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by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”

Conceptually, No, Freemasonry is not a business. In its purest form, it is a spirit by which men govern their lives; it is what I have been calling “True Masonry.” However, being realistic, Freemasonry is implemented by the Grand Lodge system, which most definitely is a business and since the two are inseparable therein lies the rub.

I realize this talk of “business” drives Masonic purists crazy, as well as other nonprofit organizations such as homeowner associations, Little League, volunteer clubs or whatever. But the reality is that Grand Lodges must manage thousands of members, records, their offices and equipment, employees, vendors, Masonic Homes, and millions of dollars. They are legal entities recognized by the state and have a Federal Tax ID. This means it is an organization that is licensed to transact business (e.g., buy and sell things), get permits and licenses to build buildings and perform health care services (such as for our Masonic Homes), and be subject to lawsuits. Consider charities such as the Red Cross, the Health and Medical Societies, or even the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory; they are all big businesses and have to operate accordingly. And talk about really big, consider organized religion such as the Catholic Church, the Mormons, or any other Judeo-Christian organization. Think they are not businesses? Think again.

Thinking of Freemasonry as a business is repugnant to a lot of Masons who tend to see it more as a spiritual or social organization than anything else. But the fact remains, under our current system, we cannot detach “True Masonry” from the Grand Lodges which are all bound to the same laws, rules and regulations as any other commercial enterprise. The sooner we recognize this, the better.

Keep in mind, a lot of the internal disenchantment related to the fraternity these days stems from how badly Grand Lodges are run, not by the lessons inculcated in our degrees. This brings up an important point, there are two sides to running a Lodge, be it Particular (Blue) or Grand, the “True Masonry” side and the administrative side, both of which have to be adequately served in order to succeed. We learn “True Masonry” from Masonic Education as well as our degrees and by practicing it accordingly, but rarely is there any genuine effort to properly teach the administrative side; e.g., leadership, managing finances, record management, communications, public relations, resource management, empowering workers, etc. It is hoped that the people coming into office are blessed with such skills, but too often they are not.

What is needed are some businessmen to run the Lodge properly. Unfortunately, the pay isn’t very good and demands a lot of time and attention. Consequently, the people who become Lodge officers tend to be retired, somewhat older (and less flexible), and not necessarily skilled in management. For example, it is not uncommon to have officers who are more concerned about wearing their aprons as opposed to solving problems or leading the fraternity.

Generally, when someone is running for a Lodge office we ask them about their Masonic background; e.g., their proficiency to perform a degree or a lecture. This is important to know but equally we should know their professional management qualifications. For example, what did they do in their professional lives? What is their education and skill set? How many people have they managed (department size) and what did they accomplish? These are questions that are typically not asked of candidates.

As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the fraternity is faced with some serious problems; e.g., membership, finances, direction, etc. These problems will not go away simply by ignoring them. They have to be defined and addressed by our officers. At Masonic gatherings, I sometimes ask, “How do we want to be remembered fifty or a hundred years from now; as the guys who dropped the ball or ran with it for a touchdown?” Frankly, I think we are fumbling away the fraternity due to politics and bad management, not because of our Masonic degrees or obligations.

I am often accused of being too cold about the fraternity. Understand this, I have a firm belief in “True Masonry” and regard Freemasonry as a noble institution. I only question how we implement it. I see it for what it is, a business.