Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Masonic Franchise

While visiting St. Paul Lodge No. 3 Tuesday night, I started thinking about the relationship between the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and local lodges. It seems to me that the Grand Lodge is like a franchisor, and the individual lodges, franchisees.

No lodge in this state may open without a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. Certain requirements must be met by the individual lodges to keep their charter. While rare, the Grand Lodge has revoked lodge charters.

As I see it, there are two kinds of franchises: One that pretty much tells the franchisee what to do down to the last (or close to last) menu item. All the franchises look alike. The goal is to give the customer the same experience, no matter which franchise location is entered.

The other kind of franchise is exemplified by the credit card company, VISA, as described in The Dance of Change, by Peter Senge, et al. In the VISA organization, the franchisor laid down some very basic, but very broad rules with which the franchisee must comply. As long as those basic rules are upheld, the franchisee can operate its business in any profitable manner it chooses.

I think Masonry in Minnesota fits more the VISA model than the fast food franchise model. The Grand Lodge of Minnesota has established certain rules that the local lodge must abide by: The Charter must be displayed when lodge is opened. Certain officers in certain stations must be present for lodge to be opened. The ritual approved by the Custodians of the work for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota must be followed. Candidates may be received only upon petition, thorough investigation and unanimous ballot by the members of the lodge.

There are lodges where the members are connected by an affinity outside of the fraternity, such as teachers, firemen, meat cutters. There are lodges that are formed for a special purpose, such as our two newest lodges in Minnesota: Sir Winston Churchill Lodge to learn and emulate the British ritual, and Douglas MacArthur Lodge which has been formed to lend support to members of our Armed Forces and veterans.

Our Code and Bylaws are broad enough to welcome all these lodges and make them available to brothers who are intrigued or interested in them.