What follows is the story of a young Mason who is caught in the middle between a Grand Master who is stuck in the past, in pre Civil War Masonry and those of us who have an improved 21st century view of life and practice Masonry accordingly. Far from being some firebrand, screaming reformer, Derek Gordon is a mild mannered, respectful Mason who has no ax to grind. He only wished to present his Lodge as favorable towards the civil rights of all citizens regardless of color. For that he is going to pay the ultimate price for being a human being.
This is his story as he told it to me:
You are secretary and webmaster of your Lodge, Sebastian Lodge #706, Grand Lodge of Arkansas F & AM.. You are a 23 year old student studying law in the neighboring state hundreds of miles from your Lodge. You have decided to volunteer to help Peruvians caught in northern Chile in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. As you stand in line to board your international flight to Peru your cell phone rings. It is the Worshipful Master of your Lodge with an important message – the Grand Master wants an immediate meeting with you. You convey to the Worshipful Master that will not be possible for a number of weeks, but that when you return you would be most happy to accommodate the Grand Master. The Worshipful Master is unable to tell you what this request is all about.
You immediately call the Grand Secretary and apprise him of the situation. He tells you that the Grand Master is in a meeting but that he will pass on to him your information and travel itinerary.
You make your trip to Peru and in your time there you make numerous phone calls back to Arkansas, leaving messages with the Grand Master’s wife at his residence and the Grand Secretary. None of your phone calls are ever returned.
You learn that while you were away that the Grand Master did not wait for your return but proceeded ahead all guns blazing! With just two days notice the Grand Master came to Sebastian Lodge to pull its charter and announce formal charges against you.
You can’t understand how this could all happen. What’s the beef? Friends notify you that the problem was the posting on the Lodge website of the Grand Master’s request that Arkansas Masonic license plates not be purchased by members of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas AF & AM. Other Lodges in the state made similar postings on their websites and their charters are still intact and their webmasters still honored members. Perhaps it was the sentence at the end that this was not necessarily the view of the Lodge. But you complied with the Grand Master’s edict that all members of the Lodge be notified of his ruling.
Other members get in touch with you to tell you that the Grand Master said in his visit to Sebastian Lodge to pull its charter that there were thousands of complaints received by the Grand Lodge about the website of Sebastian Lodge. They tell you that you are being charged with placing Grand Lodge and Masonic information on a public website in violation of a recent Grand Lodge ruling. You are also charged with posting Grand Lodge Resolutions to the Grand Lodge publicly.
You find this hard to believe. You have taken whatever Masonic information is posted on Sebastian’s website from three other Arkansas Lodge websites. A 1700’s lecture is really a historical document not an expose of Masonic secrets & ritual and other Arkansas Lodges have considered it so much a part of their Arkansas Masonic tradition that they have also posted it on their websites. None of them are having their charters pulled. Huntsville Lodge has ten times the Masonic information publicly displayed on its website. You had picked just a few interesting posts from this Lodge to include on Sebastian’s website. Boone Lodge, among others, has posted publicly on its website the Grand Master’s ban on license plates.
Huntsville has posted much more Masonic information publicly for a longer period of time. While you created Sebastian’s website in May of 2009, Huntsville and other Lodges have had posted Masonic information for up to 10 years. Your sources from which you copied the material you posted on Sebastian Lodge’s website included Crossett Masonic Lodge #576 F & AM and The Carroll County Mason, both of which were hosted by the now defunct Geocities. Another source was Key Lodge #7. None of these other Lodges are under indictment.
If the Grand Lodge is so concerned about electronic transmission of Masonic material why has it posted a link to Huntsville Lodge on the Grand Lodge website for years?
This makes no sense to you. The recent ruling on not posting any Masonic matter on a public website nor the use of the internet for any Masonic matters, including E-Mails was just passed at last month’s Grand Session. It was a little known resolution that received no debate and was passed with a vote made with it grouped with other matters. As secretary of the Lodge you have never received official notification of this ruling in the mail as is the usual custom. You also have not received any written notification of any charges preferred against you.
Perhaps the problem also stems from the fact that you tried to form a committee for Prince Hall recognition. But the Grand Master told you that Prince Hall did not desire to have anything to do with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas AF & AM. Recognition is ten years away if at all, you remember the Grand Master saying.
Later you are notified that the Lodge on 3/24/10 has finally received the letter of charges against you and the date for a Masonic trial. You are now back from Peru. This document should have been sent to you personally and you should have been the first person to read it. Along with the document of charges in the mail comes the official Grand Lodge notification of the ban on any and all Masonic electronic transmissions. You check with other Secretaries in other Arkansas Lodges. They have just received the same official notice of the new ruling and this is the first time they have heard of it. So it seems that you will be prosecuted for violating a ruling before it was officially put into place.
You are told the date for your Masonic trial is a date you will be on maneuvers with the Arkansas National Guard. You feel that the Grand Lodge knows that you are a member of the National Guard, knows that it is holding weekend maneuvers which require compulsory attendance and has thus scheduled your Masonic trial on the Saturday of these maneuvers deliberately. But the document is still not in your hands. Your information is second hand.
Finally the document of charges comes into your possession:
As a parting gesture you post this parting message on Sebastian’s website.
UPDATED: 27 March 2010.
SebastianLodge.Com is down for the foreseeable future.
Thank you for visiting.
We have had well over 20,000 visitors in our one year in operation. We hope that we can return and provide one of the most-visited Masonic website on the net.
I, being secretary, webmaster, legal domain owner, and creator of this website, never meant to upset Grand Lodge. Rather, I sought to protect our lodge because so many saw the letter as racist. I realize it was not meant to taken that way, but its poor penmanship didn’t get the proper message across. Other Arkansas lodges have the same kind of post, yet they still have their charter. Some Arkansas lodges and members have posted the entire letter from the Grand Secretary online and those two have yet to see punishment.
*REGARDING other information supplied and provided on the Sebastian Lodge website, it was all found on other Arkansas lodge websites. Some of those were created as far back as 2001; this site was created in May of 2009. I never typed a single word regarding the lectures and Masonic history. The page source-code made light of that. I posted the Masonic informatoin because it had been written by and posted on other Arkansas lodge websites for years; I thought it must be acceptable by precedent. As a Mason of 2.5 years, I was foolish to believe that if other lodges are allowed to do something (created by Masons who have been in much longer than I have), it would be acceptable for our lodge to display as well.
To my former brethren of Sebastian Lodge, I apologize to you for this instance. I felt that we were safe after finding the post on so many other sites. There’s much more to the story, but out of respect for Masonry and for the title of Grand Master and the Grand Lodge I will humbly refrain.
I further urge all Masons to support Sebastian Lodge in reobtaining its charter. By this I outline that I was doing what was seen as acceptable by precedent. The lodge itself was not involved in this directly. I am ashamed at the outcome.
Currently, I’m awaiting a Masonic trial for expulsion that I cannot make it to. It is scheduled for the weekend of April 17th, 2010 when the Military has summoned me to work. The Grand Lodge will not return my phone calls and one can only imagine the desired outcome.
Should you wish to contact me, it is possible by emailing webmaster706 @ sebastianlodge.com. I’d suggest removing the spaces around the @.
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” – George Washington
Former Secretary, 706
All this was told to me by Brother Derek Gordon whose Lodge Sebastian Lodge #706 is no more and who awaits expulsion at a very young age from the Craft he loves. This is his story in his words.
But our observations are really questions. We are perplexed. What was the rush? Why could this whole affair have not waited until Gordon returned from his trip? Why would the Grand Master not wait for a personal meeting before proceeding unilaterally? Why prosecute a Brother for posting material that was already published 300 years ago and as recently as last month on other Arkansas Lodge’s websites? Why schedule Gordon’s Masonic trial on a weekend when you (GL) were told he was on maneuvers and why have you yet to make arrangements to reschedule? WHY HAS THE GRAND LODGE OF ARKANSAS’ WEBSITE BEEN SHUT DOWN?
To those who would like to support Brother Derek Gordon we urge you not only to get in touch with him but also to voice your opinion with the Grand Master of Arkansas.