There's a saying that there's "no such thing as bad publicity". While this may be true in the commercial world, when it comes to Freemasonry we try to do things a little bit differently. As Masons, and specifically in this case as Templar Knights we agree to abide by certain standards and truths. So when a Masonic body or the leadership of said body acts in opposition to that, it tends to get the memberships attention. Which brings me back to a topic that seems to take up my attention more and more these days (and seemingly in the future here as well); and that is the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar (GEKT).
Before we get any further, if you need to get up to speed please check out the following articles;
First this article.
Then this article.
...and finally this article.
We're now two weeks out of the 68th Triennial of the GEKT, and the new Grand Master has just unilaterally decided to rescind one of the votes of the membership; that to re-recognize the Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City (or Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte). The CBCS is an invitational body for Masons who's only similarity to Masonic Templarism is the chivalric theme. It confers different Degrees, and is actually far more closely related to Martinism than it is Freemasonry. But to hear the GEKT tell it, it is some dire threat to Masonic Templarism. Now, with no advance warning, we have a decision that gets dropped on us reversing the will and wishes of the membership. You can read the Grand Masters decision (actually decisions 1-4) here.
In his decision, the Grand Master claims that the rules governing the Committee on jurisprudence were not followed. He additionally accuses Sir Knight Jeffrey Nelson, our immediate Past Grand Master of nefarious actions to get this legislation to vote. Please keep in mind however, we only have one side of the story here. I will say this, knowing who led the Committee on Jurisprudence in getting these resolutions to the floor, I would be VERY shocked to hear that the rules were not followed. Additionally, as part of their justification it is said that all matters of recognition must go through the Committee on Foreign Relations. Not made mention of here, is that the current head of the Committee on Foreign Relations is the same Past Grand Master who de-recognized the CBCS in the first place. I would just suggest here, that if you're going to stand by "procedure" you should make sure no conflicts of interest exist when doing so.
While we are awaiting further information to come out, I would agree with the common perception here that the GEKT leadership is simply unhappy over a vote that didn't go their way and is now acting against the wishes and vote of the membership. To be clear, you are not required to like the results of this vote. What you are required to do is adhere to the results of that legal vote, whether you like it or not. To those who disagree, your recourse is to present new legislation to be voted upon at the 69th Triennial. Yes, that is three years away, but that is also how our system works. The Grand Masters decision here has MANY Sir Knights worried over what vote at the 68th Triennial he and the GEKT leadership they didn't agree with they'll attempt to overturn next.
I would like to be clear here, this decision is not, and should not be how Freemasonry operates. If something TRULY were and is wrong with the vote, call a special session of the Grand Encampment to retry the matter. "Late night" drops like this come across as decisions made with ulterior motives in mind. I'm not accusing the GEKT and its leadership of HAVING such motives, I'm simply relaying perception. Its hardly a good look that the GEKT would cast aside a decision supported by 75% of the membership unilaterally and with no prior warning.
This decision, and the the cover and tone of his first article as our new Grand Master in the latest Knight Templar magazine has understandably left the membership worried over the present direction of the GEKT. Our GEKT leadership is elected to serve the membership, not the other way around. They are not elected to impose their will and wishes on us. They are not elected to act unilaterally behind closed doors. While there is still information yet to come out on this whole matter, our leadership should avoid creating these perceptions at all cost. Unfortunately, that is not what we have gotten and because of that an entire Encampment of Sir Knights are wondering who serves who here.
As it stands, and in this Sir Knights opinion, this decision is on shaky ground. It may be that the Committee on Foreign Relations was not consulted (note: I do not know if this is true or not); I however have my doubts. The accusations against our most immediate Past Grand Master are quite alarming; if they are true however, WHY was this not presented as an argument before the vote on the legislation? That no mention is made of PGM Billy Koon, as the Grand Master who initially de-recognized CBCS being involved through his Chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations was made is also a glaring omission of fact. These statements and omissions, coupled with the general release of these decisions coupled together are rightfully giving the Sir Knights anxiety over where things are headed.
To reiterate again, we only have the current decisions and statements from the Grand Master to go on. With two sides to every story, it is quite necessary to hear from our previous Grand Master, the Committee on Jurisprudence, and the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. After all, some serious allegations have been made, and it is certainly the right of the Sir Knights to have ALL the information. IF these accusations are true, a unilateral decision was the wrong way to resolve the situation. IF these accusations are true, a special session of the Grand Encampment needs to be called. The Sir Knights need to be given ALL relevant information, and allowed to settle this properly with a vote after proper and informed debate. The Grand Master is not an Emperor, he is elected by the membership to serve us, it is not the other way around.
So where are we to go from here? I honestly don't know. A perception I share with others is that, this isn't the last decision we'll see from the Grand Master. There is a genuine fear that the next decision will be to overturn the decision not to implement the attestation on the Knight Templar petition. I've even started seeing rumblings in the social media world that Grand Encampment Officers have been demanded to step down. The more this situation develops, the more it appears we have a Grand Master working behind the scenes to shape the organization around him rather than serve those who elected him. I hope I'm wrong. I hope others who have similar feelings as I are wrong too. But in the words of Han Solo, "I have a bad feeling about this."
As I was editing this to go to publication, this story came across my desk. Stay tuned for either updates here, or for a new article depending on how this all shakes out.
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 affiliations.