SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VII No.8
THE POWERS OF THE WORSHIPFUL MASTER
Grand Lodges differ in their interpretation of some of the "ancient
usages and customs" of the Fraternity; what applies in one
Jurisdiction does not necessarily apply in another. But certain
powers of a Master are so well recognized that they may be considered
universal. The occasional exceptions, if any, but prove the rule.
The Master may congregate his lodge when he pleases, and for what
purpose he wishes, "provided" it does not interfere with the laws of
the Grand Lodge. For instance, he may assemble his lodge as a
Special Communication to confer degrees, at his pleasure; but he must
not, in so doing, contravene that requirement of the grand Lodge
which calls for proper notice to the brethren, nor may a Master
confer a degree in less than the statutory time following a preceding
degree without a dispensation from the Grand Master.
The Master has the right of presiding over and controlling his lodge,
and only the Grand Master, or his Deputy, may suspend him. He may
put any brother in the East to preside or to confer a degree; he may
then resume the gavel at his pleasure - even in the middle of a
sentence if he wants to! But even when he has delegated authority
temporarily, the Master is not relieved from responsibility for what
occurs in his lodge.
It is the Master's right to control lodge business and work. It is
in a very real sense "his" lodge. He decides all points of order and
no appeal from his decision may be taken to the lodge. He can
initiate and terminate debate at his pleasure, he can second any
motion, propose any motion, vote twice in the case of a tie (not
universal), open and close at his pleasure, with the usual exception
that he may not open a Special Communication at an hour earlier than
that given in the notice, or a Stated Communication earlier than the
hour stated in the by-laws, without dispensation from the Grand
Master. He is responsible only to the Grand Master and the Grand
Lodge, the obligations he assumed when he was installed, his
conscience and his God.
The Master has the undoubted right to say who shall enter, and who
must leave the lodge room. He may deny any visitor entrance; indeed,
he may deny a member the right to enter his own lodge, but he must
have a good and sufficient reason therefore, otherwise his Grand
Lodge will unquestionably rule such a drastic step arbitrary and
punish accordingly. "Per contra," if he permits entry of a visitor
to whom some member has objected, he may also subject himself to
Grand Lodge discipline. In other words, his "power" to admit or
exclude is absolute; his "right" to admit or exclude is hedged about
by pledges he takes at his installation and the rules of the Grand
A very important power of the Master is that of appointing
committees. No lodge may appoint a committee. The lodge may pass a
resolution that a committee be appointed, but the selection of that
committee is an inherent right of the Master. He is, "ex officio," a
member of all committees he appoints. The reason is obvious; he is
responsible for the conduct of his lodge to the Grand Master and the
Grand Lodge. If the lodge could appoint committees and act upon
their recommendations, the Master would be in the anomalous position
of having great responsibilities, and no power to carry out their
The Master, and only the Master, may order a committee to examine a
visiting brother. It is his responsibility to see that no cowan or
eavesdropper comes within the tiled door. Therefore, it is for him
to pick a committee in which he has confidence. So, also, with the
committees which report upon petitioners. He is responsible for the
accuracy, fair-mindedness, the speed and intelligence of such
investigations. It is, therefore, for him to say to whom shall be
delegated this necessary and important duty.
It is generally, not exclusively, held that only the Master can issue
a summons. The dispute, where it exists, is over the right of
members present at a Stated Communication to summons the whole
It may now be interesting to look for a moment at some matters in
which the Worshipfu
The Master, and only the Master appoints the appointive officers in
his lodge. In most Jurisdictions he may remove such appointed
officers at his pleasure. But, he cannot suspend, or deprive of his
station or place, any officer elected by the lodge. The Grand Master
or his Deputy, may do this; the Worshipful Master may not.
A Master may not spend lodge money without the consent of the lodge.
As a matter of convenience, a Master frequently does pay out money in
sudden emergencies, looking to the lodge for reimbursement. But he
cannot spend any lodge funds without the permission of the lodge.
Some Jurisdictions do allow the lodge by-laws to permit the Master to
spend emergency funds up to a specified amount without prior consent
of the lodge.
A Master cannot accept a petition, or confer a degree without the
consent of the lodge. It is for the lodge, not the Master, to say
from what men it will receive an application, or a petition; and upon
what candidates degrees shall be conferred. The Master has the same
power to "reject" through the "black cube" as any member has, but no
power whatever to "accept" any candidate against the will of the
The lodge, not the Master, must approve or disapprove the minutes of
the preceding meeting. The Master cannot approve them; had he that
power he might, with the connivance of the secretary, "run wild" in
his lodge, and still his minutes would show no trace of his improper
conduct. But the Master may refuse to put a motion to confirm or
approve minutes which he believes to be inaccurate or incomplete; in
this way he can prevent a careless, headstrong Secretary from doing
what he wants with his minutes! Should a Master refuse to permit
minutes to be confirmed, the matter would naturally be brought before
the Grand Lodge or the Grand Master for settlement.
A Master cannot suspend the by-laws. He must not permit the lodge to
suspend the by-laws. If the lodge wishes to change them, the means
are available, not in suspension; but, in amendment.
An odd exception may be noted, which has occurred in at least one
Grand Jurisdiction, and doubtless may occur in others. A very old
lodge adopted by-laws shortly after it was constituted, which by-laws
were approved by a young Grand Lodge before that body had,
apparently, devoted much attention to these important rules.
For many years this lodge carried in its by-laws and "order of
business" which specified, among other things, that following the
reading of the minutes, the next business was balloting. As the time
of meeting of this lodge was early (seven o'clock) this by-law worked
a hardship for years, compelling brethren who wished to vote to hurry
to lodge, often at great inconvenience.
At last a Master was elected who saw that the by-law interfered with
his right to conduct the business of the lodge as he thought proper.
He balloted at what he thought was the proper time, the last order of
business, not the first. An indignant committee of Past Masters, who
preferred the old order, applied to the Grand Master for relief. The
Grand Master promptly ruled that "order of business" in the by-laws
could be no more than suggestive, not mandatory; and that the
Worshipful Master had the power to order a ballot on a petition at
the hour which seemed to him wise, provided - and this was stressed -
that he ruled wisely, and did not postpone a ballot until after a
degree, or until so late in the evening that brethren wishing to vote
upon it had left the lodge room.
A Worshipful Master has no more right to invade the privacy which
shrouds the use of the "Black Cube" (or Ball), or which conceals the
reason for an objection to an elected candidate receiving the
degrees, than the humblest member of the lodge. He cannot demand
disclosure of action or motive from any brother, and should he do so,
he would be subject to the severest discipline from the Grand Lodge.
Grand Lodges usually argue that a dereliction of duty by a brother
who possesses the ability and character to attain the East, is worse
than that of some less informed brother. The Worshipful Master
receives great honor, has great privileges, enjoys great prerogatives
and powers. Therefore, he must measure up to great responsibilities.
A Worshipful Master cannot resign. Vacancies occur in the East
through death, suspension by a Grand Master, expulsion from the
Fraternity. No power can make a Master attend to his duties if he
desires to neglect them. If he will not, or does not attend to them,
the Senior Warden presides. He is, however, still Senior Warden; he
does not become Master until elected and installed.
In broad outline, these are the important and principal powers and
responsibilities of a Worshipful Master, considered entirely from
the standpoint of the "ancient usages and customs of the Craft."
Nothing is said here of the moral and spiritual duties which devolve
upon a Master.
Volumes might be and some have been written upon how a Worshipful
Master should preside, in what ways he can "give the brethren good
and wholesome instruction," and upon his undoubted moral
responsibility to do his best to leave his lodge better than he found
it. Here we are concerned only with the legal aspect of his powers
Briefly then, if he keeps within the laws, resolutions and edicts of
his Grand Lodge on the one hand, and the Landmarks, Old Charges,
Constitutions and "ancient usages and customs" on the other, the
power of the Worshipful Master is that of an absolute monarch. His
responsibilities and his duties are those of an apostle of Light!
He is a gifted brother who can fully measure up to the use of his
power and the power of his leadership.