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2024 Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America Opens in Seattle

by Christopher Hodapp

The Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America (more affectionately known as COGMMNA) officially kicks off its annual meeting in Seattle, Washington today. It's an opportunity for regular, recognized grand masters in our end of the Masonic world to meet each other and learn from each others' successes, failures, programs, catastrophes, and more.

The Conference is being held at the Seattle Westin Hotel and will continue through Wednesday.

Membership in the Conference currently consists of the 52 state or "mainstream" grand lodges of the United States of America, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; the 10 Provinces of Canada; the State of York, Mexico; and the American-Canadian Grand Lodge of Germany, representing some 2 million Freemasons in North America. It's the largest such confederation of regular Masons in the world.

If you're new to the fraternity, you may not have heard of this gathering, but it's not really designed for the edification of rank and file Masons. Grand masters, deputy grands and grand secretaries all have responsibilities and situational issues that can really only be understood and intelligently discussed with other grands and past grands. In addition, COGMMNA is also where programs from other jurisdictions get talked about, and often spread throughout the Masonic world. And I'd be less than candid if I didn't mention that it's also where fads occasionally get started in Masonry. One-day classes, CHIPS programs, bikes-for-books projects, the adoption of grand lodge computer services like Grandview and Amity, the founding of the Masonic Service Association, even the beginnings of Prince Hall recognition and the national support to build and maintain the George Washington National Masonic Memorial – they all came out of presentations made at COGMMNAs of the past.

One of the highlights of the Conference each year is the report of the Commission for Information on Recognition. The Commission is charged with investigating questions of regularity between grand lodges and issuing their own findings in a summary. Individual grand lodges often receive requests for recognition from different grand lodges all over the world. More often than not, it's difficult for every single grand lodge to have the resources or ability to investigate the history, practices and regularity of faraway jurisdictions, especially if they don't provide sufficient background documentation in English to make a judgement. It's also quite common for there to have been a schism in a foreign country that results in rival grand lodges, both claiming proper regular origin. The Commission has no enforcement powers, it doesn't settle disputes, and it doesn't tell your grand lodge who they can or can't recognize as regular. They merely investigate and make a determination as to the regularity of a grand lodge in question (or the lack of regularity, as the case may be). But most grand lodges in the Conference respect their findings.

You'll find the Commission's previous annual reports since 2004 online HERE.

Masonic Grand Secretaries have their own unique sets of problems, concerns, solutions and success stories, so they hold their own conference-within-a-conference at COGMMNA – in case you're wondering why your state's grand lodge office seems so empty next week. Everybody's in Seattle.

(And in case you were thinking of asking, grand masters of the
Most Worshipful Prince Hall Affiliated (PHA) grand lodges have their own Conference of Grand Masters that's been held each year since 1909.)

Just to trumpet our Indiana team's presence, our longtime grand secretary, MW Richard Elman, PGM (2004-05) has been the president of the Conference of Grand Secretaries for many, many years. Our current grand master, MW Gary Brinley will also be speaking at one of the sessions. And MW Roger VanGorden PGM (2002-003) is heavily involved with the Masonic Renewal Committee and will be giving their presentation on Sunday afternoon. (Last year, Roger was also named as the Scottish Rite NMJ's "Active" Deputy representing Indiana on the Supreme Council.)

And just to round out the list of influential Indiana grand masters in leadership positions within their various Conferences, MW Eugene Anderson, Jr., Past Grand Master of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana, is the president this year of the Conference of Prince Hall Grand Masters, which will be held May 15-19 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Glen Cook

G A Cook
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The Recognition Commission found that the Independent Grand Orient of Pernambuco, Brazil, and the Grand Orient of Paraiba, Brazil appeared to meet the Standards of Recognition.

They did not change the previous findings as to the country of Georgia; the 2015 GL appears to meet the Standards of Recognition.