Delegates at the 155th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Kansas overwhelmingly approved the formation of the first modern affinity lodge in Kansas: Justice Lodge No. 457, based in Abilene. Affinity lodges, recognized by many other jurisdictions but practically unknown in Kansas, are lodges that confine their active membership to a shared interest or profession.
Making use of a little-known procedure in the Kansas Masonic code, the charter members of the lodge petitioned for a Warrant for Constitution directly to the Grand Lodge, by-passing the usual step of requesting Letters of Dispensation. The petition was read and acted on during the annual communication. The Grand Master, L. Kent Needham, then asked the proposers to address the assembled delegates.
In their address, charter members Cole Presley (PM Millbrook Lodge No. 281 ) and John R. Harwood, Jr. (PM Benevolent Lodge No. 98) explained that Justice Lodge would be an affinity lodge for law enforcement Masons – past or present police officers, corrections officer, emergency dispatchers, prosecutors or court trustees. The pair emphasized that Justice Lodge would be the first step in fulfilling the objectives of the Strategic Plan which calls for ten new lodges in ten years. Drawing members from all over the state, Presley commented that the lodge intended to become an occasional lodge meeting quarterly, and highlighted this fact in explaining why the group by-passed the traditional step of requesting Letters of Dispensation.
“We intend on petitioning Grand Lodge [if a charter is granted] to allow us to become an occasional lodge, but Lodges Under Dispensation are not allowed to be occasional lodges – this is why we have petitioned Grand Lodge directly,” Presley said.
The charter members of the lodge are Daren L. Kellerman (Delphian No. 44), Presley, Harwood, Michael A. Halleran, Kevin C. Crist, John Scarce and Lane Ryno (Emporia No. 12), Kevin L. Turner and Russell B. Ingle (Millbrook No. 281). Immediately following the vote, the principle officers were installed by the Grand Master with the assistance of Grand Senior Warden Rick Reichert with Halleran in the East, Harwood in the West and Crist in the South.
Following receipt of the charter from Grand Lodge, Halleran stated that the group will plan its first meeting and would provide information to the Kansas Mason website.
“We are looking forward to getting organized and we would welcome visitors and guests to our first meeting once we get organized,” he said.
Although the first affinity lodge in modern memory, Justice Lodge is not technically the premier affinity lodge in Kansas Masonic history. Union Lodge No. 7, formed by and for military Masons in Fort Riley, was chartered on October 29, 1857.