John Wesley Sowereign Chapter



Our District Resource Committee is currently monitoring an Education Committee Qualitative Research Study on the attitudes of Rose Croix Freemasons towards the Rite. One objective of the study is to prepare resource material for a District Seminar later in this 2003 year. The Seminar will aim to explore matters that affect the health of the district. Anecdotal data collected in this study has raised, among many other issues, serious questions on whether Brethren fully understand the Religious and other differences and responsibilities applicable in first joining Freemasonry and then in joining the Rite.


Tonight we are not receiving an address in the traditional understanding of a Homily, but rather a Discussion Paper that is titled "Being Different". It is my intention to raise a series of questions intended to stimulate our thinking and responsibilities in "Being Different". Different in being a practicing Rose Croix Member with Christian responsibilities in addition to being a Freemason relating to the first three degrees. It is not the intention in this paper to necessarily present answers but rather to encourage Brethren to apply themselves to the questions being asked. Brethren will have the opportunity at the conclusion of this presentation to comment or raise questions. Your responses will assist in the District Resource Committee study. The hand out of some summary points may assist in the discussion.


As an introduction to this subject of "being different", let me quote from the charge to the M. W.S. in the Enthronement Ceremony: May the precepts of morality and fervent piety lead us to repress every unkind thought and smooth every asperity of feeling. Here we have a challenge applicable to all Masons, what ever their degree. Look at this charge on your summary sheet as I repeat the charge with a change of language: May the teachings on morality and intense religious belief lead us to check every unkind thought and smooth every harshness of feeling.


This charge fits well within those foundations of Freemasonry; "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. " The precepts or teachings on morality, particularly those of "Faith, Hope and Charity" also thread themselves through all degrees of Freemasonry. But when we come to consider "fervent piety" or intense religious belief, we have to recognise the significance of "being different" in our responsibilities as a Christian Rose Croix Mason.


I believe that the Christian teachings of our Rose Croix Masonry charge us to recognise that the work of God's Kingdom is too important to be relegated to second place in the activities in which we are involved. Let us never forget the statement of the MWS relating to that "Application for Perfection" we all signed; "Brother (by name) having signed a petition stating that he professes the Trinitarian Christian faith and he is willing to take an obligation in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, we will proceed to the ballot." How well did we understand the obligations of that commitment when we signed that application to join the Rite?






We, as Rose Croix Masons, need to be sure that what we do both within our Lodge Room and in our daily life is designed to push ahead the work of God's Kingdom and not simply fit our own purposes. We are called to exercise the teachings of the first three degrees of Freemasonry as well as the Christian teachings of Rose Croix Masonry. This makes us different in our outlook on life and different in the example that we are to set in our life styles so that these differences will be seen.


How can we handle this difference so that it will contribute to the growth of the Rite? What lessons have we learned from the past that can lead us from a "proud past" into a "positive future?" What do sociologists have to say in our changing society that may help in our deliberations?


During this past century Australian multiculturalism has been founded on the idea of tolerance. Tolerance is, at best, a gift offered by the Powerful to the Powerless and more often an expression of putting up with what is painful. Is this word "tolerance" applicable to relationships between Masonry and the Rose Croix over the past century?


Do some Brethren seek advancement to Rose Croix Degrees primarily as a sign of greater Masonic "power or status?" Have we tolerated this type of activity and if so where does the fault lie?


Some sociologists suggest that, for our current society, the word "tolerance" should be replaced by the word "acceptance." Acceptance, it is claimed, takes us further than tolerance and leads us to more solid ground and may, if directed by sound leadership, serve as midwife to a new society; a new way to live that values differences in our multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-ethnic country. Acceptance also demands that we hear the needs and concerns of our Masonic Brethren whose first language is not English. The word "tolerance" may have built our nation but it has passed its used-by date. Does the Christ focused teachings of the Rose Croix Order of Masonry have a role to play in this task of acceptance of differences in a changing society?


Remember that obligation introduced earlier in this address: "We need to be sure that what we do as Rose Croix Masons is designed to push ahead the work of God's Kingdom and not simply fit our own purposes.”

Are we interested in participating in this birthing process in a changing society, a society that has different interpretations on meanings of wording, and if so, is tile word "acceptance" the word we want to offer? Are we prepared for tile word "acceptance" if it seriously involves tile inclusion of differences in planning for a "positive future of Rose Croix Masonry?"


There is a growing body of literature that is most critical of Christian based organisations of tile late 20di and early 21st century and argues strongly for change. Growing dissatisfaction and despair from many quarters shape this literature. Many in society today grieve for the Christian society that appears to have lost its way. Often this grief is experienced as apathy and weariness within the Christian community and is counterbalanced from so-called secular quarters by profound indifference to Christian organisations. Our Rose Croix Masonry is a Christian based organisation and we too need to hear the need for change.





How do we move from such numbing, inwardly focussed - and perhaps suicidal, tendencies? The Rose Croix membership, like many Christian based organisations, has been diminishing in numbers over recent decades. Have we failed to recognise that mission is not ours but God's. It may be very simple, in that all that the Rose Croix needs to do, to have any meaning at all, is to discover God's purpose behind our teachings and share in it. As a modem theologian suggests, "the difficulties and dilemmas Christian groups have been facing in recent decades may not be bad news and an affront to God. It could be that the hand of God is creating something new out of the old". Is the apparent decline in Rose Croix attendance calling on us to reassess our understandings of our Christian Rose Croix teachings? How do we know where the hand of our God might be moving? And does "mission" help us in exploring this question?

The word "mission" has had a chequered career in the life of the Christian church and community and, at times in a way completely empty of any meaning. We need to be careful in defining our Mission! In a despairing Rose Croix Order there is little interest in being involved in outreach to tile wider community if we are struggling to keep our own boat afloat in that this struggle takes all our energy. But this is not the way it has to be. The 21st century malaise of looking inwards is preventing Christian groups including the Rose Croix from being the people it is called to be. It is necessary to recognise that tile "mission of God" is found not inside the church or our Rose Croix Order but rather within the every day lives of ordinary people. Hence we need to be careful in defining the Mission of Rose Croix.

When we tune into our somewhat disruptive public life, we will recognise that a key question for tile Australian - and indeed tile global - culture is how we live together as people of difference. And one of tile pathways to that new life must surely be learning how to live and act together across many different cultural backgrounds. So now for us as Rose Croix Masons, "Being Different" also includes involvement with Brethren of different cultural backgrounds.

But how do we do this and be sure that what we do is designed to push ahead the work of God's Kingdom and not simply fit our own purposes? One way proposed is based on assumptions of new life and hope and is summed up in tile word "community". It can be said that this approach has been tried many times before.

But how, in the past, have we defined "community?" In the changing circumstances of recent decades, many people today would assume that a natural aim would be to build cross-cultural community. However there are real difficulties in this concept. The proposal for building our nation on "acceptance" depends on different cultures being "truly accepted as integrated members of tile community". And this is thenub of the community problem. Who accepts whom? This is the question that we in Rose Croix also have to ask, even in our own District. Who accepts whom? Integration and acceptance Imply there are first comers - perhaps status bearers - who set the norms and values, how is agreement reached on these norms? Are first- comers willing to compromise their values for others ways of doing things? "Integrated acceptance" may just be a 'nice' phrase for assimilation, where the cost of acceptance for tile less powerful is giving up of who they are - to become like "us".
How powerful has this problem been in the Rose Croix Order in our District?
Attempting to form community where differences are held together without assimilation requires understanding and this is no easy task. We may listen carefully to each other, but can we know another's experience? If we think we understand, we are less likely to listen. A danger of "community" language is that it can imply no strangeness, only acceptance, tolerance and understanding. A community in which difference is neither confronted nor valued cannot be Christian community. What does this say to us in Rose Croix today? A community in which difference is neither confronted nor valued cannot be Christian community!
Brethren, the purpose of this address has been to challenge all present to rethink the importance of "Being Different". Is it frightening or challenging? I continue to wrestle with this challenge. What are your reactions? Brethren are now invited to enter into dialogue on this subject recognising that your contributions are part of tile current District Resource Committee study of matters that affect the health of our Rose Croix District.




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