Two Trajectories For American Freemasonry: Consolidation Or Implosion

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by Squire Bentley, Dec 18, 2018.

  1. Squire Bentley

    Squire Bentley Premium Member

    Brother Kennedy now launches into solutions. First he had to state the case for the decline in membership. Now he is on to what to do about it.

    “As our numbers decline, which will continue to do so for the next decade or more, we must come to terms with the fact that an organization built to function with over four million Masons cannot do so with less than one million men. Not only an organization that requires many men to operate, but one that has largely refused to recalculate its pricing and overhead since the mid-twentieth century.”
    dfreybur likes this.
  2. Winter

    Winter Premium Member

    At the risk of sounding improper, why do I always think of the old children's book, Chicken Little, when I read Brother Kennedy's articles? :)

    Most of the flack that I observed as a result of his first article was that he insists the membership decline must reach a level that will equal the end of the Fraternity which I disagree is not the inevitable end in sight.

    This has been my biggest argument against articles like Brother Kennedy's and others, that the membership numbers of the late 1950's are somehow the ideal instead of treating those numbers as what they truly are, an aberrant data point. Unfortunately, too many inside the Craft have treated those numbers for decades as the holy grail to find again. Even worse is when Brothers in our Grand Lodges enact their plans to try to reclaim those numbers as they throw out everything that defines us as an initiatic order. One day classes, lower dues, lax or nonexistent proficiency standards.

    Ok, Brother Kennedy, you have my attention now.

    This is a hard fact that many Lodges refuse to address. My own Lodge is now at $400 a year or $200 if you reside out of state. And we don't even have a building to repair. Freemasonry has value and we should not be afraid to apply that value. If your Lodge dues are less than your annual Planet Fitness membership that you never use......

    The end of his article lists 6 bitter pills that I can honestly say that I agree with almost every single one. They look like they are right out of the MRF or KotN manifestos.

    He makes a point that is going to raise a LOT of hackles, that we remove recognition from all bodies that do not make Masons or support the initiatic experience. Star, Demolay, Job's, Rainbow, , etc. I will even add what he leaves out, Shrine, and both York and Scottish Rites. They don't make Masons, and for all the beautiful degrees and fellowship, they draw resources in the form of people and dollars away from the Craft Lodges. Let them stand, but as their own organizations. Make Craft Masonry for Craft Masons. I know that will irk some Brothers here, but I mean it honestly.

    His consolidation theory I don't agree with that most counties only need a single Lodge. My own EC Lodge, much like many UGLE Lodges, has a membership limit of 50 Brothers. It takes 25 Brothers to form a Lodge and more than 50 and the Brothers become faces, not family. If there is still interest in the area, then half of the 50 Brothers form a sister Lodge and now both Lodges can grow again with a familial connection between them. I say an area should have as many Lodges in that area as it can support but cap the membership in each.

    Probably the number one thing he has said that needs to be said more. The buildings made sense when we were four times as large and they served a purpose as the social hubs for the neighborhoods they resided in. But Freemasonry doesn't require the grand halls and we can no longer afford them.

    Again, I couldn't agree more. Freemasonry requires a level of decorum regardless of your daily profession. My Lodge requires dark suit and tie to attend and officers require a tuxedo. It is not overly onerous.

    I'll keep my views on Millennials to myself here.

    Overall, when you get past his hyperbole about the imminent death of our Order, he does make some excellent points.
    dfreybur likes this.
  3. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

    There are plenty of thriving, active lodges that have plenty of candidates and a large pipeline of Brother working at every event and activity. There are even more small lodges that are slowly dying. Almost every jurisdiction is shrinking yet they all have some thriving lodges.

    While I was in California my mother lodge absorbed two smaller loges. While I was in Illinois my lodge was absorbed by another lodge and the combination is now thriving.

    In the 1800s and back lodges lived and died and this was viewed as how it worked. New lodges were chartered constantly. Somewhere around 1900 across the US that pattern was changed. Lodges were allowed to grow huge rather than hive. Any lodge that struggled, the jurisdiction struggled to keep them going. This change in pattern has been terrible for most US jurisdictions. Consolidation is only one strategy to use. We need to let dying lodges die, preferably by consolidation. We also need to point to those lodges that are thriving.

    We also need to cut the budgets of the Grand Lodges down to very small numbers. Rather than expensive budgets, the grand line needs to use its bully pulpit and lead with minimal administration. We love our large charities but many jurisdictions have already needed to let them go.

    My California district has two buildings that show a positive cash flow from rental use. Needless to say the lodges that meet in those buildings thrive where the lodges that meet in other buildings whither. This isn't a universal trend as I know thriving lodges that are tenants, but I am not aware of any lodge that has a building with a positive cash flow withering. My Texas district also has two buildings that show a positive cash flow from rental use and sure enough the lodges that meet there do well.

    My Illinois lodge could not afford maintenance on our building, partially because getting off the tax rolls meant we rented to non-profit tenants at low rates. We converted that building to a trust fund that helps the lodge we consolidated with. Get rid of that building unless it shows a positive cash flow! Never buy a building unless it shows a positive cash flow! Don't give in to the temptation to buy a building without a positive cash flow just because it costs a fifth as much. The price of an albatross is often low.
  4. chrmc

    chrmc Registered User

    Whilst these articles are interesting, I still don't see much progress since 2005 where the Knights Of The North wrote Laudable Pursuit, which again built on Dwight Smith's much older texts.

    Stating what Masonry must and should do have never been the problem. It's HOW we're actually going to do these things, which is our crucible. Until we start addressing that it's just yet another exercise that won't get us far.
  5. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

    Kennedy’s base premise is flawed; this organization was never “built to function with over four million Masons.” It was bloated to that size and now the necrotic flesh is rotting.
    Raymond Walters likes this.

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