly conduct business in the entered Apprentice Degree and gain much benefit from this practice.|
|(From a 1916 letter to The Builder magazine (33)) We take from the novitiate that which we so gladly gave him at the altar in the Entered Apprentice Degree. It is depriving him of that which is his of right. Also, we place the candidate in the northeast corner of the room and assure him he is an upright Mason. When a candidate has once pressed the threshold of Masonry he has changed his relations forever.|
|(From a Washington Grand Lodge officer) Candidates become a working part of the fraternity from the very beginning. Even when they cannot vote on all issues, they can ask questions, express their opinions, and otherwise share in the activities of the lodge. And the other members enjoy the opportunity to provide instruction and explanation to the candidates on the meeting as it progresses. Also, the work itself has improved, since officers must now be prepared to open and close on any degree, and may be expected to do so without warning.|
Some arguments have also been presented for not changing the current U.S. majority rule of only allowing business to be done in lodges open on the 3rd degree:
|The current system of only conducting business on the 3rd degree has been in effect for over 150 years. It should not be changed unless there are compelling reasons to do so.|
|There are not many changes that are likely to take place if lodges are permitted to conduct business on any degree.|
|EAs and FCs should learn the benefits of patience, and having them wait to attend lodge meetings until they are MMs helps teach patience.|
|There are some aspects of lodge business that only a more seasoned Mason, a Master Mason, should be allowed to participate in, or even view. For example, one Grand Lodge was considering a resolution that concerned the Five Points of Fellowship, so lodges discussed that resolution. Those who were not Master Masons, and who had not seen that in degree work, were therefore hearing about something that would not be disclosed to them until later.|
|There are some Masonic programs that are based on lessons learned in the Master Mason degree, so EAs and FCs should not be allowed to be present.|
|Some MMs might accidentally do or say things that should only be done or said in front of MMs, so EAs and FCs should not be present at lodge business meetings.|
|If lodge business is done on the 1st degree, some EAs and FCs might decide it is not worth their while to advance to the MM degree.|
|Allowing business on the 1st degree is part of a general “lowering” of Masonic standards, which we should not allow.|
|Some lodges do not have enough EAs and FCs to make it worthwhile to open on the 1st or 2nd degrees.|
|Allowing lodges to conduct business on the 1st or 2nd degree is not likely to have much effect on changing or improving Freemasonry, so why not leave things as they are now.|
|If lodges have the option of conducting business on any degree there will be a loss of uniformity among lodges. A Mason could attend a lodge one evening that is meeting and conducting business on the 3rd degree, and the next evening one that is conducting business on the 1st or 2nd degree. Uniformity should be preserved, not differences among lodges.|
|There are various categories of rights of Masons, and many categories of activities of lodges, all of which may be confused by the general proposal to allow business to be done on the 1st degree. Those advocating this change might at the same time support restrictions on the rights of EAs and FCs, and great differences of opinion and potential disagreement could arise over exactly what EAs and FCs are permitted or required to do in lodges, and exactly what lodges and Grand Lodges might have to do differently, if there is a general support of the proposition that EAs and FCs are to be considered Masons and members of their lodges.|
|There could be many ceremonial obstacles to overcome, and many changes needed in Grand Lodge Codes, if lodges could conduct business on other than the MM degree. For example, Grand Honors might only be permitted to be given on the 3rd degree, but EAs and FCs might be in the lodge room.|
|It might be useful to allow EAs and FCs to be in Stated meetings in jurisdictions where advancement is slow, as otherwise they would be barred from meetings for a long time. In jurisdictions that have one-day degree conferrals, it might not be as useful to allow EAs and FCs to attend meetings before they become MMs, as they can do that very quickly.|
All Masons did business in lodges open on the 1st degree until this was changed in the United States around the 1840s, for reasons that are not clear. From then until the late 1900s all U.S. lodges were required to conduct business only on the 3rd degree, with EAs and FCs excluded from Stated Communications. In the last 11 years 12 U.S. Grand Lodges have changed their rules and allow Worshipful Masters of Lodges to open and conduct business on any degree, with voting restricted to Master Masons. This is different from Grand Lodges outside the U.S., where EAs and above are considered full members of their lodges, with the right to vote.
There are some potential benefits, and some potential problems, if lodges are permitted to conduct business on any degree, or if they are required to open and conduct business only on the 1st degree. If they have discretion, and if problems develop, they can resume conducting business in lodges open on the 3rd degree.
In any case, there are some questions that should be considered by any Grand Lodge considering allowing lodges (and/or Grand Lodges) to conduct business on the 1st, or on any degree:
|Should EAs and FCs pay dues, or should that wait until they are MMs? Should lodges pay Grand Lodge dues and assessments based on their numbers of EAs and FCs, in addition to their numbers of MMs?|
|Should EAs and FCs receive dues cards? Should they be entitled to obtain dimits, certificates of good standing, diplomas, transfer certificates, etc., and if so, should these be different from those obtained by Mms? Should these items be changed to clearly indicate whether its holder is an EA, FC, or MM, or, for example, should a dues card merely indicate that the holder is a member of a particular lodge?|
|Should EAs and FCs be permitted Masonic funerals, and should they be permitted to participate in Masonic funerals for others, including MMS?|
|Should voting in lodges be restricted to only Master Masons? If so, why? Are there some issues on which EAs and FCs should be permitted to vote, especially if they are required to pay dues? Should they be permitted to vote on proposed bylaws amendments, petitions for membership, elections of lodge officers, and matters relating to Masonic trials and discipline? Should EAs and FCs be allowed to file charges against the WM of a lodge? Should there be any other changes in rules relating to Masonic trials and discipline?|
|Should there be any restriction on whether EAs and FCs may talk, or participate in discussions or debates, in lodges where business in done on the 1st or 2nd degrees?|
|Should EAs and FCs be allowed to be elected to hold office in lodge, or to be appointed to some offices, or to temporarily be asked to be “pro tem” officers? If so, should they be prohibited from even being “pro tem” in certain offices, such as Worshipful Master or Trustee? If they can be pro-tem, can they be so designated meeting after meeting? If EAs and FCs are no permitted to hold office in a lodge, could they be appointed as proxies? Should EAs and FCs be permitted to hold Grand Lodge offices, possibly only appointive? If not, should they be permitted to sit pro-tem in Grand Lodge office positions?|
|Should EAs and FCs be permitted to serve on lodge or Grand Lodge committees?|
|If EAs and FCs are permitted to vote on certain items coming up for decision in lodge, such as how to allocate lodge money, should they be permitted or prohibited from participating in such things as balloting on proposed new candidates or other issues?|
|Should visits of the Grand Master, and Grand Visitations, be done on in lodges open on any degree, or only when open on the 3rd degree?|
|Should EAs and FCs be permitted to sign candidates’ petitions, and to serve on investigating committees, both for those seeking to receive the degrees and for those, including MMs, seeking affiliation?|
|Should EAs and FCs have the same visitation rights to other lodges as Mms?|
|If EAs and FCs are considered to be members of their lodge, should they be permitted to affiliate with another lodge? Should the rules about affiliation for EAs and FCs be different for lodges of research, or other special lodges?|
|Should EAs and FCs be accepted as petitioners for new lodges, and can they hold office in lodges under dispensation?|
|Should consideration be made for EAs and FCs in appendant bodies? Should Grand Lodges adopt rules saying whether they can or cannot join other Masonic organizations, or should this be entirely left up to the other bodies?|
|Should EAs and FCs be eligible to receive Masonic awards, such as medals or similar acknowledgments of achievement, and to become representatives of their lodge to such things as a Masonic Home committee or ambassadorship? Should time as an EA or FC be counted towards such things as 25 or 50 year pins or certifications?|
|Are there any other changes that should be considered in lodge rules, or ritual, if business is permitted to be done on any degree, and therefore EAs and FCs are in attendance at lodge meetings where business is discussed and acted upon?|
|Should Worshipful Masters be allowed to open lodges on any degree they wish, making that decision at the time of opening, or should they be required to give some type of notice ahead of time about which degree on which they will open each meeting?|
It is likely that this subject will continue to be discussed, and probably likely that eventually American Masonry will come into line with lodges in the rest of the world, permitting business to be done on the 1st degree. In time, that is likely to become the usual place where business is done, but it also appears that in the United States only Master Masons will be permitted to vote on lodge business.
Still, it would be useful if those Grand Lodges that are considering this subject, and Worshipful Masters who then consider using their discretion to open and conduct business on the 1st or 2nd degrees, would carefully consider how they will do this, and what will or will not be permitted in such circumstances. This will help avoid misunderstandings and controversies that might otherwise arise if and when this change takes place to allow lodge business to be conducted while open on the 1st degree — or, as some would say, the elimination of the change made in the 1840s that required business to be conducted only on the 3rd degree.
Alabama Grand Lodge Proceedings 1998
Arizona Grand Lodge Proceedings 1997
Bessel, Paul M., Conversations by telephone, mail, and email messages with Brethren, including Masonic officers, from different parts of the United States and other countries, as referenced in this paper.
Campbell, Douglas, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, Response, received January 27, 2000, to a Survey sent to him from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.
Chase, George W., Digest of Masonic Law: Being a Complete Code of Regulations, Decision and Opinions upon Questions of Masonic Jurisprudence, published by Macoy & Sickels, Publishers, New York, 1863.
Connecticut Grand Lodge Proceedings 1987
Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, by Henry Wilson Coil, revised in 1995 by Allen E. Roberts, published by Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., Richmond, Virginia.
District of Columbia Grand Lodge Proceedings 1832 to 1845
District of Columbia Grand Lodge Proceedings 1993
The Empire State (New York) Mason, Summer 1999
Hanig, Joseph F., Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Idaho, Response, received January 25, 2000, to a Survey sent to him from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.
Idaho Grand Lodge Proceedings 1996
Illinois Grand Lodge Proceedings 1844
Kansas Grand Lodge Proceedings 1988
Kelley, Gerald D., Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Alabama, Response, received January 27, 2000, to a Survey sent to him from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.
Mackey, Albert G., Jurisprudence of Freemasonry: The Written and Unwritten Laws of Freemasonry. Revised by Robert Ingham Clegg, and Louis B. Blakemore, 14th Edition, published by The Masonic History Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1953.
Missouri Grand Lodge Proceedings 1994
Morris, Rob, History of Freemasonry in Kentucky, published in Louisville, Kentucky, 1859.
Montana Grand Lodge Proceedings 1997
Nevada Grand Lodge Proceedings 1997
Nevada Grand Lodge Proceedings 1998
Roberts, Allen E., Freemasonry in American History, published by Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1985.
Roberts, Allen E., Masonic Trivia and Facts, published by Anchor Communications, Highland Springs, Virginia, 1994.
Vaughn, William Preston, The Antimasonic Party in the United States 1826-1843, published by The University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
Washington Grand Lodge Proceedings 1995/1996
20. From an email message to the author of this paper from Kent Henderson and Tony Pope, authors of Freemasonry Universal: A New Guide to the Masonic World, Volume I – The Americas, which is the best guide for traveling Freemasons about customs and practices in Grand Lodges around the world. This information was confirmed in an email message from a knowledgeable Master of a Lodge in Kansas to the author of this paper, February 2000.
29. Telephone conversation between the Grand Secretary of Montana and the Grand Master of the District of Columbia, February 4, 2000, and email between the author of this paper and the Senior Grand Steward of Montana, February 8, 2000.
33. The Builder magazine was published from 1915 through 1930, by the National Masonic Research Society. Its editors included Joseph Fort Newton and H.L. Haywood. Many Freemasons, including the author of this paper, consider the articles and other items published in The Builder to be among the best Masonic writing ever done.