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Freemasonry Is Dying

Once you can get yourself to accept the fact that Freemasonry is Dying, then perhaps some progress can be made in downsizing, consolidating, making Appendant Bodies stand on their own, raising dues significantly and other acts of resuscitation. Terminally ill patients require drastic and sometimes untried measures to save them.

What’s that you say? You don’t think Freemasonry is dying? Brother Lance Kennedy will show you the facts. Facts don’t lie.

THE DECLINE OF FREEMASONRY: A DATA ANALYSIS

by
Brother Lance Kennedy

Bro. Lance Kennedy

“He who is not angry when there is just cause to be angry is immoral.”
Thomas Aquinas

We hear the word “decline” whispered and spoken in low tones in our halls. No one dares speak it aloud as it may invoke the demons we seek to banish. Instead our collective body spins its wheels with failed programs and a constant rehashing of mid-20th-century mediocrity. The anxiety amongst the tribe of men called Freemasons is palatable. Will we see the end of Freemasonry in our lifetimes?

While I am tempted to delve into the reasons behind our decline, and without a doubt we are experiencing such a trend, as well as prescribe remedies for our communal ills, this article will focus solely on the factual basis of our decline and nothing more. We must come to terms with the state of our fraternity before we can discuss the reasons behind our demise and the means by which we can save it from the fate experienced by the Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose Lodges, and numerous other fraternal organizations.

I want to make it abundantly clear that the body-Masonic is dying. Dying. Say that word aloud several times until you realize that the fraternity that has given you so much joy, provided charitable relief to countless millions, and initiated millions of men into the Western Mystery Tradition is dying. Dying. And dying a slow and ignominious death despite mandatory open houses, “come as you are” attitudes towards dress and appearance, and quick and easy initiations.

I know you want me to stop waxing poetic and get to the data, so without further ado I will present you with my basic findings. I have taken for my analysis the raw data compiled by the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA) of the totals of Masons in United States Grand Lodges for the fiscal years indicated. According to the MSANA, these figures are based upon the MSANA’s records and do not necessarily correspond exactly with those published by other sources.

The data referenced in this article was made available by and with the permission of the MSANA. I spoke with Simon R. LaPlace, Past Grand Master of Connecticut and Executive Secretary of the MSANA, who permitted me to reference him in this article. Brother LaPlace stated that MSANA’s membership numbers are requested from each US and Canadian Grand Lodge. Each Grand Lodge uses different metrics to determine who should be counted. For example, some Grand Lodges include Entered Apprentices in their overall numbers. Some Grand Lodges count only the number of Masons in their jurisdiction while others count each Mason in every lodge (e.g., a Brother who is a member of two lodges is counted twice). Also, the numbers submitted to MSANA can vary according to the time of year and do not always reflect the year-end total.

Brother LaPlace stated that the greatest inaccuracies in submitted reports occur when Grand Lodges change Grand Secretaries. He cited one instance where a Grand Secretary did not include endowed members in his annual report, so membership numbers in his jurisdiction decreased significantly. However, his successor in office included endowed members in his report, thus inflating numbers from the prior submission. While the numbers MSANA provided are not perfect, they are the best numbers available for this sort of analysis. I cannot claim that they are exact or predictive, but rather helpful in making educated generalizations about the state of our Fraternity.

We can debate whether the apogee of Freemasonry in the US was when it held the greatest influence, political or otherwise, or rather when the largest percentage of US males were Masons in absolute terms or as a percentage of the population. While it may be beneficial to debate this point, I do not believe it is necessary to do so at this time. For the sake of this analysis, I define the word “apogee” as the absolute number of Masons.

In terms of absolute numbers, Freemasonry reached its apogee in the fiscal year 1959 when 4,103,161 American men were Masons. The raw data is attached to the bottom of this article, which includes the fiscal year, the absolute number of Masons, the absolute number of Masons lost, and the percentage loss.  The data shows a steady decline in the reported number of Freemasons since 1959.

On average, each year reflects a decrease of around 50,000 Masons. Currently there are around one million Freemasons in the US and if the trend continues, our collective numbers will drop below one million in one and a half years, reaching post-Civil War levels. The chart above reflects a sigmoid function or “S-curve.” S-curves exhibit a progression from a small beginning that accelerates as it approaches a climax over time, then levels off in its mature phase. While the overall downward trend is troubling, the real issue is reflected in this second chart.

The second chart details the loss of Masons in absolute terms. Numerical losses for the fiscal year 1974 were the largest recorded, though this number might be a result of reporting errors. From fiscal year 1974 to 2013 the average percentage lost per year was 2.693%. What is troubling is that since 2013 the losses have begun to increase again.

As previously mentioned, the data shows that Masonic membership trends generally follow an S-curve. If it were a true S-curve our current yearly losses would amount to a decline of around 1%, however, the average rate of loss from 2013 to 2017 was 3.795% as reflected in the third chart. If this rate of loss continues, we will see a collapse of our membership rather than the leveling off that a S-curve would predict.

The US has historically had a very large Masonic population, both in absolute and percentage terms, compared with European nations. In European countries, Masons account for around 1% of the male population between 18 and 65 years of age. In the US membership is approaching this number, around 1.08%, however, the loss of membership between 2013 to 2017 is much higher than expected. If this trend continues between 2018 and 2022 the situation will go from bad to critical. Freemasons will account for less than 1% of the US adult-male population and will become virtually insignificant as an institution.

In the introduction to this article I told you to repeat the word “dying” to yourself. Do it again.

Dying. Dying. Dying.

Our fraternity is dying. While I will not diagnose the causes or cures for our ailing condition in this article, it is necessary for every Mason to come to terms with our present state. This awareness was the goal of this article and I hope you will take a moment to soberly ponder the very real possibility that Freemasonry in the US will go the way of the Elks or Odd Fellows, that is into the fraternal graveyard.

However, I am hopeful that we will heal our present malaise with the salve of the mysteries. Instead of becoming a Rotary club with regalia, we will reignite the fires of Initiation and case off the shackles of mediocrity.

Fiat Lux.


Read: So What? The Dynamic of Masonic Membership.
A
nd, There’s a Hole in Our Bucket


 

 

 

Further Reading

Brent Morris, “Boom to Bust in the Twentieth Century: Freemasonry and American Fraternities,” 1988 Anson Jones Lecture, Transactions of the Texas Lodge of Research, 23(1987–88):142–62.

http://md-mrs.com/library/Boom%20to%20Bust%20in%2020%20century.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3CcoFJMEQsvJPH_2IZ3L3UWAvzWLUsRkOZhV4EtMmTJS-doLDVbeCEGYY

John Belton, “The Missing Master Mason,” 1992 Kellerman Lecture for Victoria, Proceedings of the 1992 Australian Masonic Research Council Conference, Melbourne,

 http://internet.lodge.org.uk/index.php/research/93-library/research/234-the-missing-master-mason?fbclid=IwAR1XTqKDDFLKyhK-K0Ux3I5ihK8nV2IBGrnkP-xTmEMdfNp5FV53EfzREoQ

 

About The author

Lance Kennedy is a Texas Freemason, a writer, military officer, attorney, Ivy League graduate, and seventh-generation Texan.

Brother Kennedy was raised in 2007. He is an Endowed member of University Lodge 1190 and Highland Park Lodge 1150 (Grand Lodge of Texas, AF & AM); member of The Harvard Lodge (Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, AF & AM); full member of the Texas Lodge of Research; 32nd Degree Mason and member of the Valley of Dallas, Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction; Knight Templar and member of the Dallas Commandery; member of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Fred Milliken: Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

View Comments (24)

  • @Nguyen Ngoc Chau 30th November, above. Good points, but the truth is actually even more encouraging than you relate. The GLNF is currently up to about 45000 and in the six months since my initiation there has been the revival of a dormant lodge. The consecration of another is scheduled for the end of May, 2019. That's just in my region. Had Stifani not got involved in politics in 2012 the GLNF would now be around 60000 strong. The GLTSO was actually founded in 1959 or so and is much respected by the GLNF and UGLE. They and the GLDF would have claims on recognition were there no GLNF. French masonry appears to be in rude health; I know of no obedience having lost members in recent years.

  • Why IS Freemasonry dying? Let's look at some of the reasons it is and should be. Most obvious is it is an oligarchy custom made by the good ol' boys.
    Joining isn't too difficult but getting into one of the cliques is. Unless you're already one of the good ol' boys then it's a sure thing all the way to the top. Outsiders may have a harder time fitting in unless they have what the powers that be need. Now that is a discussion all on itself.
    Virtually every lodge practices cronyism and/or favoritism. Even the grand lodge of Florida condones and espouses it. Is it any wonder why Freemasonry is dying?? Who would ever join such an organization just to be only a member but not part of the team? Masons are no longer brothers they claim to be.

  • According to your "data analysis" the health, success, and solvency of Freemason is measured and gauged by membership numbers. Perhaps Free & Accepted Masonry can learn from population groups which are successful by your standards? As of 2017, there are less than 1.1 million Masons worldwide. There are 150 million people living in homelessness worldwide, and this number continues to grow. This demographic is 150 times more successful than Freemasonry. What can we learn from this highly successful population living without homes?

    But wait! In the United States, we don't measure success by percentage of the population. Obviously, the 1% is far outnumbered by the remaining 99%. Success is measured by finances, wealth, MONEY! Let's look to prosperous businesses for advice, shall we? What is the most successful business worldwide? Exxon Mobile? Microsoft? Coca Cola? Philip Morris? Bitcoin? I don't even need to Google it. Without question, the Porn Industry generates more dollars than ALL of these combined. What can Freemasonry learn from the highly successful porn industry?

    By now, hopefully you are asking yourself whether success should be measured by membership numbers and balance sheets alone, or is there something else we as Masons offer the World? And if you cannot answer that question, then yes, Freemasonry IS dying.

    • Top Businesses worldwide
      1 Walmart. Last year's Fortune 500 Rank: No. ...
      2 Berkshire Hathaway. Former Fortune 500 Rank: No. ...
      3 Apple

      Top industries worldwide
      1. Accounting, tax prep, bookkeeping, payroll services: 18.3%
      2. Legal services: 17.4%
      3. Lessors of real estate: 17.4%

      Porn, perhaps as an industry is successful, but as stand alone businesses, is dubious.

  • Twelve years ago, a friend of my wife visited us in Paris with her family. I was very happy to know that her husband was a new mason in the US. He told me that he enjoyed very much to join the fraternity. Three years after, I learn that he was no more mason. He told me that almost every week end, he was helping to reconstruct house, to do charity.... and that was not what he expected from masonry. He didn't learn really much on masonry, and he could do what he did with his lodge by being a member of Rotary or Lion club... I cannot say any thing to convince him to come back to his lodge. I don't know how free masonry is practiced in the US.

  • Back in 2003, when I was a WM for the first time, there were over 57,000 Masons in Florida. Today (2018), there is about 35,000. We're averaging a loss of +1,500 members annually. Now the big question, is there anybody in authority trying to figure out why?

  • It seems I remember reading the "death" of Masonry in similar fashion in the late 1800's, yet here we are today. Do we need to make modern day changes... of course... but whenever man needs to go back to it's understanding and roots of WHO WE ARE, we always lead the way

  • Just last-century Masonic membership methods are dying, that is, things as they were. You get a dynamic lodge with programs that probe the Mysteries, and zoom! They're off and running. We've seen it over and over. So, no more caterwauling, please, except as a prod to action. And, please, no more opening of lodges to the curious.

  • I am William Owen. Past Master of Sunrise Lodge in Gahana Oh. I believe a lot of lroblems are within the Lodge. Some members in our Lodge demand perfection We have Past Masters, PDDGM's and a PGM. They expect perfection in the ritual and everything else the Officers do. When I was in the East, I was severely critisized on every word spoken, and every move I made. They would not back me up or support me in any way, And they did the same with the Line Officers. You could actually feel the stress, tension, and arrogance in the Lodge Room.
    Our Lodge is a result of three other Lodges merging and forming ours. The Past Masters and other District Officers are from the other Lodges that merged. None of our Sunrise Past Masters come back after they leave the East. They tried to set me up to fail. They did not want me there at all. The only reason I got to the East was that they could not find a PM that they vote against me to sit in the East.
    A lot of the problems are that we are losing members due to issues inside of the Lodge Room like I described as to what is happening in my Lodge. I did a plural membership with a small country Lodge 8 miles north of my home. They are about what Freemasonry stands for. Not perfection, arrogance, or social standing. I am their Senior Deacon. The Lodge almost closed up pn account of poor attendance, and not passing Inspections. But we are turning it around and getting new candidates.

  • There is an old maxim in psychology that states, "You cannot treat a patient if he doesn't know he is sick." In this case, Freemasonry doesn't understand the depths of their problem. Good article.

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