On October 30th Chris Hoddap, well known American author specialising in masonic subjects (Freemasonry for Dummies, etc), wrote in his blog that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was proposing to more than double the annual fees a Brother pays in that state from US$29 (21€)to US$60 (44€).
Reading these figures I was tempted to think Hodapp had forgotten a zero. Further investigation reveals his figures to be correct. It also seriously raises the question of whether GLNF members are getting value for what they pay. Or, more simply, are we paying too much at the GLNF ?
The conclusions of the Bellot audit, ordered by Maître Legrand, suggest that GLNF members have been paying about 20% too much for some years, the excess having built up cash reserves far above what is considered usual prudential practice. No doubt some of the excess has been used to finance the plethora of property acquisitions the GLNF has undertaken in recent times behind a screen of SCIs and other business structures, the now widely publicised web of 27 satellite companies.
Let’s try to compare what is comparable. We are only talking about Lodge dues, not regalia, not festive board, not contributions to masonic charities, etc. In 2009 – 2010, the last time that dues were legally called, a grass roots member of a single Lodge out in provincial France paid 300 euros, distributed between his Lodge, his Province and Pisan. Readers must bear in mind that the bigger you get, the more economies of scale can be achieved. And even if the costs of such functions as the Annual Grand Lodge on the first Saturday in December are necessarily high, when they are split 43000 ways, the result should be reasonable.
LML in English decided to contact Brethren outside of France to see how much they pay. Let’s be realistic. Comparing the membership fees of the Grand Lodge of San Marino with the GLNF is an insult to your intelligence. So, we decided to contact the UGLE and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Same profile, grass roots member, single Lodge, etc.
The Brother contacted in England, member of a Lodge in a small town the south western counties, pays £150 (175€), split between Grand Lodge £65 (76€), Province £15 (17.50€) and his Lodge £70 (81.50€).
WBro. Jeff Gardiner, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, is a member of 14 Lodges in and around Boston. Asked to pick a middle of the range Lodge, plus the soon to be introduced Grand Lodge fee of US$60, he came up with a total of US$120 (88€) split equally between the two.
Our American Brethren pay a mere 29% of what we pay, UGLE members 58%. We could spend hours trying to analyse why GLNF members pay so much more than Brethren in similar Grand Lodges (there are those who suggest we get little for what we pay) . And no doubt the analysis would point up a number of factors that would bring the figures closer. But the fact remains that GLNF Brethren are paying very dearly for what they get, far more than our English or American Brethren. No doubt, with the publication of these comparative figures, the production of unauthorised glossy magazines, filled with tacky photos of a layman dressed in a big blue apron, lacking the obligatory legal notices and sent out in transparent wrapping revealing our membership to one and all will stick further in the Brethrens' craw.
Less blue aprons with gilded baubles, less Hollywood style receptions, less first class air tickets and 5 star hotels, and more true Masonry, that's what we want. With any luck we might even see a proposition from Pisan for a lower “exceptional contribution” !
But, no matter what, no AG, no money !!!
Additional information has arrived since first publishing this article. And all the figures confirm our conclusion :
Hong Kong 235€
Chartres (loge libre) 150€, hébergée
Canada, numerous replies ranging from 130€ to 200€
Florida 62€, Grand Lodge only (would be roughly double with Mother Lodge dues)
Switzerland (Suisse Alpina),around 200€
Ivory Coast, between 200€ and 240€