I didn't actually expect to be back on this topic so soon, but it seems that the Grand Encampment had other plans for me. The 68th Triennial has just recently wrapped up, and included in this past weeks events were several votes on important legislation, one of which set the Masonic social media and blogosphere a talking more than others. The vote in question? A Christian mandate added to the Knight Templar petition, specifically some pretty dogmatic language for said mandate, or as the Grand Encampment was calling it, the attestation. But more on that in a bit.
To my dilligent readers you can skip ahead because you've already hopefully read my previous article. To my new reader though I'd like to revisit briefly some key points from that article as I think it provides some key context. So just what's going on? Like just about every other Masonic Body, the Knights Templar has a membership problem (or does it?) so natually year in, and year out the Grand Encampment and Grand Commanderies make membership priority number 1. "Every Christian Mason should be a Knight Templar" after all... In this Sir Knights humble opinion, leadership throws solutions at a problem they don't truly understand. The end result is an organization that by and large, isn't appealing to the new generation of Freemason. If you have the time, give my previous article a read, you can find it here.
As I write this, some Sir Knights are still on their way home from Minneapolis and the events of the 68th Triennial have ended. Some exciting legislation was passed; the beautiful Knight Templar apron makes its return, and the Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City (or Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte) is no longer a Clandestine organization! But it was the attestation of Faith legislation that was getting all the attention in advance. By and large, the overwhelming opinion of the attestation leading up to the Triennial was not favorable. I have provided the legislation in its full below;
"ATTESTATION OF FAITH I am a Christian – as defined in the four Gospels – and accept Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, as my personal Lord and Savior. (Matthew 16:16, John 3:15-17, Acts 4:10-12, Romans 10:9-10) I believe that He died on the cross as the only sacrifice acceptable for our sins, (Romans 5:8, Romans 5:10, Romans 8:1, Galatians 2:20) that after three days He rose and presented Himself, bodily, in physical form, and breathed the gift of the Holy Spirit into those present in the room with Him. I believe that because of His resurrection, we too receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that one day He will return in just the same way as His Apostles watched Him go. (John 20:22, Acts1:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Acts 1:10-11)"
The initial attestation proved to be just as unpopular in the initial discussion on the floor as it was online. The popular opinion was that the language of the attestation was TOO dogmatic and the Grand Encampment was attempting to define what Christianity was (and doing poorly I might add). I won't go into the details here because the topic itself is worthy of its own discussion. For those interested, From Darkness to Light, has provided some outstanding insight on the many ways this legislation was problematic. Like those of us Sir Knights online, the delegates found the proposed legislation just as troubling. The initial proposal was scrapped, and the Grand Prelates were convened to come up with "better" wording. They came up with something alright;
"I profess the Christian faith: Through the Birth, Life, Death, Ressurection, and Ascension of Jesus, believers are saved and redeemed."
This revised proposal was likewise rejected, as it should have been. It is just as dogmatic and limiting in the scope of what Christianity is, albeit using fewer words. The overwhelming response to the failure of the legislation was joy and relief among the Sir Knights, this one included.
Interestingly enough (and as an aside), there was apparently verbiage in the delegates package that stated non-Christian Sir Knights would not be asked to leave, nor agree to the attestation. Good to know we want to go back to being all Christian, yet make sure we still receive dues from the non-Christians moving forward...
This purpose of this legislation was about getting the Grand Encampment and the Masonic Knights Templar back to its roots, a Masonic Appendant Body for Christian Masons. If you've been following me at all it should be abundtantly clear this isn't the direction I would go. That said, I'm not the Grand Master, nor do I ever intend to be. It IS clear this is the direction the Grand Encampment would like to go, and that is certainly fine. It's of course too early to say for sure, but as a non-betting man I would certainly bet we'll see another attempt at formalizing an attestation at the 69th Triennial.
I don't agree with that, but again if that is the direction we're going to go, so be it. However, IF we are going to go in that direction, may I humbly recommend staying away from dogmatic statements and trying to define what a Christian and Christianity is. Keep the attestation as simple as possible. Occum's Razer, the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, both work for a reason. Looking at the revision, I actually think the Grand Prelates were on to something with it, I'd make the argument they just added filler material when they didn't need to (actually they borrowed the Malta attestation).
"I profess the Christian faith"
What more needs to be said than that? That statement elegantly and simply says everything it intends, and needs to say. No more, no less. There's no need to get fancy, add dogmatic language or create a definition of what we think or want Christianity to be (it's kind of hard to afterall with over 200 denominations). Get to the point, and leave no room for doubt in what you're saying.
So where do we go from here? I really don't know. Those of you who know me know I'm not confident the Grand Encampment will survive. Those of you who don't know me probably are wondering why I'm still a member (it's been questioned). Simply put, I do see value in the Masonic Knights Templar as an organization, and I would hate to see it go away. There IS interest in the younger generations of Masons in wanting to join Templary. These are the men that are this organizations future, but we keep looking to the past. These men aren't interested in those things that interested the previous generations of Templar Knights.
These men will only knock on our doors for so long. Once they realize the organization isn't willing to look beyond its history they'll stop knocking altogether. It would be a shame for Masonry to lose the rich tradition, the stunning Orders and the lessons to be inculcated by Templary. But right now that's the path we're heading down until we decide this is an organization worth saving (it is).
I get that this is the road we're heading down, I may not agree with it, but this is the direction where going. The company I work for has a pretty profound principle for situations such as this. "Disagree and commit". I see the direction we're headed, and I'll do my part to keep this organization going, what about you?
"I profess the Christian faith."
As usual, thank you for reading. These thoughts are my own, and in no way represent the official thoughts and statements of my employer, my automotive and Masonic membership affiliations.