The State of California, in case you haven’t already heard, is more than twice as large as the next largest jurisdiction. And, we are growing; therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that California is looking for more attention to be focused in its direction. The rest of the order in the United States is shrinking. This is borne out by an examination of the annual population lists printed by the Sovereign Grand Lodge. Let’s look at a few ways in which California feels it is under-represented:
- Sovereign Grand Representatives – all jurisdictions have 2 representatives to Sovereign Grand Lodge. In a smaller jurisdiction with, say, 200 members (there are quite a few this small) – there is a representative for every 100 members. In California, there is a representative for every 2200 members. Therefore, by this ratio, California members feel much less represented, in fact, they are as much as 22 times less represented.
- Political Candidates – Elections, as well as Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions, are almost always held on the East Coast, therefore those running from the Western United States run at a distinct disadvantage, since transportation costs are substantially more.
- Politicking. Politicking, while specifically against the code, is recommended at Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions. Of course, politicking even by its textbook definition costs more for West Coast members. While listed as being against both the Roberts Code of California and the Code of General Laws, it is permitted at Sovereign Grand Lodge perhaps because the general membership may feel that West Coast members are helped by this, but in fact, it works against them. One must examine the records of those running from the West Coast to see how poorly this works for Westerners. The Sovereign Grand Lodge Code of General Laws states that an offense of the order is “using political or electioneering methods for the selection of officers”. How does Sovereign Grand Lodge, you might ask, operate differently than the State of California? At Sovereign Grand Lodge, candidates may circulate, shake hands, pass out leaflets, pens, and their candidacy may be promoted by a nominating person who can make a speech extolling their virtues. A candidate may place into print a flyer more extensive than allowed in California, with a formatted or banner heading. Naturally, the more contact a candidate has with a voter, the more probable their vote. Conversely, in California, the candidate is only allowed to have their name placed into nomination (no further discussion is permitted), after a formal letter of qualifications is given. Again, the perception may be that all things are equal, but if on a regular basis a local member on the East Coast hob knobs with his local voters, how is this a level playing field? Answer it is not.
- Membership, or the lack of it, is seldom discussed at Sovereign Grand Lodge. Look at the first day proceedings at Sovereign Grand Lodge this year. Only Manchester Unity from England brought this topic up. Why is that? It is clearly apparent that most elderly members are not looking for new, generally younger, members.
- California, conversely, is growing steadily. We are increasing our statewide events. Of course, everyone knows of our Rose Bowl Float, but our Grand Master Mel Astrahan is also leading the way with IOOF TV, we have another brother who is championing an app for cell phones to locate local members, and other new developments. Yet there are those out there that profess their hatred for California. Why is this exactly?
- California demonstrates by its actions that it truly wants new members. California members started and run the Dedicated Members for Change, which now numbers in the thousands, and has singlehandedly added many members. Since you are reading this, you are reading it because it is endorsed by the DMC. Where exactly is the Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee? The Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee is comprised of mainly Past Sovereign Grand Master Jon Peterson, who wrote a scathing yet excellent report on the state of our order which has been totally ignored. No one else seems the least bit concerned.
- California, showing several consecutive growth years, is positioning itself to grow even faster in upcoming years. Why? Simple. New members tend to be younger than long time members. Simple longevity charts will prove this out. It’s time for elderly members to at least not serve as an impediment to the younger joining members.
Sovereign Grand Lodge can still grow by learning from the example of California. A) Establish an actual membership committee, with nationwide participation. B) Make representation equally fair to all members. Hold fair elections, without regional preference. C) Encourage growth and younger thinking. D) Accept that newer technologies are here to stay. And finally, make this an order of today, not yesterday. We can do it. Let’s start now.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles