Progressive Lines, or Stagnating Practices?
Now is the time of the of year, when most of the Masonic-verse goes through the process of Elections and Installations of their new Officer lines for the coming year. Elections bring forth a time for new ideas and new blood, eager to take on the mantle of leadership, and direct the progress of a Lodge from year to year. New thoughts, perspectives, and programs patiently await at the West Gate, to spring forth and inject the Lodge with a new vision for the coming term.
Or is it?
No, no it's not. For many Lodges, here in the United States, and even abroad, the concept of free Elections is more wordplay than anything else. Most Masonic Lodges have what are known as "progressive lines." Beginning at the position of Junior Deacon, or even Junior Steward, the Elections consist of appointments and elections for the person that sat in the previous chair. This means that if someone take one if these chairs in their Lodge (and in some cases their Grand Lodge), then they will with few exceptions rise to the position of Master of the Lodge, with little, if any real choice of the Brethren.
In most cases, this is more formality than actual free election. People who are appointed a Deacon or Steward are normally chosen by the elected Master, which brings me to the premise of this article: a sort of nepotism exists in Lodges whereby Masters oftentimes appoint Brothers who will succeed them in line, and conform to the beliefs, ideals, and cultural representations as themselves.
On the surface, that doesn't sound so bad, does it? In some cases, it is not. Many Lodges that already have a plethora of cultures, creeds, and personal beliefs in a good state of flux will suffer less from this type of progressive line. Other Lodges are not as fortunate. Those that have the exact same belief systems, cultural biases, and political affiliations within their Officer line, from Worshipful Master down to their Stewards, will cause long term stagnation and a decay in the spirit of Freemasonry within that Lodge Temple.
You don't agree? Why? Because you believe that Lodges each have their own identity, and you can't change that identity, and that's what's important: a difference in Lodge flavor and identity that enriches the Craft? That's a load of bullshit.
Only very few, and very successful Lodges are models of that axiom. The rest of those that claim an individual identity are those that have very little diversity within their ranks, and promote the same exclusive maxims that keep people who may be considered "different" outside of their Lodges. Lodges with a "successful" identity are those that have something special, a je ne sais quoi that promotes a particular message or theme, BUT it is comprised of people from all walks of life who promote this message, and do so TOGETHER.
Lodges with cookie cutter progressive lines change nothing over the course of years, or even decades. These Lodges grow stagnant, linger on for years (or even decades), promote little except their own interests, and eventually die. The problem is that they take with them in their death throes some people who could have been good Traveling Men if they lived somewhere else.
Grand Lodges are no better. Some Grand Lodges institute free elections of their Grand Wardens and Grand Masters, meaning that there is little "progression" through a defined line and the tide can ebb in flow based on the will on that Jurisdiction every two or three years. There is little stagnation when Grand Officers are chosen through a truly equitable election process. Grand Officers have to work within their allotted time and promote their agenda, because a promotion is NOT a guarantee there.
The flip-side of the above is what I have been lamenting: progressive lines within Grand Lodges that promote the same way of thinking, the same cultural personalities, and the same biases as those that came before, and those that will come after. Little if anything new or "progressive" makes it way to those Grand Lodges; and they too are learning this much too late and are now feeling the pangs of declining membership, disinterest, and participation.
Like a fish tank with hundreds of fish in it (like the ones you see at the dentist's office), the filters must be clean and running, and the water contained therein must be refreshed from time to time. Otherwise, the water will become stagnant, green and murky, and covered in slime, and the fish inside will eventually die.
The moral of the story is: change your filters, keep them clean, freshen up your tanks with some clean water every once in a while, and your fish tank will stay vibrant, and may even have some new baby fish pop up from time to time, which is all that we can ask for.
~~ FDTL ~~