Worshipful Master


The Master of a Lodge - who, when addressed, is given the honorific title of "Worshipful" - presides over the meeting of Masons. His duties in the functioning of a lodge is quite similar to that of the President of the local chapter/branch of any other state or provincial organization except as explained below.

Anti-Masons argue: "No man can serve two masters...."

Religious Intolerants try to make much out of the title "Worshipful" arguing in turn that Masons:

bulletare required to do the Master's bidding in all things;
bulletare worshipping a man rather than Jesus;
bulletor/and are part of some sort of cult where a 'worshipful master' presides.

The further argument is taken out of context from the Biblical translation found in Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two Masters; for he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." Of course, the "master" referred to in the Bible was one who had total control over the life of the servant/slave. Such is FAR from the situation in Freemasonry!

At the outset, let's be very clear: the term is one of respect and has nothing whatsoever to do with 'worshipping' of an individual OR with 'serving' him in any way. Used in Freemasonry, it's reference is to an ancient word usage with a meaning similar to the honorific "Your Honor".  Use of the word 'worshipful' continues today in titles such as "The Worshipful Lord Mayor of Dublin" - who is not worshipped in the traditional sense nor is he necessarily a secular Lord - and is certainly not a Lord in a religious sense by anyone's stretch of imagination.

One must wonder why the religious intolerants, most of whom fall back on that Biblical phrase aren't out in force to have the titles of various government officials changed after these several centuries.

We'd also suggest that anyone who holds two jobs would have the same conundrum - if this foolish interpretation were applied to more than just Freemasonry. It would probably be uncharitable to suggest that many of those who spend their hours on the internet most likely don't have two jobs (and perhaps not even ONE!) so they simply don't 'get it'.

Obey your Master!

Masons are required to obey the Master of a Lodge about as much as but no more than any member of any voluntary association or organization is required to obey the President of that organization. There is nothing more and nothing less involved. Can the President of the local softball club order you to commit murder? Of course not - and neither can the Master of a Lodge! Can the Chairman of your Community Club direct how you should live your daily life?  Of course not. Would he or she compel you to do anything against your religious beliefs or patriotic intentions? Hardly....

What about that claim that Masons are 'worshipping' a man rather than Jesus - as some of the dogmatic 'religious intolerants' would assert? Just as you wouldn't worship the president of the local condominium group, neither would any Mason 'worship' the person who is essentially the 'president' of their lodge - and then only for a year or two at the most. (Just think about all the hurt feelings of those who were 'worshipped' for a few seasons but aren't now. Don't you think they'd be awfully hurt? It should make you giggle when you actually contemplate the foolishness of it.) Considered rationally, it's a total non-issue. It is, however, one of the hooks religious intolerants will try in order to damage Freemasonry's reputation.

The charges are - simply - foolish. As anyone who has served as Master of a Lodge (including yours truly) can assert: you have only as much power as your own individual personality can bring to bear.

After a year (or perhaps two) the Master leaves office and a replacement is elected, generally by secret ballot, from amongst the membership. From then on, the former Master is - in effect - a 'has-been', albeit an appreciated one!*  Didn't get 'worshipped' when he was in office and won't a year later.... Keep smilin'

A Masonic Master's Duties

Below is a somewhat lengthy description of the Master's duties from a Masonic perspective.  As you can see, the duties are such that no person of good-repute would object to them in any way. 

Note: The following has been 'passed around' on the internet many times and although we could not provide appropriate attribution immediately, Bro. Frederick K. Davidson of Ohio (who was about to become Master of his lodge) notes that it is taken from "The Master's Book" by Carl Claudy.

The incumbent of the Oriental Chair {a Masonic colloquialism for the chair which the Master occupies in the East of the Lodge} has powers peculiar to his station; powers far greater than those of the President of a society or the Chairman of a meeting of any kind. 

President and Chairman are elected by the body over which they preside, and may be removed by that body. A Master is elected by his lodge, but cannot be removed by it; only by the Grand Master or Grand Lodge. 

The presiding officer is bound by the rules of order adopted by the body and by its by-laws. A lodge cannot pass by-laws to alter, amend or curtail the powers of a Master. Its by-laws are subject to approval by the proper Grand Lodge Committee or by the Grand Master; seldom are any approved which infringe upon his ancient prerogatives and powers; in those few instances in which improper by-laws have been approved, subsequent rulings have often declared the Master right in disregarding them.

Grand Lodges differ in their interpretation of some of the "ancient usages and customs" of the Fraternity; what applies in one jurisdiction does not necessarily apply in another. But certain powers of a Master are so well recognized that they may be considered universal. The occasional exceptions, if any, but prove the rule.

The Master may congregate his lodge when he pleases, and for what purpose he wishes, provided it does not interfere with the laws of the Grand Lodge:

For instance, he may assemble his lodge at a Special Communication to confer degrees, at his pleasure; but he must not, in so doing, contravene that requirement of the Grand Lodge which calls for proper notice to the brethren, nor may a Master confer a degree in less than the statutory time following a preceding degree without a dispensation from the Grand Master. 

The Master has the right of presiding over and controlling his lodge, and only the Grand Master or his Deputy may suspend him. He may put any brother in the East to preside or to confer a degree; he may then resume the gavel at his pleasure - even in the middle of a sentence if he wants to! But even when he has delegated authority temporarily the Master is not relieved from responsibility for what occurs in his lodge. It is the Master's right to control lodge business and work. 

It is in a very real sense his lodge. He decides all points of order and no appeal from his decision may be taken to the lodge. He can initiate and terminate debate at his pleasure, he can second any motion, propose any motion, vote twice in case of a tie (not universal), open and close at his pleasure, with the usual exception that he may not open a Special Communication at an hour earlier than that given in the notice, or a Stated Communication earlier than the hour stated in the by-laws, without dispensation from the Grand Master.

He is responsible only to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge, the obligations he assumed when he was installed, his conscience and his God.

The Master has the undoubted right to say who shall enter, and who must leave, the lodge room. He may deny any visitor entrance; indeed, he may deny a member the right to enter his own lodge, but he must have a good and sufficient reason therefore, otherwise his Grand Lodge will unquestionably rule such a drastic step arbitrary and punish accordingly. Per contra, if he permits the entry of a visitor to whom some member has objected, he may also subject himself to Grand Lodge discipline. In other words, his power to admit or exclude is absolute; his right to admit or exclude is hedged about by the pledges he takes at his installation and the rules of his Grand Lodge.

A very important power of a Master is that of appointing committees. No lodge may appoint a committee. The lodge may pass a resolution that a committee be appointed, but the selection of that committee is an inherent right of the Master. He is, ex officio, a member of all committees he appoints. The reason is obvious; he is responsible for the conduct of his lodge to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge. If the lodge could appoint committees and act upon their recommendations, the Master would be in the anomalous position of having great responsibilities, and no power to carry out their performance.

The Master, and only the Master, may order a committee to examine a visiting brother. It is his responsibility to see that no cowan or eavesdropper comes within the tiled door. Therefore, it is for him to pick a committee in which he has confidence. 

So, also, with the committees which report upon petitioners. He is responsible for the accuracy, the fair-mindedness, the speed and the intelligence of such investigations. It is, therefore, for him to say to whom shall be delegated this necessary and important work.

It is generally, not exclusively, held that only the Master can issue a summons. The dispute, where it exists, is over the right of members present at a stated communication to summons the whole membership.

It may now be interesting to look for a moment at some matters in which the Worshipful Master is not supreme, and catalog a few things he may not do.

The Master, and only the Master, appoints the appointive officers in his lodge. In most jurisdictions, he may remove such appointed officers at his pleasure. But he cannot suspend, or deprive of his station or place, any officer elected by the lodge. The Grand Master or his Deputy may do this; the Worshipful Master may not.

A Master may not spend lodge money without the consent of the lodge. As a matter of convenience, a Master frequently does pay out money in sudden emergencies, looking to the lodge to reimburse him. But he cannot spend any lodge funds without the permission of the lodge. 

A Master cannot accept a petition or confer a degree without the consent of the lodge. It is for the lodge, not the Master, to say from what men it will receive an application, upon what candidates degrees shall be conferred. The Master has the same power to reject with the black ball that is possessed by any member, but no power whatever to accept any candidate against the will of the lodge.

The lodge, not the Master, must approve or disapprove the minutes of the preceding meeting. The Master cannot approve them; had he that power he might, with the connivance of the Secretary, "run wild" in his lodge and still his minutes would show no trace of his improper conduct. But the Master may refuse to put a motion to confirm or approve minutes which he believes to be inaccurate or incomplete; in this way he can prevent a careless, headstrong Secretary from doing what he wants with his minutes! Should a Master refuse to permit minutes to be confirmed, the matter would naturally be brought before Grand Lodge or the Grand Master for settlement.

A Master cannot suspend the by-laws. He must not permit the lodge to suspend the by-laws. If the lodge wishes to change them, the means are available, not in suspension but in amendment.

An odd exception may be noted, which has occurred in at least one Grand Jurisdiction and doubtless may occur in others. A very old lodge adopted by-laws shortly after it was constituted, which by-laws were approved by a young Grand Lodge before that body had, apparently, devoted much attention to these important rules. For many years this lodge carried in its by-laws an "order of business" which specified, among other things, that following the reading of the minutes, the next business was balloting. As the time of meeting of this lodge was early (seven o'clock) this by-law worked a hardship for years, compelling brethren who wished to vote to hurry to lodge, often at great Inconvenience.

At last a Master was elected who saw that the by-law interfered with his right to conduct the business of the lodge as he thought proper. He balloted at what he thought the proper time; the last order of business, not the first. An indignant committee of Past Masters, who preferred the old order, applied to the Grand Master for relief. The Grand Master promptly ruled that "order of business" in the by-laws could be no more than suggestive, not mandatory; and that the Worshipful Master had power to order a ballot on a petition at the hour which seemed to him wise, provided - and this was stressed - that he ruled wisely, and did not postpone a ballot until after a degree, or until so late in the evening that brethren wishing to vote upon it had left the lodge room.

A Worshipful Master has no more right to invade the privacy which shrouds the use of the black ball, or which conceals the reason for an objection to an elected candidate receiving the degrees, than the humblest member of the lodge. He cannot demand disclosure of action or motive from any brother, and should he do so, he would be subject to the severest discipline from Grand Lodge. 

Grand Lodges usually argue that a dereliction of duty by a brother who possesses the ability and character to attain the East, is worse than that of some less well-informed brother.

The Worshipful Master receives great honor, has great privileges, enjoys great prerogatives and powers. Therefore, he must measure up to great responsibilities.

A Worshipful Master cannot resign. Vacancies occur in the East through death, suspension by a Grand Master, or expulsion from the Fraternity. No power can make a Master attend to his duties if he desires to neglect them. If he will not, or does not, attend to them, the Senior Warden presides. He is, however, still Senior Warden; he does not become Master until elected and installed.

In broad outline, these are the important and principal powers and responsibilities of a Worshipful Master, considered entirely from the standpoint of the "ancient usages and customs of the Craft." Nothing is here said of the moral and spiritual duties which devolve upon a Master. 

Volumes might be and some have been written upon how a Worshipful Master should preside, in what ways he can "give the brethren good and wholesome instruction," and upon his undoubted moral responsibility to do his best to leave his lodge better than he found it.  Here we are concerned only with the legal aspect of his powers and duties.

Briefly, then, if he keeps within the laws, resolutions and edicts of his Grand Lodge on the one hand, and the Landmarks, Old Charges, Constitutions and "ancient usages and customs" on the other, the power of the Worshipful Master is that of an absolute monarch. His responsibilities and his, duties are those of an apostle of Light!

He is a gifted brother who can fully measure up to the use of his power and the power of his leadership.

* Masons have a standing joke about Past Masters which might be instructive for those who might still harbor any doubts as to the power which a PM holds. The joke is that the 'sign and word' of a Past Master consists of poking a finger into the chest of anyone who'll listen accompanied by the words "They didn't do it that way in my term....".  This light-hearted remark reminds every Past, present or future Master that they have risen but briefly from the ranks and to the ranks they will soon return. It is an honor to serve the membership of the Lodge; it is not a grab at deification nor an opportunity for world domination. We trust this joke is instructive to those who think that a Master has some sort of all-encompassing power! Please feel free to tell it to any Mason; you'll consistently get a great belly laugh and strong agreement from those who've served as Master of a Lodge.

MASONIC AUTHORITY:

While this has been explained over and over, some folks simply don't 'get it' because it upsets their conspiracy kookery.

As shown above, "Masonic authority" pertains to lodge matters alone, such as when a lodge meets, who is eligible for membership, what size and color apron members can wear, etc. (And then, such decisions are not made by the Master but are, rather, governed by written by-laws and prior decisions, copies of which are available for ANYONE to purchase at nominal prices. In my jurisdiction, all of the books are available for free online! "Masonic authority" can not tell you how to run your personal life, such as what to eat, where to shop, when to sleep, who to invite over to watch football, whether to pay your light bill, and so on.

It really is quite that simple - and if you look closely at those making the claim, they simply cannot provide a single example to support their misreading of rituals or their flights of fancy. None of this has ANYTHING to do with controlling another's life. What it has a LOT to do with, however, is selling books and videos to the unsuspecting or the gullible.

AN INVITATION

In our e-mail we sometimes find intriguing questions which others may also have but have never asked. Here's one:

I received this email from a family member. It appears to have been sent just to me rather than a mass email. He is in {state}, I live in {3,000 miles away!}. I removed identifying information for privacy purposes. Is this an invitation to consider joining? Perhaps it's a ceremony open to the public inducting him to a certain position? I want to ensure I give proper attention to this and respond properly. I must inform him I can't attend due to travel requirements, but I am not sure how to properly respond. Again, I am not sure if this is inviting me to join, or if it's an invitation to an induction ceremony for him. Thank you for any clarification and assistance in helping me properly respond. Tom

Friends & Brethren,

You and your family are cordially invited to the XXth Installation of Officers of (name of town)Lodge XXX.

Place: (Name of Town) Masonic Lodge

xxxx Main ST, town, state

Date: January 2, 2010

Time: 3:00 P. M.

Reception to follow in dining hall

Sincerely,

"Name of Sender", Master Elect

======================================

My reply was as follows:

======================================

Hi Tom,

What you've received is an invitation to a public ceremony where the new officers of a lodge for the coming year are being installed. In some jurisdictions, elections are held and the installation must occur within a VERY short period of time. (In New Hampshire, for example, I believe that it's 15 days while in Massachusetts it could be two or three months - or even as much as five or six!) It sounds like this is one of those 'hurry up and do it' jurisdictions! {Perhaps my disdain for that type of thing is evident? <smile> It just doesn't give the man enough time to prepare - but I digress....}

It used to be that such invitations were spread far and wide on lovely printed cards: a man being elected Master of his lodge is quite proud of his achievement and it's really a 'big deal' in Freemasonry even though it happens all the time. (I don't have any firm statistics but I'd venture to guess that out of 30-50 Masons, only one will become Master, if that helps put it in perspective.)

Today such notices are often sent by e-mail, particularly in those 'short notice' jurisdictions.

To help you frame a response, here's what you should know:

1) Generally someone being elected Master invites friends and family; while there are some who'll invite everyone from the Mayor to the dogs in the local kennel, most of the time you want people who you know and respect to be there. Family members, neighbors with whom you've been close, perhaps even childhood friends.

2) You're under no obligation to attend. It's much the same as being invited to a high school graduation for a niece: the invitations are sent but if you don't attend, nobody is going to get too very upset. (They might cry crocodile tears but it's not likely - and you probably will still get an invitation to the next family barbecue they hold!)

3) A 'congratulations' card might be a very nice way of responding, with a handwritten note inside saying that you're unable to attend. You can say why you can't attend if you wish but it's really not necessary. Again, it's similar to what you might do for a wedding invitation. I know of no Master who expects everybody on the invitation list to show up.

4) This is NOT an invitation to join Freemasonry nor should it be construed as such. To become a Mason, one must ASK! You've been invited to a public ceremony for a friend or relative - with no strings attached!

I hope this helps and although this is the first time anyone has asked, I think this would be a good thing to add to my website. Your information won't be used in it but perhaps there are others who might benefit from my answer.

Enjoy 2010!

Regards,
Ed King, Webmaster
http://www.masonicinfo.com    Anti-Masonry: Points of View


Last updated 27 December 2009
 

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