Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges
My brothers, it is my great pleasure and privilege to preside over this thirteenth World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges and to welcome each of you to the first to be held in Eastern Europe. The First World Conference was held in Mexico City in 1995 and was known then as the World Conference of Grand Masters. The conference held in Bucharest, Romania is the 13th and is now known as the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges.
I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to explore this beautiful country and discover what should make it one of the great tourist attractions in Europe. I have spent much time here over the past dozen years, and have come to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty in its mountains, it's coast on the Black Sea, it's ancient ruins, it's old cities and of course, the legend of Dracula.
I have had the privilege of attending 12 of the 13 World Conferences and at the 3rd held in New York City in 1998, I was elected as Executive Secretary. Little did I know what that vote would mean to my life for the next 16 years. Much water has flowed over the dam in those ensuing years and the demands incumbent on the office has increased considerably.
Whereas, the function of the Executive Secretary was to be simply, the coordination and assistance with the conferences every 18 months, it has taken on a much more significant role in world Freemasonry. A considerable amount of time that I now commit to the conference is in visiting and speaking at symposiums and conferences, negotiating and mediating and trying to assist in resolving divisive issues, interviews by the media and simply responding to the hundreds of emails that I receive in a number of different languages, each month.
We have seen many changes in Grand Lodge operations during these years, along with the consecration or re-consecration of new Grand Lodges. Indeed, the rate of expansion of Freemasonry in this new millennium may be the most rapid at any period in our history. This truly is a remarkable age for Freemasonry.
The very fact that we are being hosted by a grand lodge in Eastern Europe would have been an unheard-of phenomenon just a couple of decades ago. We have experienced within these decades, the extraordinary character of Freemasonry, to rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of our past in this part of the world.
We have been able to experience the tenacity of an organization unparalleled in its survivability and influence. This is why we are the largest and the oldest fraternal organization in existence. This is why we have carried the respect of multiple societies for centuries. This is why we were able to impact the evolution of civil societies, indeed of civilization itself. This is why we remain the greatest organization ever conceived by the mind of man.
The establishment or reestablishment of Freemasonry in this part of the world, however, has not been without its challenges. There has been more dissension and more challenges to regular Freemasonry, resulting in Shiism's than anywhere else in the world, perhaps in our history. Although some of the dissension has been resolved, we still have a long way to go, and it will be the responsibility of the leadership to divest themselves of any self-limiting egos that interferes with these resolutions. It must also be the responsibility of the leaders of older established regular Freemasonry, to advise and assist with limited interference, these newly established grand lodges.
My brothers, this craft has attracted some of the greatest thinking men that have ever lived in this world, and it was these brothers who contributed greatly to the image of Freemasonry that became known to the world. Realistically, without this attractive force we could never have achieved the status that we have.
I look at three major reasons why Freemasonry was able to grow to its greatness. First of all, we did attract this caliber of man. Secondly, we provided an environment in which men of all class distinctions could sit in a room as equals. Finally, we remained constant on the quality of the man that we would accept. Without anyone of these three factors we could not have become what we became and if we fail to retain them, we will not remain as we are, in fact, we may not even remain.
This fast-paced world in which we find ourselves living today and the pressures of political correctness has had a tendency to cause us to warp our values, those same values that contributed to forming the image for which we were known. Well, my brothers, Freemasonry is not, nor was it ever meant to be for every man. It was structured on the quality of the member that caused the profane world to respect it and for others to want to become part of it.
Modern technology out of necessity is causing us to change our operational procedures, but we cannot permit it to change our philosophical values. We must continue to provide an environment where men of all social classes can sit together as equals, but it is just as important for us to be able to attract the great men of today's world. We must remain selective on the quality of the man that we will accept. By lowering our standards, we diminish our image and contribute to our own extinction.
The isolationist attitude that characterized Freemasonry for over two and a half centuries has now been overridden by modern technology and information on the World Wide Web. As we all are aware, much of this information is incorrect and has been placed there by those who have chosen to be our enemies, as well as by many of our own well-meaning members whose ignorance of the true significance of Freemasonry is exceeded only by their egos.
I made this observation at the VII world conference, "There continues to exist within our craft a degree of instability that ferments disharmony and prevents regular Freemasonry from working as a unified force toward any common goal. Schism's continue to occur, leadership continues to fail, competing grand lodges continue to arise, standards for recognition continue to be ignored and bodies subordinate to grand lodges continue to create internal dissension."
10 years have passed and I make the same observation at this conference. Not only do the divisive issues continue to exist, but they have increased. My brothers, the responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of the leadership who have been either unable or unwilling to acknowledge and deal with them.
The World Conference has for 19 years provided an environment where world leaders of Freemasonry can meet and establish an understanding of the issues that impact our craft and yet instability within grand lodges continues to exist. Perhaps the phenomenon of rapid expansion of the craft has destabilized the relative tranquility that we experienced in the not-too-distant past.
It is incumbent on each one of us to shoulder that mantle of responsibility that we assumed when the craft elected us to lead and if we will not or cannot, then we should walk away. I sincerely trust that this conference will serve as a positive influence, and as a stimulus to rededicate ourselves to the philosophical precepts of our craft. We owe it to those brothers who have preceded us, and left us with this unsurpassed legacy. We also owe to the world.
I will now review the rules under which this conference will conduct its business in accordance with our Constitution:
1. The World Conference will be open to Regular Masonic Grand Lodges only.
2. The Grand Master, or his representative, and the Grand Secretary will be the only brothers permitted to be seated at the conference table and entitled to speak.
3. The World Conference will not discuss political matters.
4. The World Conference will not discuss religious matters.
5. No Grand Lodge will attempt to use the World Conference as a platform to seek special favors or financial assistance from any participating Grand Lodge.
Please keep in mind the stated purposes of the conference as well as the limits on what may be presented and discussed.
My brothers, we not only sit here as equals in accordance with Masonic precept, but we sit here as leaders of Masonic equals. We have each taken on a mantle of responsibility to perpetuate the precepts and goals of Freemasonry and to set the image of what we expect from those whom we lead. Egos that may interfere with our ability to set that image must be divested. So let us circumscribe our desires and dedicate ourselves to the work of showing to the world the true meaning of the Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God.