Grand Lodge

 

Every Grand Lodge presides over one (and only one) Masonic jurisdiction. It is the supreme Masonic authority within that jurisdiction. Its authority extends not just to the Lodges under its control, but also to each of the Appendant and Concordant Bodies within its confines. 

Jurisdictions vary is size and composition. In some places, like England and Scotland, there is a single Grand Lodge for the entire country. Others, like the United States, have multiple Grand Lodges, but each has a certain exclusive territory in which it operates. Still other places have multiple Grand Lodges acting within the same territory, each responsible for its own Lodges. Currently, there are 51 mainstream Grand Lodges in this country - all 50 States and the District of Columbia.

A Grand Lodge serves as the administrative center for a Masonic jurisdiction. It sets policies and procedures, ensures that rules and regulations are being followed, maintains the esoteric work according to the ancient usages, charters new Lodges, provides information and assistance to its constituent Lodges, and so on.

Each Lodge must  adhere to all of the rules and regulations adopted by the Grand Lodge. However, it is important to remember that the authority of the Grand Lodge is derived from the Lodges. Individual Lodges can exist without a Grand Lodge, but a Grand Lodge cannot exist without Lodges.

Regularity and Recognition

One of the most complicated areas of Masonic jurisprudence, or law, relates to the standards a Grand Lodge must follow in order to be considered regular. Each Grand Lodge has its own set of standards, and since there is no central governing authority within Freemasonry, determining regularity is difficult at best.

Masonic Law is based in part on Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, originally published in 1723. This book was written just six years after the formation of the first Grand Lodge and lists the commonly accepted rules of the time for a Grand Lodge, Lodge, and individual member. Space does not permit a comprehensive list of all the relevant issues, but some examples include: acceptance of candidates, irrespective of their personal religious beliefs; the Holy Bible, Square, and Compass displayed upon the Altar at all times; the acceptance of men only; the Hiramic Legend as an integral part of the Third Degree, and so on.

In the late 19th Century, Albert Mackey published a list of 25 Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry. A Landmark is supposed to be an integral part of the Craft and can never be changed. Mackey's list has served as the basis of regularity since its publication, but confusion arises, because each Grand Lodge determines its own set of Landmarks. Some jurisdictions use all 25 Landmarks as presented by Mackey. Others have a shorter list. Still others, like California, refer to the Ancient Landmarks but do not define them.

Regularity is, therefore, a subjective term. It depends on the perspective of the one making the determination. Furthermore, a Grand Lodge may be considered regular by one jurisdiction and irregular by another!

In contrast to regularity, the concept of recognition is purely objective. Recognition refers to the state of amity between two Masonic jurisdictions. The relationship is similar to that between Nation States, and since each Grand Lodge is sovereign, it decides for itself which Grand Lodges it will recognize and which it will not.

When two Grand Lodge share recognition, their members are permitted to visit one another and, in most cases, hold dual membership across jurisdictional lines. The only Brethren permitted to visit our Lodges are those from recognized Masonic jurisdictions. Brethren from unrecognized jurisdictions may not visit a Lodge in our jurisdiction. It is the responsibility of the Master, or his designee, to make this determination and to ensure that all visiting Brethren are from a recognized Lodge. The book List of Lodges Masonic is published annually and includes a comprehensive list of every Lodge in the world which is recognized by the Grand Lodge of Texas.

The term Clandestine is often misused and should be avoided as much as possible. A Clandestine Lodge is simply one that is not working with a legitimate charter from a Grand Lodge. It may have been in possession of such a charter at one time, but for any number of reasons, it no longer possesses one, and thus, it is considered Clandestine, or “in the dark.” This term is not the same as irregular.

 

The Grand Master

The Grand Master of Masons is elected for a one year term by the members of the Grand Lodge. Almost without exception, he has served the prior three years as Junior Grand Warden, Senior Grand Warden, and then Deputy Grand Master.

The Grand Master is the chief executive officer of this jurisdiction and his powers and responsibilities are wide and varied. In brief, he may grant dispensations, convene and preside over any Lodge, arrest the charter or dispensation of any Lodge, suspend the Master of any Lodge from the exercise of his powers and duties, and officiate at the laying of cornerstones. The Grand Master also acts on behalf of the Grand Lodge when it is not in session.