Imagine a company with an amazing CEO which has lead said company for the past year with such vision and enthusiasm that profits have doubled and stocks are worth more than ever before. Now imagine that same company holding a board meeting and voting to replace this same CEO with the president. The CEO did a great job, in fact he saved the company from having to close it’s doors. He loved his job and wouldn’t mind continuing to serve the company, however his time is up. Sure, everyone recognizes that the president is nowhere as capable as the outgoing CEO but a year has passed and this is how it has always been done.
What would people say about such a company that operates in this manner? Would people want to invest time and money with it? Could it even be expected to survive for very long?
Of course, as Freemasons we do this all the time. Once a year we assemble in our lodges and vote to move the Worshipful Master out of his seat and place the Senior Warden in the East, often without a lot of serious consideration about the consequences of such an action because “it’s always been that way”.
In times when many masons, lodges, and Grand Lodges are concerned about membership numbers and the longevity of our fraternity as a whole, why do we simply shrug out shoulders and give so little thought to who ends up in the most powerful position of any masonic lodge?
I believe the progressive line does serve a purpose: to train and prepare brethren for leadership positions in the lodge while giving the other members ample time to determine if a brother is, or will ever become, leadership material. Just as we have to be physically qualified to be made masons, so should brethren be mentally qualified to become leaders.
Many masons can recall lodges which were once healthy and thriving yet fell into a terrible condition within a short amount of time. How many times, I wonder, can these hard times a lodge faces be attributed to poor leadership? Take a lodge which has been successful, be it one, two, five, or ten years, and dump an incompetent Worshipful Master in the East and all watch as all the hard work and effort of those that came before stops bearing fruit.
So, in closing, I don’t believe the progressive line is a bad concept. In fact, when properly utilized it serves the important function of preparing masons for eventual leadership of the lodge if they prove they are capable. Sadly however, there seems to be a sort of apathy regarding the progressive line in many lodges. Many brethren get elected to the East whom few brethren believe are, or will ever be, capable of serious leadership. Still other brethren elect someone to the East thinking or hoping that putting a hat on the man will mold him into a capable leader in some sort of trial by fire.
If we want our fraternity to grow, even thrive, in the future then we must seriously reevaluate the progressive line in our lodges and reconsider how it is being implemented in our lodges. Is it providing opportunities and experience needed for brethren to grow as leaders? Or, is it serving as a conveyor belt for officers, pushing them closer and closer to their final destination in the East without any thought or consideration?