There are many aspects of the Derek Gordon story that deserve to be exposed and laid out on the table for all to see. There are also far reaching ramifications as to what the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is doing to American Freemasonry.
As to the former, the failure of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to state specifically to Gordon how he violated Grand Lodge statues, to leave it as an enigma that he is supposed to figure out is far from playing a straight hand. The fact that they would much rather spring it on him at the time of trial means they revel in toying with their accused. Is this the high moral standard that is supposed to guide Freemasonry?
And shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime? It is not glaringly obvious what Gordon even did. It sounds as if it could be some minor infraction. To not only expel Gordon but to come in and pull the charter of his Lodge and close it down is over kill. Doesn’t Arkansas ever use suspension or other forms of discipline?
The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has a despicable track record of expelling Brothers and closing Lodges. It has done this many times over. Gordon won’t be the first nor the last. And the sad part of it all is that Good American Freemasons and good American Grand Lodges have done absolutely nothing to put an end to such shenanigans.
Oh no, say all the Good Masons, we can’t interfere in the workings of another Grand Lodge. That’s their business. So we let Arkansas do whatever it wants. We let Ohio do whatever it wants. We let New Jersey do whatever it wants. We let Alabama do whatever it wants. We let Georgia do whatever it wants. We let West Virginia do whatever it wants. No matter how grave the injustice we turn a blind’s eye.
While all of Mainstream Masonry supports the absolute right of any other Grand Lodge in the U.S.A. to have absolute power to do anything within its jurisdiction, it even goes so far as to enforce the decisions of one Grand Lodge in all the other Grand Lodges. This is what is known as the Good Old Boys Network. So if Gordon is expelled from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, no matter how odious and wrongful the process and the final decision, all the Grand Lodges across the entire country are going to also join in and support that ruling. Not only will Gordon be expelled from Arkansas but he will be blackballed from joining any other Grand Lodge jurisdiction.
This policy can, as it may in this case, sanctify injustice and it does nothing to dissuade rogue Grand Lodges from operating in the same evil manner over and over again. There is no mechanism in place to discipline a rogue Grand Lodge. No matter what it does it will be blessed by the rest of the Grand Lodges across the country. This drives a lot of good men into clandestine Masonry.
American Mainstream Freemasonry is out of control and the lack of any common standards agreed upon across the board only emboldens those who abuse power to do so repeatedly with impunity. This leads some Grand Lodges to make up crazy rules and regulations precisely because there is no one who will tell them they cannot nor anyone who will even comment on what is obviously wrong never mind take any action like withdrawing recognition. So you have Grand Lodges limiting Masonic discourse (especially with Prince Hall Masons) or prohibiting the use of electronic media in their jurisdiction, even E-Mail, shaking hands with other obediences, visiting Lodges out of state who permit other visitors who are not recognized by that Grand Lodge, admitting any person with an unapproved religion like Wicca, allowing Rainbow and DeMolay to meet at Masonic buildings, openly disagreeing with the policies of a Grand Master whether verbally or in print, joining an internet Masonic forum and a whole host of other regulations that should be no part of Freemasonry.
The sad part of all this is that what one jurisdiction does has a bearing on all jurisdictions. The American public and the non Mason do not distinguish between California Freemasons and Arkansas Freemasons. To them Freemasons are Freemasons no matter from what state they hail. So in essence a few un-Masonic Grand Lodges can give the whole fraternity a black eye.
That being said it would seem that it would behoove all Grand Lodges to come together with some sort of agreement as to proper conduct and certain standards. This would have no bearing on ritual or any ceremonial practice. Neither would it involve a National Grand Lodge but rather a written compact of common principles and methods of operations. However, somewhere along the line in order for the agreement to work there has to be some teeth in it. United States Grand Lodges would have to agree to pull recognition from those who don’t want to go along or those who operate in an un-Masonic manner.
This is not without precedent for when Minnesota decided to recognize the Grand Lodge of France it was met with other Grand Lodges who pulled recognition. If any United States Grand Lodge were to pull the requirement for a belief in deity I dare say you would see a host of American Grand Lodges pulling recognition. While God is important race and civil rights doesn’t seem to count for much. But if American Freemasonry hopes to flourish it needs to pay more attention to how Black men are treated and how to fairly mettle out justice.
If American Mainstream Masonry fails to police itself then it will severely stunt its growth. Gen X and the Millenials are color blind and they will not join an organization which is discriminatory nor one that is a hiding place for KKK who have gone underground nor one that fails to protect them from the abuses of tyrannical power and the absence of common decency.
Lastly it is high time that American Freemasonry took on an American identity. Few Americans are born and die in the same town in the same state anymore. We are a highly mobile society and state distinctions are increasingly of diminishing importance. American Freemasonry grew with the formation of this country. Its method of government followed the civil model of strong states rights but stopped there, where the civil government proceeded to a stronger national federal presence. Without that strong federal presence those school doors in Little Rock would never have been opened to Black children to this day. The progress that the United States has made in the field of civil rights, gender rights, sexual rights, rights of the handicapped have come from the insistence of federally mandated across the board uniform codes of conduct and human rights. The fact that Freemasonry does not have the same accomplishment in those fields that are applicable is its failure to operate in some fashion in a manner that seeks common compliance in basic codes of conduct and methods of governance in all jurisdictions. That is the challenge which awaits 21st century Mainstream Freemasonry. Meeting that challenge may well decided whether it lives or dies.