The oddest news today is the recent changes in the Shrine's policy for accepting members. They have dropped the requirements for members to have reached the 32º in the Scottish Rite or the Knight Templar degree in York Rite, and now any Master Mason may petition for membership. From an e-mail bulletin I received:
In an unprecedented move in its 128 years of existence, the Shrine of North America overwhelmingly voted on Monday, July 3, 2000, to make available to Master Masons the opportunity to join the Shrine fraternity.
It was by a near-unanimous vote of the Representatives meeting in Boston at the Shrine's 126th Imperial Council Session that Section 323.3 of Article 23 of the bylaws of the Iowa Corporation was amended to read: "A Temple may not accept a petition from a candidate unless he is in good standing as a Master Mason of a Lodge recognized and in amity with the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. Furthermore, a Temple may not add to or take from the qualifications for membership as fixed by these bylaws."
This message was followed quite quickly by some rather strange news from the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Arkansas stating that the Shrine will no longer be recognized as an official appendant body of Masonry within its jurisdiction. MW Dickey J. Fortner wrote, "As many of you are aware, Past Imperial Potentate Ralph Semb indicated in several of his writings that he believes the laws of the Shrine supersede Grand Lodge Law and the authority of a Grand Lodge to govern the Master Masons within their Grand Jurisdiction." His entire letter regarding this issue is available online.