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The Grand Chancellor: Alan John Englefield

Sunday, 01 March 2009

Andrew Montgomery Looks at the Need for this New Office 

Those of us who study the Communications of the Grand Lodge may have noticed that, from last September, we have had a new Grand Chancellor – new in every sense, for Alan Englefield is the first man to hold that office. We may wonder why another Senior Grand Officer is required, the Craft has managed to get by without a Grand Chancellor for over two hundred and fifty years, so why do we need one now? Given that the title of Chancellor is difficult to pin down: it can refer to the German Head of State, the Finance Minister of the United Kingdom or the honorary head of a university, Grand Chancellor sounds suspiciously like another example of ‘Jobs For The Boys.’ It isn’t.

How many Freemasons does it take to change a lightbulb? Change!? Things have changed and they’ve changed for the better. It is good to be able to report that, globally, Freemasonry is on the rise! 
For two centuries, the business of managing Grand Lodge’s relations with her sister Grand Lodges was overseen by a triumvirate that comprised the Grand Secretary, the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Master’s advisers. Up until the Great War, “external relations” were handled in a gentle and gentlemanly manner. Emergencies, such as the defection of the Grand Orient of France, in 1876, were few and far between. It was largely a case of deciding on the regularity of new Grand Lodges, and until the drastic redrawing of the map of Europe following the collapse of the old empires after 1918, there weren’t very many new Grand Lodges to worry about. 
After the Second World War there was another period of creative cartography. The suppression of Freemasonry in what was now the “Eastern Bloc” led to masonic activity going underground – though the light was never extinguished – and an increase in bodies styling themselves “masonic” though wholly irregular by the standards of the United Grand Lodge of England. The infamous Italian ‘P2’ affair is an example that many of us will recall with a shudder. 

The Increase in Grand Lodges

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, masonic lodges that had met in secret reemerged and dormant Grand Lodges were re-established. In 1989, Grand Lodge recognised seventeen regular Grand Lodges in Europe; today thirty-six are recognised and one is under consideration. 
The total number of overseas Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England is now a hundred and sixty-seven, in seventy-five countries This statistic, which at first appears a paradox, is explained by the fact that the States of America have individual Grand Lodges. 
There are also Lodges overseas, which remain part of the United Grand Lodge of England, are governed directly from London, and remain under the jurisdiction of the Grand Secretary. It is obvious that External Relations – dealing with Grand Lodges recognised by Grand Lodge but working under Constitutions other than our own – now require a full time office and a dedicated officer. 

Our First Grand Chancellor

Alan Englefield may accurately be described as a dedicated officer. Born in 1940, he was educated at Thame Grammar School, under the headmastership of Hugh Mullins who later became headmaster of the Royal Masonic School at Bushey. Though never a Freemason himself, he was clearly sympathetic to the values that the Craft seeks to inculcate. He was far more concerned with a boy’s ability to behave like a young gentleman than in his academic ability or his prowess on the sports field. He was, in every sense, of the Old School. The Grand Chancellor will not, I am sure, mind being similarly described. 
Alan’s career in the Police Force, in his native Oxfordshire, spanned thirty two years. He was 35 and already a Police Inspector when, on a Police College scholarship, he won a place at Worcester College, Oxford to read Law. 
The college council, in that inimitably indirect, Senior Common Room way, expressed its concern that the policeman in their midst, should he detect the scent of some particularly exotic cheroot at a party on college premises, might see fit to report the matter to his law-enforcement superiors. 
Their fears were quickly put aside. Alan Englefield assured them that, in his view, the maintenance of college discipline was a matter for the college authorities. This little anecdote reveals an important facet of the Grand Chancellor’s character; one vital in the holder of that office. He is not a man given to interfering in areas that are not his direct concern! 
He was initiated into Icknield Way Lodge, No. 8292, in the Province of Oxfordshire, in 1971. He is also a member of the Apollo University Lodge (Oxford), No. 357. On the completion of his Constabulary duties, he worked for nine years for the Ministry of Defence. 
Alan was Provincial Grand Secretary for Oxfordshire from 1988 to 1993. From 1997 to 1998 he was Assistant Provincial Grand Master but left that post on being appointed Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council - the governing body of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas - which rules Chapters Rose Croix. Between 2002 and 2007 he was Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for Oxfordshire, and in 2007 he was appointed Grand Chancellor. 

Representing the Craft

As Grand Chancellor, one of his duties is assist the Grand Master and the Rulers of the Craft in representing Grand Lodge on formal visits to recognised Grand Lodges overseas and at international gatherings of regular masonic bodies. 
It is abundantly clear, taking into account the proliferation of new Grand Lodges and the great number of long-established ones already detailed, that the role of maintaining close, fraternal relationships is one of vital importance, but Brother, formerly Inspector, Englefield is all-too-well aware that the purpose of the Grand Chancellor’s Office is not to act as a form of Masonic Interpol 
Despite that fact that United Grand Lodge of England is the world’s premier Grand Lodge, it is not in a position to ‘lay down the law’ to others, nor does it seek so to do, for that is the route to resentment, schism and ruin. Grand Lodge, via the Grand Chancellor’s Office, can offer support and guidance based on centuries of experience, but it is determined ever to recognise the distinction between advising and interfering. 
All Grand Lodges, like College Councils, are sovereign bodies and do not take kindly to outsiders - even when they’re insiders - meddling in their internal affairs. 
The Grand Chancellor is a not a full time employee, though one imagines that his spare time must be in rather short supply. He is chairman of the External Relations Committee; to keep the Rulers, the Grand Master’s Advisers and the Board of General Purposes up to date on dealing with recognised Grand Lodges there is much correspondence to be dealt with! He works in close collaboration with John Hamill, Grand Lodge’s Director of Communications, and with Peter Roberts, External Relations Adviser. 
He is responsible for ensuring that Grand Lodge’s policy concerning External Relations is properly adhered to whilst encouraging the exchange of information and views from across the world, thus drawing the masonic family ever closer together.