2011 Biennial Session: Laying the Cornerstone for Our Third Century

Lieutenant Grand Commander Curtis N. Lancaster, 33°, SGIG in Utah, performs the Ritual Opening of the Supreme Council, on Monday, August 22, 2011.

By S. Brent Morris, 33°, Grand Cross, Managing Editor

Right: Lieutenant Grand Commander Curtis N. Lancaster, 33°, SGIG in Utah, performs the Ritual Opening of the Supreme Council, on Monday, August 22, 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011, in Washington, D.C., saw the opening of the Supreme Council, 33°, for the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA, 210 years after it opened as the world’s first Supreme Council. The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has grown to be the largest Masonic Rite anywhere, with Supreme Councils on every continent except Antarctica, and thirty-six of those Supreme Councils sent representatives to this biennial session.

Prior to the formal opening on Monday, Supreme Council members, attendees, and guests gathered for a tea reception at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the St. Regis Hotel. Following the reception at 3:30, all walked to the historic St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square across from the White House for Vesper Services. Grand Chaplain, W. Kenneth Lyons Jr., 33°, G.C., officiated, with music provided by Michael Lodico, Associate Organist & Choir Director, St. John’s Church, and singers from  the St. John’s Choir. SGC Ronald A. Seale, 33°, read Psalm 37, which includes these reassuring words, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The offertory was for the benefit of RiteCare Childhood Language Programs.

On Monday the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton opened at 8:00 a.m., and members and guests started taking their seats. As the hour approached 9:00, there were video messages projected on large screens from some of the brothers around the world who would be following the opening on the live webcast. Greetings came from Honolulu, Hawaii; Seoul, Korea; Minona, Minnesota; Sharana, Afghanistan; Napoca, Romania; Travis AFB, California; Obernburg am Main, Germany; and Fort Worth, Texas. All together there were 10,000 viewers of the live video feed.

At precisely 9:00 a.m., Grand Tyler, Robert G. Watkins Jr., 33°, walked to the front with drawn sword and announced to those assembled, “The Supreme Council of the Thirty-third and Last Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America (Mother Supreme Council of the World). All will please rise.”

MW Valur Valsson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Iceland, presents Grand Commander Seale a book about the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in his home country, at the Sovereign Grand Commander’s dinner Sunday evening.Left: MW Valur Valsson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Iceland, presents Grand Commander Seale a book about the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in his home country, at the Sovereign Grand Commander’s dinner Sunday evening.

After this notice to those assembled, the Supreme Council processed in accompanied by the Grand March from Aida played by Grand Organist F. Reed Brown, 33°. First came the Grand Standard Bearer, Michael D. Smith, 33°, SGIG in South Carolina, and the Grand Sword Bearer, Jerry B. Oliver, 33°, SGIG in Minnesota, then the active members of the Supreme Council in pairs in order of seniority, then the deputies and members emeriti, and finally Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald A. Seale, 33°, escorted by Ill. Stephen M. Munsinger, 33°, Grand Master of Ceremonies and SGIG in Colorado.

When the Inspectors, Deputies, and Officers were seated in their stations and places, the Grand Herald, Thomas E. Payne III, 33°, SGIG in New Mexico, fulfilled the first duty of all Freemasons and the fellow soldiery of the Temple when assembled and insured that the Supreme Council would be undisturbed during its deliberations. The Grand Commander then asked Lieutenant Grand Commander Curtis N. Lancaster, 33°, SGIG  in Utah, four penetrating questions: What are we? Whence do we come? Whereunto are we journeying? What is our duty here? After receiving satisfactory answers, the Grand Commander asked the Grand Chaplain, W. Kenneth Lyons Jr., 33°, G.C.. To invoke the aid and protection of our Father in heaven, after which he opened the Supreme Council for deliberations.

Sovereign Grand Commander Deary Vaughn, 33°, United Supreme Council, S.J., Prince Hall Affiliation, addresses attendees of the Monday Opening Session.Right: Sovereign Grand Commander Deary Vaughn, 33°, United Supreme Council, S.J., Prince Hall Affiliation, addresses attendees of the Monday Opening Session.

Grand Secretary General William B. Brunk, 33°, SGIG in North Carolina, called the roll of the craft and had the sad duty to report that three had laid down their working tools: Ill. Robert L. Goldsmith, 33°, Grand Prior and SGIG in Florida; Ill. Robert W. Woodward, 33°, G.C., Deputy for NATO Bodies; and Ill. Dexter W. Lum, 33°, Deputy for Hawaii and Guam. Five members emeriti were present and recognized: Ill. Charles S. Iversen, 33°, District of Columbia; Ill. C. B. Hall, West Virginia; Ill. David Kruger, 33°, Virginia; Ill. John E. Moyers, 33°, Kentucky; and Ill. A. James Wriston, 33°, Hawaii.

With the Supreme Council open, the Grand Commander then individually welcomed the thirty-two grand masters present and led the brethren in giving them public grand honors. MW Jesse Villarreal, 33°, Grand Master of the District of Columbia, responded for the grand masters. The first of several short videos, “Families and Friends: How Women Value Men’s Participation in the Fraternity,” was shown to all.

Since the opening of the Mother Supreme Council in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has grown to 58 Supreme Council recognized by us, and 36 sent representatives to this session. The Grand Commander individually welcomed these representatives, and responses were given by Ill. John Wm. McNaughton, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, and Ill. Matthew F. Todd, 33°, Canada, President of the World Conference of Supreme Councils. Grand Minister of State, William R. Miller, 33°, SGIG in Washington, assisted the Grand Commander in presenting jewels and certificates to the newly elected Emeriti Members of Honour from among the visiting representatives. Then another short video was shown, “Faith and Symbolism,” featuring Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, 32°, followed by fraternal greetings from Ill. Deary Vaughn, 33°, Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, Prince Hall Affiliation.

The “Family of Freemasonry” has grown from the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717 to include scores of organizations—including the Scottish Rite—that base their membership on the Masonic Fraternity. Nineteen such organizations sent representatives to our session, and the Grand Commander next greeted each individually and welcomed them. Miss Kristi Frazier, Oregon, Supreme Bethel Honored Queen, International Order of Job’s Daughters, responded with Miss Brianna Richards, Alberta, Canada, Miss International Job’s Daughter, followed by Miss Sarah Hanlin, Grand Worthy Advisor of Maryland, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. Attendees then watched the video, “Service,” with Dr. Nathan S. Box, 32°. Final greetings from the appendant bodies came from Michael A. Burge, International Congress Secretary, International Order of DeMolay.

Actor Herb Otter, as Grand Commander Albert Pike, addressed the attendees of Monday’s Opening Session, before presenting the new annotated edition of Morals & Dogma to Grand Commander Seale.Left: Actor Herb Otter, as Grand Commander Albert Pike, addressed the attendees of Monday’s Opening Session, before presenting the new annotated edition of Morals & Dogma to Grand Commander Seale.

Grand Executive Director William G. Sizemore, 33°, G.C., gave a summary of the operations of the Supreme Council, following which was an alarm at the outer door. The Grand Commander said to the Grand Tyler, “You will attend the alarm and report the cause.” After a brief delay, the Grand Tyler returned with a guest and announced, “Grand Commander Albert Pike.” After a brief pause to consider who had requested admission, the Grand Commander gave a simple response, “Admit him!” With this brief but formal introduction, the Grand Tyler escorted in Albert Pike (or perhaps it was someone dressed like him). The two Grand Commanders, Pike and Seale, then discussed Pike’s best known work, Morals and Dogma, why it had been written, how it had served the Rite, and how Grand Archivist and Grand Historian, Ill. Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, G.C., had prepared an annotated edition for the Rite today. Grand Commander Pike concluded his conversation with Grand Commander Seale by saying about the new edition, “I find it good and square work, such as is necessary to benefit the Craft.” With that, he returned to the place from whence he came.

SGC Seale said, “We are pleased to announce the completion of a monumental four-year effort, republishing the Morals and Dogma of the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction. In years gone by, a candidate, upon reaching the 32°, was given a large volume with the philosophy of this Supreme Council. Upon becoming Grand Commander I expressed the desire to Arturo de Hoyos that we reissue this volume, and from this time forth again make it available to our candidates as they proceed through our degree work. The difference is that Bro. Arturo de Hoyos has spend hours and hours and months and months annotating this volume with photographs, diagrams, cross references, study remarks—such that it contains in one volume the essence of the Scottish Rite Journey within the Southern Jurisdiction. This volume is now available for distribution.… One of the things that is special about purchasing one or two of these volumes at our session is all of the volumes that are sold here have been personally autographed by Arturo de Hoyos and they also bear a special insignia from the Supreme Council. It is a stamp indicating the volume was issued on the first day of issue. After this session is concluded, that stamp will be destroyed.” He then thanked Ill. de Hoyos saying, “You are a fellow worker in the quarry.”

Bro. Jason Van Dyke, 32°, introduced “The Life Masonic,” a monthly podcast by the Supreme Council available from www.scottishrite.org. Grand Treasurer General James D. Cole, 33°, SGIG in Virginia, discussed expenses and income of the Supreme Council and announced that a summary would be published in The Scottish Rite Journal. Chief Financial Officer, Jorge Franchi, 32°, KCCH, announced the winners of a credit card sales contest and presented checks for RiteCare clinics to the winning orients. First- and second-place for orients with more than 4,500 members were Texas and Florida; first- and second-place winners with less than 4,500 members were Louisiana and Nebraska.

A video trailer for the new House of the Temple video was shown with the announcement that the DVDs were available in the store and online. Director of Development Matthew T. Szramoski, 33°, gave an overview of the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign and the October 16–18, 2011, Cornerstone Ceremony Reenactment and Seminar. This was followed by the video, “Tolerance,” featuring Bro. Brad Paisley, 32°.

Grand Commander Seale next recognized the members of the Supreme Council who would retire before the 2013 session and for whom this was their last: SGIG in Arkansas, Dwayne F. Treat, 33°, and SGIG in California, William F. Stovall, 33°.

Director of Membership Services, Dean R. Alban, 33°, and Assistant Director, Stan Dodd, 33°, gave an overview of their department, explained the highly successful Brother-to-Brother Program, and introduced several brethren in attendance: Ill. Richard Brown, 33°, who as a young pilot flew Gen. Douglas MacArthur, 33°; Ill. Jay E. Patterson, 33°, an ABC videographer who has covered the White House for every president since Ronald Reagan; Ill. Geay Yacouba Ballo, 33°, Grand Commander of Slovenia, who at MIT switched from becoming a nuclear scientist to a medical doctor. These diverse and accomplished men are prime examples of what the Scottish Rite represents and whom it attracts. Membership Services then showed another of their videos, this one about Bro. Brandon Walezonia, an Entered Apprentice and a member of the Army’s Tomb Guard Platoon of the 3d U.S. Infantry.

Grand Commander Seale announced the results of several votes taken in Executive Session: five new active members; ten new Grand Cross recipients; Grand Prior, Robert F. Hannon, 33°, SGIG in Arizona; and Grand Chancellor, Stephen M. Munsinger, 33°, SGIG in Colorado. Grand Herald, Hugh W. Gill III, 33°, SGIG in Kansas, presented the Necrology Report and remembered those called from labor to refreshment.

The session’s final video was then shown. It featured Dr. Richard E. Draper, 32°, Medical Director, Hannibal Regional Medical Group. It related how the Scottish Rite paid for the tuition for his first year in medical school, and thus laid the foundation for his career and service to mankind. After the video, Grand Commander Seale called up Bro. Draper to make a few comments. The Grand Commander then called up the staff of the Supreme Council to receive recognition and thanks for the work they do.

With the business of the Supreme Council completed, Grand Commander Seale shared that he likes to compare allocutions from the past to see what other Grand Commanders have said. In 1901, Grand Commander James Richardson presided over the centennial of our Supreme Council and of the Scottish Rite and delivered his allocution 110 years ago. “He talked about us—we who are sitting here today. [Richardson said] there will come a day that this Council will celebrate its two-hundredth anniversary, and none of us will be there, so he said. We’ll be gone.… But the Council will be in good hands. The men that come behind us will love this Council and will love the Craft as ardently as we do. We fear not for the future, for the future is well taken care of by the men that will follow us.…”

SGC Seale continued, “What will our mark be? What are we saying about the next generation—indeed, the guys who will sit where we sit in future generations? I believe in them. I believe that when we are all gone … there will be other men, other brothers, that will come and stand in our stead and will take the torch from us and carry it forward. Our job, members of the Supreme Council, is not to secure our place, but to secure their place and to get the room ready, for they are on the way and the future belongs to them.…”

Following these closing remarks, Ill. W. Kenneth Lyons Jr., 33°, GC, Grand Chaplain, offered a closing prayer. SGC Seale then closed the Supreme Council in peace and harmony, until our next session in 2013, unless sooner convened.

At 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday the Scottish Rite Research Society held a luncheon meeting presided over by Ill. William J. Mollere, 33°, SGIG in Louisiana. Following lunch, Ill. C. DeForrest Trexler, 33°, Grand Secretary General, NMJ, spoke on “The Degree Rituals of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.”

Tuesday afternoon, the active and honorary members of the Supreme Council assembled in the auditorium of the Valley of the District of Columbia for the conferral of the 33°, Inspector General.