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Mike Martin

Increase in Unsuitable Candidates

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In the recently circulated bUGLE update there are updates to the Pathway document and we see the statement below which we should all be aware of:

“The Tercentenary celebrations created an increase in public interest in Freemasonry and in the number of applications from unsuitable people. Lodges must be prepared to reject them.”

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Thanks God they finally realise that! In my province it was all about increasing membership no matter the quality of the candidates.

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Indeed and absolutely correct.  How many actually know of the existence of b.ugle.org.uk?  Not very many, I'm sure; I still come across even lodge mentors who have not heard of the Solomon knowledge resource.

When faced with two options: 1. a willing and totally unknown candidate, perhaps originating from the provincial office, and 2. no other prospect of a degree 'ceremony' on the horizon, which is the lodge committee likely to choose?  Answers on a postage stamp!  For many years now, the system has been pushing the importance of a numbers game; it will take time to calm that down.

Faced with that pressure from above as well as more unknowns from the Universities Scheme, I had a modicum of success in filtering out undesirables by trying to instill the need for each proposer to get to know the potential applicant over a period by informal meetings in public venues - think, interviewing the proposer!  We find that unsuitable candidates are not prepared to wait a few months (i.e. those who are not prepared to wait are almost by definition unsuitable).  Further, making sure the proposer is fully aware of his rule 171 responsibility tends cool his fervour and concentrate his mind on realities!

Remembering that we are discouraged from soliciting new members, we need to turn our attention to the education of members old and new alike into the meanings and attributes of freemasonry.  That way, good retention is achieved and a willingness to become involved.  One aim being the attraction of suitable members through a common interest and desire to progress.

/falls noisily off soap box!

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6 hours ago, Sentience said:

It will take a few years to return to the norm and a good few Lodges will be lost along the way as amalgamations are formed.  

So be it.  There are too many lodges right now with very thin attendances, making them unattractive to new members.  This is why UGLE brought in the Amalgamation scheme enabling them to re-form without paying joining dues.

I do not understand why some moribund lodges would rather close than amalgamate, I really don't.

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It was a comment as to what was needed, not a protestation.  I agree there are far too many Lodges these days and it seems some PGM's are not insisting on enough Founder Members to ensure a proposed Lodge is viable.  I also don't understand why a Lodge would prefer to be permanently erased, when the option of being Removed and begin a new chapter is available.

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Several years ago I was part of group interviewing a candidate who had been sent to us via Province.

The first question was regarding a Supreme Being and we were shocked when the interviewee answered with "Absolutely not, as a man of science I am an atheist and do not agree with any religion therefore I cannot believe in any Supreme Being"

Not a lot of wriggle room there.

He was hurriedly escorted from the room in the company of the PMs who were going to propose and second him and when he returned a few minutes later answered with "Absolutely I believe in a Supreme Being."

Needless to say despite my protestations he was accepted for membership, in fact when I raised my objection I had one member angrily say "well you go and find us another candidate before the next meeting then".

I spoke at length to both the Proposer and Seconder afterwards inviting them to withdraw the Candidate and on the evening voted with a black ball as I had already stated. As happens far to often that ball was palmed (however our by-laws state 3 to exclude but it still felt like a cover up)

That member joined the Lodge, is still a committed atheist and there are now plans afoot to exalt him into RA.

I have spoke to him on many occasions and informed him that the RA is all about your personal relationship with God, therefor how, as an atheist can be swear another obligation regarding something he does not believe in. His answer was "none of this is serious, I thought you couldn't be a member as an atheist but here I am". 

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That calls for a conversation with the Provincial Secretary as he has lied on his application; it's highly unlikely that Province would have passed him on if they'd known.

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9 hours ago, Ozymandius said:

Several years ago I was part of group interviewing a candidate who had been sent to us via Province.

The first question was regarding a Supreme Being and we were shocked when the interviewee answered with "Absolutely not, as a man of science I am an atheist and do not agree with any religion therefore I cannot believe in any Supreme Being"

Not a lot of wriggle room there.

He was hurriedly escorted from the room in the company of the PMs who were going to propose and second him and when he returned a few minutes later answered with "Absolutely I believe in a Supreme Being."

Needless to say despite my protestations he was accepted for membership, in fact when I raised my objection I had one member angrily say "well you go and find us another candidate before the next meeting then".

I spoke at length to both the Proposer and Seconder afterwards inviting them to withdraw the Candidate and on the evening voted with a black ball as I had already stated. As happens far to often that ball was palmed (however our by-laws state 3 to exclude but it still felt like a cover up)

That member joined the Lodge, is still a committed atheist and there are now plans afoot to exalt him into RA.

I have spoke to him on many occasions and informed him that the RA is all about your personal relationship with God, therefor how, as an atheist can be swear another obligation regarding something he does not believe in. His answer was "none of this is serious, I thought you couldn't be a member as an atheist but here I am". 

That's an absolute disgrace! Those brethren that push him to lie should be kicked out right away. I would report that immediately to the Provincial Secretary and if he does nothing than escalate. Did you raise your objections in open lodge?

You can still report that by the way

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14 hours ago, Sontaran said:

That calls for a conversation with the Provincial Secretary as he has lied on his application; it's highly unlikely that Province would have passed him on if they'd known.

 

14 hours ago, Ozymandius said:

Several years ago I was part of group interviewing a candidate who had been sent to us via Province.

The first question was regarding a Supreme Being and we were shocked when the interviewee answered with "Absolutely not, as a man of science I am an atheist and do not agree with any religion therefore I cannot believe in any Supreme Being"

Not a lot of wriggle room there.

He was hurriedly escorted from the room in the company of the PMs who were going to propose and second him and when he returned a few minutes later answered with "Absolutely I believe in a Supreme Being."

Needless to say despite my protestations he was accepted for membership, in fact when I raised my objection I had one member angrily say "well you go and find us another candidate before the next meeting then".

I spoke at length to both the Proposer and Seconder afterwards inviting them to withdraw the Candidate and on the evening voted with a black ball as I had already stated. As happens far to often that ball was palmed (however our by-laws state 3 to exclude but it still felt like a cover up)

That member joined the Lodge, is still a committed atheist and there are now plans afoot to exalt him into RA.

I have spoke to him on many occasions and informed him that the RA is all about your personal relationship with God, therefor how, as an atheist can be swear another obligation regarding something he does not believe in. His answer was "none of this is serious, I thought you couldn't be a member as an atheist but here I am". 

I would say this definitely needs to be taken up initially at provincial level.  The atheist would not seem to be at fault here (he told the truth) except in that he allowed himself to be persuaded to impugn the obligation he was made to repeated.  The error appears to lie with those who made him take that route.  Have a look at rules 75, 76 and 233 so you know what's likely to be involved.  In my view, he should be expelled from the craft and the brethren involved be excluded from the lodge, or suspended or at least strictly admonished.

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Some years ago, I was involved in a situation with the Grand Charity where when I made contact with the Lodge for background and explanation I was told that it was "instructed by Province to Initiate him" regarding a man who had applied to GC for financial assistance a fortnight after his Initiation. He had been in financial distress for some years prior to his admission and help was his motivation for joining the Lodge, unsurprisingly he did not remain a member after his application proved unsuccessful. 

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Rule 179A (e) & (f) also applies, particularly as regards the alleged improper solicitation, thus tending to bring freemasonry into disrepute.  If there was widespread connivance then the lodge itself could be put under suspension.  It's possible that could be avoided if the lodge puts its mind to it and reports itself having, at the same time, excluded the atheist thus showing it has acted in contrition.

On the slightly different area mentioned by Mike, there used to be the danger of cases where a UGLE member might solicit assistance as well as his spouse being assisted by one of the ladies' Grand Lodges.  This is one area where there is close cooperation.  Further, the danger of overlap between the UGLE charities has been addressed through the formation of the MCF, as the records of the UGLE charities are now more closely interlinked.

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I would also add, that as the guy has openly stated that he knew atheists could not join, he still went ahead and asked to begin with - and that's ignoring the actions of his 'proposer' and 'seconder' (deliberate quotes!). And yes, I agree that their actions should also be reported.

I used to interview applicants via the Province (as ProvAGSec), and I've always dropped quickly but gently, anyone who stated they were atheists (and yes, it has happened).

Ozy; I think you have a duty to the Craft and Chapter (and to the wider membership) to see that something is done about this - even if it means the lodge is sanctioned. I can't believe the Chapter can be aware of the situation - unless the same 'names' are involved!

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In the case of the Chapter I have spoken to the member proposing him and pointed out why it is not going to happen.

I pointed out that there is no way I can process his form knowing what I know.

The Proposer was there at that initial Craft interview so is fully aware of the situation but tried to fob it off as "he (the candidate) was confused"

Luckily the Chapter has members that are not also in the Lodge and they are aware of this.

 

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I’m curious to know how UGLE define “unsuitable people”. I also find the gender neutral phrasing strange. Regardless, overt atheists, those with criminal records etc. are obviously “unsuitable” men but how far do you extend the term?

 

My London lodge always manages to get candidates and all are what, prima facie, would be deemed good candidates. We’ve had barristers, taxi drivers, doctors, lorry drivers, former headmasters, IT consultants, magicians, pilots and all manner of professional men join in the last decade. Sadly our success and retention rate isn’t good and greater than 50% were ultimately “unsuitable”.

 

One chap turned up roaring drunk for his initiation (I don’t think we should have done the ceremony) and failed to turn up for his passing, we never heard from him again and he ended up being excluded.

 

Another joined (a salesman) and said all the right things at the enquiry. “Father in law was a Freemason, wife hugely supportive, plenty of free time, want to better myself as a person, love meeting new people”, and the list went on. It became clear he was only there to network for business opportunities. After two years and realising there was no financial gain, we never saw him again.

 

The former headmaster told us at his enquiry he’d always wanted to join, loved the idea of LoI, learning ritual and also being a concert pianist was a “perfectionist”. He received an outstanding initiation in the December, attended the installation in March, then we never heard from him again. He completely ignored all attempts at contact then wrote to us about one year later saying he’d “lost his faith in God” and resigned. 

 

All of the above were known men to their proposer and seconder. Our current Master has been absolutely fantastic and was a UGLE referral, unknown to everyone. On the flip side we had another referral circa 2009 and we never saw him again after his raising. 

 

After nearly twenty years in the Craft I can’t say (in general terms) with any confidence who I know is suitable and who isn’t. I doubt UGLE could provide any further direction on that either, making their statement above both vacuous and otiose. 

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Maybe things ought to go back to how they were many years ago.  Interested parties had to attend several social functions to be considered worthy of applying.  If successful on interview, they still waited at least 12 months to be Initiated.  It could in some cases take 5 years to get in, a test of stamina if ever there was one.  Unfortunately, there are Lodges with too many meetings and struggle to fill the meeting with anything worthwhile and think they need to have a ceremony.  As a result, they take Candidates just t give the Lodge something to do.  When Lodges do get an applicant, the fear factor strikes in that they believe that if they don't crack on with the Initiation, the applicant will tire of waiting and join another Lodge.

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Our (my) JW was an applicant via Province - I interviewed him as ProvAGSec and agreed to be his proposer - without telling him where my lodge was, I told him that where he lived he had a number of options open to him and asked where and which day suited him best. Only when he'd made his preference known did I say that I'd be happy to propose him - and it's turned out to be a very good decision.

He had originally arranged to visit Grand Lodge 5 years earlier and decided at that point that he wanted to join, but decided to wait as he was about to join the Royal Marines. He waited until he was in his last couple of months of service and knew where he wanted to live when he rejoined civilian life. I actually took that as a positive as it said to me that he had thought about things, and wanted to join Freemasonry where he'd be in a position to be a regular attender. He'd also been on a second tour before applying to make sure it was what he wanted, so had obviously given it a lot of thought.

His was the longest talk I ever had with a prospective candidate - 2 hours on the first meeting, and a further 3 hours on a subsequent meeting - and I let him do all the talking so I could get a feel .. and he ticked all the boxes.  I also know he's since been asked to help out on something at Province level, but I can't recall what (I was no longer in office when it happened).

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On ‎4‎/‎27‎/‎2019 at 3:07 PM, Sentience said:

Maybe things ought to go back to how they were many years ago.  Interested parties had to attend several social functions to be considered worthy of applying.  If successful on interview, they still waited at least 12 months to be Initiated.  It could in some cases take 5 years to get in, a test of stamina if ever there was one.  

Unfortunately in this day and age I don't believe this would work in all instances although I would love to be proved wrong.

It is also influenced by other agencies. For instance, there are over 50 Lodges meeting at one of my masonic centres so there is a serious case of oversaturation. A candidate will always be able to find a Lodge that will snap him up just to have work to do.

In another Province where I belong there is only one Centre in the vicinity and one Lodge. It has over 140 members and a waiting list of several years. Added to that chances are that any prospective candidate is known to many members.

I have to admit though that my biggest frustration regarding the interviews is when the prospective member is told that the Lodge holds social functions including Ladies nights.

My Lodge last held one in 2006 and when one member arranges to hold a garden party over the summer there is just usually the same half dozen members attending.

We have actually had members resign over this when they discovered later. 

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8 hours ago, Ozymandius said:

I have to admit though that my biggest frustration regarding the interviews is when the prospective member is told that the Lodge holds social functions including Ladies nights.

My Lodge last held one in 2006 and when one member arranges to hold a garden party over the summer there is just usually the same half dozen members attending.

We have actually had members resign over this when they discovered later. 

 

Quite right too - if they joined because of social events, then they joined for the wrong reason.  Wouldn't you agree?

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I do agree, however I have asked my lodge on many occasions "what do we offer a candidate that no other Lodge can?, what makes this Lodge different?" only to be met with blank stares.

The issue with meeting at a centre where so many other Lodges meet is that they are all in competition and no member of an interviewing committee wants to say "Maybe they would be better joining XXXXX Lodge instead".

It should all boil down to what is best for the candidate = what is best for the Lodge.

For instance I know of a member who relates how he tried for over 5 years to get his father-in-law to propose him to the Lodge, went to every Ladies night and social function and met with the members socially during those 5 years before his father-in-law finally proposed him, and laments the decline in freemasonry and how members keep resigning.

Yet as soon as there is the slightest sniff of a potential candidate who is not known to any member, insists that we must approve him for the next meeting or else "we won't have any work to do".

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I always let go of my concern by reminding myself that for every "horror story" or even proven "bad apple" there is at least a thousand perfectly good Freemasons happily making the world a better place starting with themselves.

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19 hours ago, Mike Martin said:

I always let go of my concern by reminding myself that for every "horror story" or even proven "bad apple" there is at least a thousand perfectly good Freemasons happily making the world a better place starting with themselves.

Well said

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On 4/22/2019 at 7:22 PM, Trouillogan said:

So be it.  There are too many lodges right now with very thin attendances, making them unattractive to new members.  This is why UGLE brought in the Amalgamation scheme enabling them to re-form without paying joining dues.

I do not understand why some moribund lodges would rather close than amalgamate, I really don't.

Or even worse, why some lodges would neither close nor amalgamate, but just die slowly.

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