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Grand Master of Grand Encampment Pronounces Great Priory of America CBCS a Regular, Non-Templar Body

Updated: Jan 22, 2022

In an historic decision issued November 10, 2021, the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, Michael B. Johnson, has about-faced and reversed a decade long schism in the United States between York Rite Templary and the Rectified Scottish Rite.

S.K. Michael Johnson pronounced the Great Priory of America a non-Templar order and, therefore, not an irregular and unrecognized Templar order, as had been formerly decided in 2010 by S.K. Billy Koon when he was Grand Master (Koon Decision No. 2 (2010), implemented as Resolution 2012-1 at the 65th Triennial).

This issue smoldered away until a 77% vote at the 68th Triennial sought to end it. Unfortunately the super-majority vote was not sufficient to put the issue to bed: The Grand Master stated previously that, even though the Resolution implementing Koon Decision No. 2 (2010) had been rescinded, the Decision itself still stood. That is, until this Decision was issued Nov. 10, 2021.

The insane feud between these organizations seems set to end. This is good – the Great Priory of America, CBCS, has existed lawfully in the US since 1934 and has included Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment as members. The GPA is also recognized as regular by regular masonry worldwide. The Grand Encampment had taken an unusual and contrarian position in pronouncing them an irregular Templar Order, demanding that they cede sovereignty and come under the authority of the Grand Encampment. Understandably, such largesse did not sit well with the GPA.

The reasoning given by the Grand Master and his team for this about-face devolves essentially to the fact that the CBCS does not predicate its membership on membership in the Royal Arch. Neither was the GPA chartered by any Templar order that requires such membership. This, the Decision states, means the CBCS is not subject to the Concordat of 1910, which enumerated the standards of recognition between “Templar” orders and defined "Templary" as, inter alia, requiring the Royal Arch for membership.

You may read the Decision here:

Decision No 5-6 Series 2021-2024 11-10-2021_Redacted
Download PDF • 570KB

The fact that the Constitution of the Grand Encampment defines the Grand Encampment’s jurisdiction over the Orders of the Red Cross, Malta, and the Temple (none of which the CBCS confers either) is not mentioned in the Decision.

Nonetheless, the Decision restores the longstanding relationship between these venerable Rites to one of mutual amiability; at least, members of the GPA will not be expelled from the Grand Encampment by virtue of being members in the GPA.

However, even while it restores balance to chivalric Masonry, the Decision contains a few odd slights toward the GPA, e.g., stating that the GPA is “sub-standard” in its conferral of degrees and that “[t]heir sister Rectified Rite Orders consider the Great Priory of America little more than a supper club” and that “[w]hile they are recognized by Rectified Rite Orders created by Switzerland, they are not highly regarded within that Community.”

This vinegar mixed with wine is curious. It certainly does not jibe well with correspondence from the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d’Helvétie written over the last several years in support of the GPA. Nonetheless, the Decision is largely positive in the objective, if not the subjective, despite betraying some personal grievance of its authors.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Grand Master has largely back-peddled his position on this topic. This is positive, and signals reasonability. How this squares with his actions in removing David Kussman from office, though, remains questionable and unresolved. How could S.K. Kussman have committed “malfeasance” in negotiating an end to the dispute between the sister Rites where the GPA is not, and has never been, an unrecognized Templar order? This decision formalizes precisely what S.K. Kussman was charged to bring about. Does that mean S.K. Kussman will be restored to office?

As of Nov. 9, 2021, the Call to Conclave has been adopted by eleven Grand Commanderies, with more bringing the question to the floor in the coming month, thus executing Section 4(b) of the Constitution requiring a Special Conclave be called.

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