Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
When was the last time you read your Lodge’s Bylaws?
Come on, you can be honest, because the only person who will “hear” your answer to the question is you. And I don’t mean skim them. I mean actually sat down and read them word for word, to understand what is contained in those Bylaws?
I suspect the answer to this question (if you are exercising the Third Degree of Truth) is very, very few of you have read your Lodge Bylaws. And I further suspect that of those few, even fewer have read them in detail, word for word.
This truth is troubling, at many levels. Other than the Ritual (contained in that “little red book) and the Codes (the SGL Code of General Laws and the Roberts Code of California Law or the Code of your Grand Lodge jurisdiction), your Lodge Bylaws are the most important document in the Lodge. And in some respects, it can become the most important document because it governs the operation of your Lodge – it is specific to your Lodge. Yet, in most Lodges, very few members have read their Bylaws, essentially leaving the Bylaws to the two or three members who serve on the Lodge Bylaws Committee. Technically, every member of the Lodge should have been given a copy of the Bylaws at the time of initiation, and certainly every member of the Lodge is entitled to see the Bylaws and have his or her own copy.
Why are the Bylaws important?
The following is a non-exclusive list of issues that are typically dealt with in Lodge Bylaws;
* The dates and times, and locations of your Lodge meetings.
* Who may call a special meeting, and how is it noticed.
* The special functions and duties of your Lodge officers, over and above the duties spelled out in Code.
* How often and when officers are elected (most Lodges elect annually, but a few elect semi-annually).
* Compensation or reimbursement for officers.
* Quorum requirements.
* Membership attendance requirements.
* How abstentions are handled.
* Rules of decorum at Lodge meetings.
* Rules that apply to deaths of members and members sick or in distress.
* Fee structure for various cards.
* Duties of Lodge Trustees.
* How are employees hired and fired, and who supervises them.
* Who has authority to sign contracts and purchase items for the Lodge.
* Proper handling of funds and signing of checks.
* Management of Lodge property.
* Election of representatives to Grand Lodge, and reimbursement for attendance at Grand Lodge.
* Lodge Committees and responsibilities of Committees.
* How committee members are appointed, and by whom.
* Associate Member requirements and dues.
* Alcohol use in the Lodge Hall.
* How to amend the Bylaws.
Does your Lodge’s Bylaws contain these items? Bylaws should be reviewed, updated, and modernized at least once every three years. Is that being done in your Lodge?
In the meantime, I recommend, as a first step, that you obtain a copy of your Lodge Bylaws. Hopefully, they are readily available to you on your Lodge’s website. Read them over. What you read will inform you, and it may even surprise you.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California