by Christopher Hodapp
The Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM's annual session was held this week in Waco, Texas, and new grand officers were elected and installed. Outgoing Grand Master Brad Billings has been succeeded by MW G. Clay Smith, Grand Master for 2023.
There appears to be a faction within the Grand Lodge of Texas that objects to the programs and changes made during Billings’ term of office in 2022. Presumably to stave off any more newfangled ideas creeping into their grand officers’ line, an attempt was made on Saturday to deny installation to the elected Grand Junior Warden, James Rumsey, who is apparently seen as supportive of Billings' policies.
Just as the new Grand Master, G. Clay Smith, prepared to proceed with the installation ceremonies for the incoming grand officers for 2023, he was handed a sheet of charges to be brought against the incoming Grand Junior Warden. A public video of the event (which has since been removed from YouTube) showed Smith immediately stumbling through a previously prepared, scripted acceptance of the charges he had just been handed.
Curious. This was clearly not spontaneous.
According to multiple sources, charges had originally been filed against Rumsey during the tenure of GM Billings, but their GL Jurisprudence Committee had dismissed them. The timing was cleverly planned: the “new” charges were handed to Grand Master Smith immediately after he was installed as GM, but before the rest of the installation ceremony started. The move was purportedly a last-ditch, Hail Mary attempt to block Rumsey’s installation after he was overwhelmingly elected to the GJW position.
Immediate Past Grand Master Billings was a relatively young grand master, and a small but stubborn group didn’t care for changes he made or recommended during his year.
A point of order was immediately raised by outgoing GM Billings, objecting to the fact that the new GM could not accept said charges during the installation because the assembled representatives of the state’s lodges are themselves “the Grand Lodge” when it is in session: it is up to the assembled Grand Lodge to accept charges during that meeting, and a GM can only act in its stead when the session is closed.
The Grand Lodge session was officially at refreshment for the duration of the installation, and this attempt at scuttling the new GJW played out in the presence of wives and families.
GM Smith declared that the matter would be dropped for the moment, to be discussed in Executive Session instead, and the installation of Rumsford proceeded without further interruption.
The supportive roar of the crowd was thunderous.
My understanding of Texas code is that charges against a Mason in that jurisdiction must be presented at the Stated Meeting of his lodge, where they are read and accepted. The lodge Secretary then forwards them to the Grand Secretary's office, where they are presented to the Grand Master for his decision to accept them or not. If accepted by him, they then become official charges and can proceed to a trial.
Tweetbook, Snaptwit and Facespace and other (anti-)social media lit up all weekend with comments from Texas Masons who are double-plus-un-pleased by this little drama. This may be a bumpy year in the Grand East of the Lone Star state, and it started to hit chuckholes before it even officially started.