Around two years ago a Senior Freemason, in fact the Second Grand Principle of the Supreme Grand Chapter of England, was interviewed for Freemasonry1 Today, a regular magazine from the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).. The very last question asked was “do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?” The use of the term “ambassador” added confusion to some as they see this word to mean a senior government diplomatic office whose role is represent his/her home government to the government of the country to which she/he has been appointed. However, “ambassador” has alternate meanings, one of which is “an official agent with a special mission” or “an unofficial representative or messenger: an ambassador of goodwill.” The meaning in this interview (which pertained solely to English Freemasonry) is that of “messenger,” whose role is to assist and teach Royal Arch Masonry to Provincial and private Royal Arch Chapters across England.
This article was read by my colleague in Lebanon (now Editor in Chief of Al-Khabar.co) who asked “what is the link between Freemasonry and Diplomacy?” The reason behind this question was that, to many, Freemasonry has links to governments across the world, which, although there is no reason why a Freemason can’t also be a government representative or member, there is absolutely no connection between regular Freemasonry and any government.
It may be interesting to delve into history, when goodwill across the two Grand Lodges in England in the 18th century was in short supply, and it was the position of the Royal Arch Chapter that was the main reason for the schism during these early days.
Like much in Freemasonry, the true history of Royal Arch is lost in the mists of time, but the earliest records show that the Royal Arch2 was known in London, York and Dublin in the late 1730’s. However, the “Ancients” Grand Lodge (that was formed in London, England in 1753 from a few independent Lodges) held a different view to that of the “Premier” Grand Lodge (formed in London, England in 1717) in as much as they considered the Royal Arch as an integral part of their system, working it in their systems as the forth degree, whilst their contemporaries considered it to be separate. In fact, the ancients considered its warrants entitled them to work any of the known degrees in Freemasonry, where as the earlier Grand lodge worked to “pure” Craft degrees only and considered Royal Arch as an innovation, a separate degree to that of the three main craft degrees that this Grand Lodge followed and governed.
The Grand Chapter archives records that an independent Chapter met at the Turk’s Head Tavern, Gerrard Street, Soho, London in 1765, and exalted the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge into the Royal Arch. What followed was that, on its meeting on July 22 1766, they converted themselves into The Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem, the first Grand Chapter in the world.
Bringing these two factions of English Freemasonry together required a lot of diplomacy, and it wasn’t until 1813 that they finally came together to form the United Grand Lodge of England, and even then it wasn’t until 1817 before Royal Arch Chapters were no longer be independently chartered, but were to be sponsored by a Lodge, to whose warrant the Chapter was to be attached, and whose number and, later, name they were to bear. Added to this act of diplomacy, former Ancients Lodges were to cease working the Royal Arch within their Lodges, the Royal Arch members petitioning for a Charter forming them into a Chapter attached to that Lodge.
But, returning to that interview with the Second Principle of the Supreme Grand Chapter (renamed to this rather quietly in 1821), having been asked whether he was an “enforcer” or “ambassador,” chose the latter, as he didn’t feel it the role of a Grand Chapter to force direction on companions in Provinces or private Chapters, rather to “help and guide them in the right direction.” This entails encouraging the leaders of Royal Arch to ensure that companions fully understand the meaning of the message given from the Royal Arch ritual, to pause and reflect on, for example, “why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?”
Also, the aim was to increase membership, which since the time of the interview in 2017 has been effectively achieved. In this diplomatic way the Second Grand Principle believes he can assist companions in having a better understanding of “our unique Order.”
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, current Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
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