I spend a fair amount of time in Millennial Apprentices discussing the progressive line system and Masonic elections. I think my feelings can best be summarized in the following excerpt:
“While progressive lines in healthy Lodges do create a sense of predictability and consistency while providing on-the-job training to officer candidates, I also believe that not only is that outcome far from the norm, but it is directly opposed to the original intent of Masonic belief. At the time of the modern Fraternity’s founding, a version of what we would call a progressive line system existed all around the world in the form of Monarchical succession. This system allowed many unqualified and uneducated men and women to ascend their thrones and wreak havoc among their citizenry.
Freemasons, committed to enlightenment principles, chose the radical route of electing its leaders. While electioneering and improper decorum can be, and has, been a problem in the past, the progressive line system in unhealthy Lodges has bred systematic nepotism, stifled innovation and undercuts the Fraternity’s proud tradition of democratic values. Every Brother should have a say in the direction of his lodge. A system can be designed to prevent electioneering and provide a forum for a respectful, open competition of ideas and philosophies, creating a more inclusive atmosphere in Lodge and a sense that all members have a stake and say in the Lodge’s success or failure.”
In all my travels, I had yet to see a true Masonic election outside a Grand Lodge session. That is, until I visited Sunnyside Lodge #163 in Portland, Oregon two weeks ago. I happened to visit Sunnyside on the day of their annual elections of officers. Another visiting Brother and myself were asked to be the counters and I braced myself for the usual game of musical chairs. Instead I was astounded to see that almost every chair was a contested election. The election for Worshipful Master actually required two rounds of voting as the first ballot resulted in a tie. During the election for Junior Warden, the current Junior Warden who was running for re-election was actually unseated by a Brother from the sidelines!
After the Lodge was closed, and the Brother’s filed out for a delicious looking turkey meal. I stayed behind in shock and disbelief. I had never seen something like this before, and as a proponent of it, I was anxious to talk to somebody about how it works in reality. Luckily, a Brother was kind enough to answer my battery of questions and informed me that the contested elections result from Brother’s who have philosophical differences about how the Lodge should progress after some recent challenges. This does not result in disharmony, as everybody understands that all the Brothers have the Lodge’s best interest in mind, regardless of any differences they may have. It also gives all the Brothers a voice in what direction the lodge takes in the coming year.
And I think that speaks for itself. Thank you, Brothers of Sunnyside Lodge, for being a shining example to the Craft on this important matter!