About 2-weeks ago I served as Chairman of the Committee for Distinguished Guests for the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Idaho. The Knights Templar is one of my favorite groups within Freemasonry and I am proud to be a Knight Templar, but often I see Sir Knights and non-Templars struggle with understanding the terminology and titles of our order because Templary has a unique set of titles and nomenclature that is different from Craft Masonry. This article is going to focus on those titles (honorary and official) of the Commandery, the Grand Commandery, and the Grand Encampment as well as the various terms in reference to meetings.
Honorary Titles and Official Titles
In all of Freemasonry, including Templary, there are official titles and honorary titles. The official title refers to the name of the office or station a Sir Knight holds while the honorary title. An honorary title conveys esteem, courtesy, or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to a person. In Templary, the honorary title goes with the official title, not the name. The title of "Sir Knight" applies to all Knights Templar, but is never combined with honorary titles. The title of "Eminent Sir Knight," "Right Eminent Sir Knight," or "Most Eminent Sir Knight" does not exist.
Honorary titles are used in addressing, introducing, or referring to an officer, and precede the official title, i.e. "Most Eminent Grand Master." The official title only is used by an officer when necessary to designate his own rank or station. You never use the honorary titles to describe yourself. In this distinction, Templary differs from all other branches of Masonry, where the honorary titles may be used in conjunction with the individual or name of the individual I.e. "Right Excellent Companion" or "Most Worshipful Brother."
In discussing the titles of a constituent Commandery, only one officer has an honorary title attached to their respective station, other than Sir Knight, and that is the 'Eminent Commander'. Some might ask why the 'Excellent Prelate' is not included and that is because the honorary title of "Excellent" is ritualistic and not bestowed by the Constitution. The Constitution of the Grand Encampment states, "In the case of Honorary titles the Constitution and not the ritual governs." All other officers use the title of Sir Knight before their station such as "Sir Knight Captain General" or "Sir Knight Senior Warden."
At the Grand Commandery level, Grand Commanders and Past Grand Commanders hold the honorary title of "Right Eminent." The honorary title of Deputy Grand Commanders is "Very Eminent." The rest of the Grand Commandery officers hold the honorary title of "Eminent" such as "Eminent Grand Captain General."
At the Grand Encampment, the honorary title of the Grand Master and Past Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment is "Most Eminent." The honorary title of the other Grand Encampment officers is "Right Eminent."
One last note: Avoid professional titles unless that professional title is specific to an office held such as the Prelate (or Grand Prelate).
Past Rank can be particularly confusing, but the Grand Encampment has codified the retention of rank. At the Grand Encampment:
Section 235. One who has filled by installation and term of service, the office of Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Grand Generalissimo, Grand Captain General, Grand Prelate or Department Commander in the Grand Encampment;
For those officers at Grand Commandery:
Grand Commander, Deputy Grand Commander, Grand Generalissimo or Grand Captain General in a Grand Commandery;
or Commander in a Commandery; shall retain the title of the highest office attained by him in the Grand Encampment, Grand Commandery and Commandery, with the word, "Past" immediately preceding and qualifying the official title.
Past rank is limited to the offices named in Section 235 of the Constitution of the Grand Encampment. This means there is no such title or rank as Past Grand Recorder or Past Grand Prelate of Grand Commanderies.
In a Commandery (constituent or subordinate), there is no such title or rank as Past Generalissimo, Past Captain General, Past Prelate, Past Treasurer, or Past Recorder. The only "Past" rank in a Commandery is "Past Commander." This is found in the Decisions approved by the Grand Encampment. Please note that a Commander of a Commandery Under Dispensation does not retain the rank of Past Commander unless he serves as Commander once that Commandery has been chartered and then he must serve a full term of office.
With that being said, the official title of a past presiding officer of a Commandery is a "Past Commander". The honorary title still precedes the title so it is "Eminent Past Commander" not "Past Eminent Commander" or "Right Eminent Past Grand Commander" not "Past Right Eminent Grand Commander." You never divide the official title.
If you wanted to make an introduction and make reference to a previously held office or station that isn't considered a past rank per the Constitution, you'd use "former" before the official title. For example: "Sir Knight John Smith, former Grand Recorder" which carries no actual rank, but identifies the member as having one time held the office mentioned.
If a Past Grand Commander is later elected to the office of Grand Treasurer (or Grand Recorder) the honorary title of "Right Eminent" is not added to that new station. He is a Right Eminent Past Grand Commander but also an Eminent Grand Treasurer; no past rank can add any more eminence to the new station.
Concerning the wearing of rank on the Templar uniform, such persons should wear insignia of the rank of highest position.
Within the Grand Encampment there exists the College of Honors for the purpose of "recognizing a member of the Order for continued service to the Order, service to Freemasonry, service to the community, or service to mankind." The honors administered by Grand Encampment are the Knight Templar Cross of Honor (KTCH), Knight Commander of the Temple (KCT), Companion of the Temple (CT) the Knight Grand Cross of the Temple (KGC), and the Grand Cross Templar (GCT) which is a special version of the KGC created for certain members of the College of Honors. Now if you are introducing someone with honors, you never use an acronym, but always speak the full name of the honor, i.e. "Sir Knight John Doe, Knight Grand Cross of the Temple."
Not forgetting the wives of the Sir Knights, they are always introduced as "Lady." If you are introducing a Lady who is not your wife, it is done as follows: "Sir Knight John Doe and his Lady Jane" or "Lady Jane Doe, wife of Sir Knight John Doe." If you are introducing your own wife it is "My Lady Jane." If the Lady is a recipient of the Companion of the Temple (CT), you also include that in her introduction.
As I mentioned in "Officers of a Commandery of Knights Templar," the basic organizational unit for the Knights Templar is known as the Commandery. A Commandery consists of at least three Knights Templar, hailing from three separate Commanderies, and acting under a lawful Warrant, or of nine or more Knights Templar acting under a lawful Dispensation or Charter. In 2018, the Grand Encampment passed legislation that allowed Grand Commanderies to change the requirement from nine to a number no less than five.
Commanderies hold Conclaves, not meetings. There are Special Conclaves and Stated Conclaves, not regular or called. Commanderies are opened and closed. Commanderies open Conclaves in full form or in short form, not long-form. A Commandery holds its Conclaves in an Asylum, not a Lodge room.
There are two types of Commanderies. Constituent and subordinate. Constituent Commanderies are those who fall under the authority of a Grand Commandery. Subordinate Commanderies do not fall under a Grand Commandery and report directly to the Grand Encampment.
Grand Commanderies have Conclaves, not Grand Conclaves. Just like Commanderies, there are Special Conclaves and Stated Conclaves. Grand Commanderies (re)convene and adjourn, they do not open or close.
The Grand Encampment also has Conclaves, and like its subordinate bodies, they are Special Conclaves and Stated Conclaves (which occur every 3-years). Like Grand Commanderies, Grand Encampment (re)convenes and adjourns.
There are no degrees in the Commandery of Knights Templar. There are three orders: the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, the Order of Malta, and the Order of the Temple. Commanderies confer the three orders; they do not "put on" the orders. The only time that "degree" is mentioned in Templary is in connection with the degree of Knight of St. Paul or Mediterranean Pass, the pass degree of the Order of Malta.