Secretaries of private Lodges need to have a good working knowledge of the Book of Constitutions. It is him to whom the Master or other Brethren will turn for advice on constitutional matters, and it is he who will seek to ensure that problems do not arise in any event. These notes bring to Lodge Secretaries’ attention some of the more important Rules in the Book of Constitutions (the B of C) and offer an interpretation or explanation where it might prove helpful. It should be emphasised, however, that there is no substitute for reading the B of C from cover to cover and becoming skilled in understanding, in particular, the application of the Rules that arise on a regular basis.
In going through this guide it is necessary to have a copy of the Book of Constitutions handy for reference purposes. In any case of difficulty, advice should always be sought from the Provincial Grand Secretary, on 0121 454 4422
The Rules to which reference is made in this guide are those in the 2005 edition of the B of C.
Rule 5 determines the order of precedence of members of Grand Lodge. (It also helps with the order of precedence of officers of Provincial Grand Lodge who hold an equivalent Provincial Rank). Rule 6 sets out the number of salutes that are given for each category of rank or style. It is important to note, for example, that whatever his rank prior to his appointment the Grand Secretary is automatically entitled on appointment to the style of a Very Worshipful Brother. By contrast a Deputy Provincial Grand Master is not entitled to that style unless and until he becomes a Past Grand Sword Bearer.
Rule 11 makes it clear that the meetings of Grand Lodge are known as Quarterly Communications. It is, therefore, incorrect, for the Lodge Secretary on the First Rising to report that, for example, he has received the Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge. He has in fact received the minutes of the proceedings at the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held on a particular date, or notice of a Quarterly Communication, and should report accordingly.
The Rules relating to Private Lodges begin at Rule 94 and end with Rule 191B.
Rule 101 underlines the requirement for the Warrant to be present at every meeting. The Master is the sole custodian of the warrant on behalf of the Grand Master, whose property it is, and he has to produce it at every meeting of the Lodge.
If a warrant is lost or improperly withheld from those lawfully entitled to hold or use the same or withheld by competent Masonic authority, the Lodge is required by Rule 103 to suspend its meetings. The status quo can be restored only by a warrant of confirmation or the recovery of the original warrant.
Rule 104 stipulates that the regular officers of the Lodge, that is those which the Lodge must have, are the Master, the two Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, two Deacons, Inner Guard and Tyler. It is also compulsory to appoint an Almoner and a Charity Steward, although they are additional officers. It is permitted to appoint a Chaplain, a DC, an ADC, an Organist, an Assistant Secretary and a Steward or Stewards as additional officers. No other appointments can be made. There is no such Office in a Private Lodge as ‘Senior or Chief Steward’; a Steward is a Steward. It is only possible to hold one regular office but a regular officer may hold one additional office; for example, the Junior Warden may also be the Charity Steward. Only subscribing members may hold office but this qualification does not apply to the Tyler. An Honorary member may not hold office. The Immediate Past Master is not an officer of the Lodge; he holds his position and responsibilities by virtue of his Mastership.
Rule 105 determines the eligibility of Brethren for the office of Master and says when the election should take place. Prior to the ballot the Master may suggest that a particular Brother is willing to go forward if elected and is commended by the Lodge Committee, but Brethren may vote for any member of the Lodge who is eligible. There is an alternative to the ballot procedure which allows the Master to make a declaration of the election provided there is strict compliance with the provisions of Rule 105 (a). At the Installation Meeting it is possible for the election of the Master to be void provided the procedure set out in the Rule is followed to the letter.
Rules 106 and 107 provide for the procedure to be followed in the event of the Master dying or becoming disqualified or resigning the office more than seven days or less than seven days before the Installation Meeting. Lodges must comply fully with these provisions. It is important to note the circumstances in which the postponement of the Installation may take place – Rule 108.
A Warden who is not invested on the night of Installation may not qualify for election as Master – Rule 109 – without dispensation.
The Treasurer occupies an elective office and is elected at the same meeting as the Master – Rule 112. This is another office to which election may be the subject of a declaration by the Master. The Tyler is also elected at the same meeting but, if a subscribing member is to occupy the office, (without emolument), he may be appointed with the other officers by the Master as prescribed by Rule 113.
Under Rule 115 no member may occupy the Master’s chair for more than two years in succession unless there is a dispensation from the Provincial Grand Master. No Brother may be the Master of two or more Lodges at any one time without a dispensation from the Grand Master. In these circumstances application should be made in writing direct to the Grand Secretary, with the appropriate remittance, well in advance of the election.
Rule 119 sets out what happens in the Lodge if the Master dies, or is not present. This Rule forbids the opening of a Lodge by an Installed Master who is not a subscribing member of the Lodge. If the Master is present he opens the Lodge; the only exception is when a Provincial Ruler is present, since he has a right to preside by virtue of Rule 122. The Rule also stipulates the seniority of those who may act when the Master is not present.
Rule 121 provides for the filling of vacancies in regular offices, other than the Master or Treasurer, by the appointment or election, as the case may be, of a member of the Lodge who does not hold a regular office. The procedure for the election of a ‘substitute’ Treasurer is set out in Rule 112.
Rule 127 is a most important provision since it imposes disqualifications or limitations on the right to visit Lodges. It admits of no compromise and Lodges have no discretion in the matter. A Brother who has ceased to be a subscribing member of every Lodge of which he has at any time been a member is not permitted to attend any Lodge or Lodge of Instruction if he has ceased membership under Rule 148 or has been excluded under Rule 181 until he again becomes a subscribing member of a Lodge. If he has been expelled or resigned from the Craft he forfeits the right to attend any Lodge or Lodge of Instruction. In any other case he may visit any one Lodge only once until he again becomes a subscribing member of a Lodge. It should be noted that this limitation does not mean a visit is permitted once a year; it means once and for all.
No Lodge of Instruction may be held without the sanction of a Lodge or by the licence and authority of the Grand Master (Rule 132). Minutes are to be kept recording the names of all Brethren attending the meeting and of those appointed to hold office, and those minutes have to be produced to the provincial Grand Master if he calls for them (Rule 133).
Rule 136 governs the procedure to be adopted for the making of By-laws. Strict compliance is essential. Elements to be covered by the By-laws are set out in Rule 137. When contemplating any amendments or alterations to Lodge By-laws, Lodge Secretaries are strongly recommended to discuss them with the Provincial Grand Secretary before any formal propositions are made in Open Lodge. When amendments are being suggested consideration might be given to bringing the Lodge By-laws into conformity with the model By-laws promulgated by Grand Lodge.
No Lodge may meet on Christmas day, Good Friday or a Sunday – Rule 139. Meetings may be moved in the specified circumstances or by dispensation on good cause shown; the holiday of the Master, for example, is not good cause. Likewise under Rule 140 a Lodge may hold Emergency Meetings by dispensation, but business that can only be transacted at a Regular Meeting is prohibited at an Emergency meeting, no minutes of any previous Regular Meeting may be read and there can be no Risings. It is vital that in any application to the Provincial Grand Secretary for a Dispensation for an Emergency Meeting, the precise nature of the object of the meeting should be made clear. Consideration should be given to stipulating some alternative work in case the original object is frustrated.
Rule 141 stipulates the procedure for a Lodge that wishes to change its venue. Again strict compliance is required. Any Lodge contemplating a move to a different meeting place should take no formal steps until the Provincial Grand Master has given his consent in writing. An early approach in this respect to the Provincial Grand Secretary is strongly recommended.
Under Rule 145 all members must pay the same amount of annual subscription – no discount for prompt or early payment is allowed; a smaller amount may, however, be payable by those members usually known as country or non-dining members if the Lodge By-laws permit.
Rule 148 is an important provision since it relates to a member ceasing to be a member of a Lodge. If a member fails to pay his subscription for two full years, at the moment of the expiration of that period he ceases to be a member without any step having to be taken by the Lodge Secretary other than to report the fact to the next Regular Meeting. The Lodge has no discretion to extend the period or to ignore the operation of the Rule which is automatic. Although a Lodge may proceed against a Brother who is in arrears with his subscription under Rule 181 by way of exclusion (if their By-laws so provide) this course of action is not recommended without prior consultation with the Provincial Grand Secretary. Reliance on the operation of Rule 148 is preferred
Rule 153 and its detailed provisions should be brought to the attention of the Treasurer for it sets out in clear terms his responsibilities. It is important to note that the bank to be used must be approved by the Lodge, and that all cheques must bear the signature of the Treasurer and (unless the Lodge resolves to the contrary) of at least one other member authorised by the Lodge. The rules governing the management of Lodge funds by the Treasurer apply equally to any other fund maintained by any other member of the Lodge.
A Lodge Committee permitted by Rule 154 and authorised by the Lodge By-laws does not have any executive powers. It simply reports upon proposals for membership of the Lodge and makes recommendations on any other matter that may be specifically referred to it by the Lodge. The decision making process is strictly reserved for the Lodge at Regular Meetings. A Lodge Committee is not a Board of Installed Masters nor should any other gathering of Past Masters be described as such. A Board of Installed Masters only arises when it is opened out of the Third Degree for the purpose of the Installation of the Master Elect, that is, when the Inner Workings are conducted. It cannot be constituted at any other time.
Rule 155 is probably the most important provision in the B of C relating to Private Lodges. It is a declaration that a Lodge has an undoubted right to regulate its own proceedings provided that they are consistent with the general laws and regulations of the Craft; in other words the Private Lodge, being the basic unit of association in Freemasonry, is autonomous but the provisions of the B of C are paramount.
Rule 158 requires enquiries to be made when a candidate for Initiation neither resides, nor has a principal place of business, in the locality of the Lodge to which he seeks admission. The Lodge Secretary makes those enquiries directly to the relevant Provincial Grand Secretary. No proposal for Initiation can be made until a reply has been received. The words ‘in the locality’ are significant and judgement (assisted by advice from the Provincial Grand Secretary, if necessary) should be used when drawing a line in cases involving addresses in areas spanning or a little beyond Provincial boundaries.
Rule 164, inter alia, prescribes the information to be placed on the summons for candidates for initiation, joining and rejoining. It must be followed strictly. It is important to note that the profession or occupation is one of the items to be specified in all cases.
Rule 167 allows Lodges to confer Honorary membership. Before taking such a step the proposed recipient should be asked for his consent to the proposal going forward and he should be made aware of the disadvantages and limitations of such an honour, e.g., not being able to vote in Lodge or to attend meetings of Grand Lodge.
An interesting provision is found in Rule 173. This allows a Lodge to pass and raise candidates who are not members of the Lodge at the request of the Master and Secretary of the Lodge in which they have been initiated. This is useful where some Lodges have a number of candidates waiting for these ceremonies and others have a shortage.
By virtue of the provisions of Rule 174 a Master Mason is entitled to a Grand Lodge Certificate immediately he has been registered in the books of Grand Lodge as having received the third degree. It should normally be presented to him in open Lodge and the fact entered on the minutes. Secretaries should make application to the Grand Secretary on the relevant form with no delay.
Rule 178 prohibits the wearing of Masonic regalia in public (which includes occasions such as the reception at a Ladies Evening and meetings in Lodge Rooms which non-Masons are invited to attend) unless the Provincial Grand Master has granted a dispensation. He is always willing to grant a dispensation for the purpose of Gentlemen’s Evenings free of charge.
Rule 179A requires a Brother to report certain convictions to the Master of his Lodge and the Master has a duty to report them to the Provincial Grand Secretary. The Brother may not then attend any Lodge or Chapter pending the determination of his case by the Provincial Grand Master. Masters are also required to report cases which are likely to bring Freemasonry into disrepute. Any Brother or Master in doubt about what to report should seek the advice of the Provincial Grand Secretary as early as possible.
Rule 181 allows a Lodge to exclude a member for sufficient cause. There must be strict compliance with all steps of the procedure. There is a right of appeal to the Provincial Grand Master. Any Lodge contemplating the exclusion of a member under this Rule should seek advice from the Provincial Grand Secretary before making any formal moves. It is important to note that Exclusion is the termination of a Brother’s membership of a Lodge by that Lodge under this Rule. Expulsion is the removal of a Brother from the whole of the Craft and can only be executed by Grand Lodge.
Rule 229 provides for recommendations of the Board of General Purposes, when adopted by Grand Lodge, to be treated as Edicts of Grand Lodge. These Edicts, which are binding on all private Lodges, are found in the booklet entitled ‘Information for the guidance of members of the Craft’. Masters and Secretaries of Lodges in particular should be fully conversant with the contents of the booklet. Copies should always be given to Initiates at the end of the ceremony and to the new Master on the night of his Installation. New editions are usually published by Grand Lodge in September each year.