Freemasonry Is Dying
By Wor. Bro. Frederic L.
Once you can get yourself to
accept the fact that Freemasonry is Dying, then perhaps some progress can be
made in downsizing, consolidating, making Appendant Bodies stand on their own,
raising dues significantly and other acts of resuscitation. Terminally ill
patients require drastic and sometimes untried measures to save them.
What’s that you say? You don’t
think Freemasonry is dying? Brother Lance Kennedy will show you the facts.
Facts don’t lie.
DECLINE OF FREEMASONRY: A DATA ANALYSIS
by Brother Lance Kennedy
Bro. Lance Kennedy
is not angry when there is just cause to be angry is immoral.”
We hear the word “decline”
whispered and spoken in low tones in our halls. No one dares speak it aloud as
it may invoke the demons we seek to banish. Instead our collective body spins
its wheels with failed programs and a constant rehashing of mid-20th-century
mediocrity. The anxiety amongst the tribe of men called Freemasons is
palatable. Will we see the end of Freemasonry in our lifetimes?
While I am tempted to delve into
the reasons behind our decline, and without a doubt we are experiencing such a
trend, as well as prescribe remedies for our communal ills, this article will
focus solely on the factual basis of our decline and nothing more. We must
come to terms with the state of our fraternity before we can discuss the
reasons behind our demise and the means by which we can save it from the fate
experienced by the Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose Lodges, and numerous other
I want to make it abundantly
clear that the body-Masonic is dying. Dying. Say
that word aloud several times until you realize that the fraternity that has
given you so much joy, provided charitable relief to countless millions, and
initiated millions of men into the Western Mystery Tradition is dying.
Dying. And dying a slow and ignominious death despite
mandatory open houses, “come as you are” attitudes towards dress and
appearance, and quick and easy initiations.
I know you want me to stop
waxing poetic and get to the data, so without further ado I will present you
with my basic findings. I have taken for my analysis the raw data compiled by
Service Association of North America (MSANA) of the totals of Masons in
United States Grand Lodges for the fiscal years indicated. According to the
MSANA, these figures are based upon the MSANA’s records and do not necessarily
correspond exactly with those published by other sources.
The data referenced in this
article was made available by and with the permission of the MSANA. I spoke
with Simon R. LaPlace, Past Grand Master of Connecticut and Executive
Secretary of the MSANA, who permitted me to reference him in this article.
Brother LaPlace stated that MSANA’s membership numbers are requested from each
US and Canadian Grand Lodge. Each Grand Lodge uses different metrics to
determine who should be counted. For example, some Grand Lodges include
Entered Apprentices in their overall numbers. Some Grand Lodges count only the
number of Masons in their jurisdiction while others count each Mason in every
lodge (e.g., a Brother who is a member of two lodges is counted twice). Also,
the numbers submitted to MSANA can vary according to the time of year and do
not always reflect the year-end total.
Brother LaPlace stated that the
greatest inaccuracies in submitted reports occur when Grand Lodges change
Grand Secretaries. He cited one instance where a Grand Secretary did not
include endowed members in his annual report, so membership numbers in his
jurisdiction decreased significantly. However, his successor in office
included endowed members in his report, thus inflating numbers from the prior
submission. While the numbers MSANA provided are not perfect, they are the
best numbers available for this sort of analysis. I cannot claim that they are
exact or predictive, but rather helpful in making educated generalizations
about the state of our Fraternity.
We can debate whether the apogee
of Freemasonry in the US was when it held the greatest influence, political or
otherwise, or rather when the largest percentage of US males were Masons in
absolute terms or as a percentage of the population. While it may be
beneficial to debate this point, I do not believe it is necessary to do so at
this time. For the sake of this analysis, I define the word “apogee” as the
absolute number of Masons.
In terms of absolute numbers,
Freemasonry reached its apogee in the fiscal year 1959 when 4,103,161 American
men were Masons. The raw data is attached to the bottom of this article, which
includes the fiscal year, the absolute number of Masons, the absolute number
of Masons lost, and the percentage loss. The data shows a steady decline in
the reported number of Freemasons since 1959.
On average, each year reflects a decrease of
around 50,000 Masons. Currently there are around one million Freemasons in the
US and if the trend continues, our collective numbers will drop below one
million in one and a half years, reaching post-Civil War levels. The chart
above reflects a sigmoid function or “S-curve.” S-curves exhibit a progression
from a small beginning that accelerates as it approaches a climax over time,
then levels off in its mature phase. While the overall downward trend is
troubling, the real issue is reflected in this second chart.
The second chart details the loss of Masons in
absolute terms. Numerical losses for the fiscal year 1974 were the largest
recorded, though this number might be a result of reporting errors. From
fiscal year 1974 to 2013 the average percentage lost per year was 2.693%. What
is troubling is that since 2013 the losses have begun to increase again.
As previously mentioned, the
data shows that Masonic membership trends generally follow an S-curve. If it
were a true S-curve our current yearly losses would amount to a decline of
around 1%, however, the average rate of loss from 2013 to 2017 was 3.795% as
reflected in the third chart. If this rate of loss continues, we will see a
collapse of our membership rather than the leveling off that a S-curve would
The US has historically had a
very large Masonic population, both in absolute and percentage terms, compared
with European nations. In European countries, Masons account for around 1% of
the male population between 18 and 65 years of age. In the US membership is
approaching this number, around 1.08%, however, the loss of membership between
2013 to 2017 is much higher than expected. If this trend continues between
2018 and 2022 the situation will go from bad to critical. Freemasons will
account for less than 1% of the US adult-male population and will become
virtually insignificant as an institution.
In the introduction to this
article I told you to repeat the word “dying” to yourself. Do it again.
Dying. Dying. Dying.
Our fraternity is dying.
While I will not diagnose the causes or cures for our ailing condition in this
article, it is necessary for every Mason to come to terms with our present
state. This awareness was the goal of this article and I hope you will take a
moment to soberly ponder the very real possibility that Freemasonry in the US
will go the way of the Elks or Odd Fellows, that is into
the fraternal graveyard.
However, I am hopeful that we
will heal our present malaise with the salve of the mysteries. Instead of
becoming a Rotary club with regalia, we will reignite the fires of Initiation
and case off the shackles of mediocrity.
Brent Morris, “Boom to Bust in
the Twentieth Century: Freemasonry and American Fraternities,” 1988 Anson
Jones Lecture, Transactions of the Texas Lodge of Research,
John Belton, “The Missing Master
Mason,” 1992 Kellerman Lecture for Victoria, Proceedings of the 1992
Australian Masonic Research Council Conference, Melbourne,
Lance Kennedy is a Texas
Freemason, a writer, military officer, attorney, Ivy League graduate, and
Brother Kennedy was raised in
2007. He is an Endowed member of University Lodge 1190 and Highland Park Lodge
1150 (Grand Lodge of Texas, AF & AM); member of The Harvard Lodge (Grand Lodge
of Massachusetts, AF & AM); full member of the Texas Lodge of Research; 32nd
Degree Mason and member of the Valley of Dallas, Scottish Rite’s Southern
Jurisdiction; Knight Templar and member of the Dallas Commandery; member of
the Scottish Rite Research Society.