2 November, 2007
Circular 07/15

To be read in full in all Chapters & Councils.
To all members of the Scottish Rite in Australia

Statement from the Supreme Council of Australia

Scottish Rite Masonry is the largest body of Masons in the World working under a common constitution, the Grand Constitutions of 1786 which is subscribed to by all recognised Supreme Councils throughout the world.

The Order is Universal and has been since its first consecration in 1801. The Grand Constitutions make no restriction as to faiths. More than 90% of the 61 Supreme Councils in the world are Universal.

However, both England and Scotland chose to implement a Trinitarian Christian Scottish Rite which, in due course, they also established in Australia. Although when established the Supreme Council for Australia also followed the Christian tradition, it did so solely because its constituent Chapters did so. There was no requirement inserted in the Charter establishing the Supreme Council for Australia that membership of the Rite be restricted to Christians. The only stipulation they placed in the Charter they granted to John Keith Lawrence is to "... form, organise and establish, agreeably to the Grand Constitutions ... of 1786, a Grand & Supreme Council .."

Since 12 October 1985 the Supreme Council for Australia has existed as a recognised Supreme Council and is Sovereign in every respect. After twenty two years, it has decided that the requirement that a candidate undertakes an obligation in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is an unnecessary restraint. Supreme Council has decided that membership should be open to all properly qualified Master Masons.

The Sovereign Grand Commander confirms that the decisions which have been made by the Supreme Council in this regard are valid in every respect.

All Sovereign Chapters which currently work a Christian ritual will not only be permitted to continue to do so in the future but are encouraged to do so and indeed, if it is the wish of their members, to enhance their membership (i.e. 'market themselves') on that basis.

Indeed, no existing Sovereign Chapter will be permitted to adopt a Universal ritual unless and until the Supreme Council is satisfied that the overwhelming majority of its members wish this to occur. Any petitions for the creation of new Sovereign Chapters -Christian or Universal -will be dealt with by the Supreme Council in the usual way. Future members of the Order will adopt the Ritual of the Chapter they join.

Members of the Rite are reminded that there is already great variety in the Rite:

  1. The 18th degree is based on the lessons of Christianity. The Supreme Council for England and Wales generally restricts its workings to the 18th Degree. In England, contrary to the Australian practice, you may see the 30th Degree only once (when it is conferred upon you) or you may receive it by patent. Similarly with 31st and 32nd Degrees. Thus, there is limited opportunity to see, and none to work, the Higher Degrees. All Higher Degrees are worked by members of the Supreme Council for England and Wales.
  2. The Supreme Council for England and Wales was the sponsor of new Supreme Councils in India and Cyprus. Both of these Supreme Councils have provision for Chapters to elect to be either Christian or Universal, working Christian or Universal rituals.
  3. Note also that the Supreme Council for the State of Israel allows Chapters to elect to work one of five Rituals; a Universal ritual, a Jewish ritual, a Muslim ritual, a Christian ritual and a German ritual (which is most likely Universal since the Supreme Council for Germany is Universal.)
  4. Following on from the agreements with the Chapters previously under the Supreme Council of England and Wales and the current offer made to Chapters under the Supreme Council for Scotland that they could retain their Rituals, regalia and practices, it was felt that one more Ritual would be no great hardship and would add to the richness of the fabric of the Rite in Australia.

At its core, Freemasonry is about tolerance. A firm adherence to one's religious beliefs must be coupled with an acceptance that another may be equally firm in his adherence to another set of religious beliefs. The essential character of the Rite remains unaffected by what is, in essence, an administrative change.

It has been stated that the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory has brought pressure to bear on the Supreme Council to adopt a Universal ritual but it should be understood that whilst discussions between the two Orders have impinged on the timing of this move, the move for change came from within the Supreme Council itself and has been under consideration for some years.

With respect to the issue of inter-visiting, experience with Supreme Councils overseas, Craft Lodges, Royal Arch Chapters and the like demonstrates that this will not be a problem. No member of a Christian Chapter will find anything offensive or objectionable in a Universal Chapter (indeed, they might find that the differences will highlight various aspects of the Christian ritual) and vice versa. The Refectory will not be a problem if the hosts make their guests feel comfortable.

No existing member needs to change anything to continue to enjoy membership of this Rite whilst we will all be able to add to the breadth of our experience in Masonry.

Grand Secretary General, HàE

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