How The Organization Works
Shrine Centers are located throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, The Philipines, Germany, Puerto Rico and the Republic of Panama, with additional clubs around the world. There is, therefore, a special Shriners Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the country for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Wherever Shriners gather, many national flags are flown.
Today, there are (over) 400,000 Shriners who belong to 192 temples, or chapters, from Al Aska Shriners in Anchorage, Ala., to Abou Saad Shriners in Panama, and from Aloha Shriners in Honolulu to Philae Shriners in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The temples, their units and affiliated clubs embody the true spirit of fraternalism. Wherever a Shriner goes, he can be certain there are nobles who will extend their hand in greeting.
To better understand how all this works, an observer can start at a local shrine center. All Shrine Centers are run by an elected Divan (officers), headed by the Potentate and the Chief Rabban. A Recorder, or record keeper/administrator, usually maintains an office at the temple. One member is elected or appointed to the “lowest rung” each January and under traditional practice moves up one “rung” each year. Thus, by the time he becomes Potentate of his temple, a Shriner usually has at least four years of experience in temple leadership.
Stated meetings of the temple membership as a whole must be held at least four times a year. In addition, each temple holds one or more ceremonials every year for the induction of new members. There are also many temple, unit and club social events each year.
Units are smaller groups organized within a temple for a specific purpose. Many of these are the uniformed units so familiar to parade watchers: Oriental Bands, Shriners Bands, Horse and Motor Patrols, Highlanders, Clowns, Drum Corps, Chanters and Legions of Honor. Other temple units can include hospital hosts or tour guides, and transportation units, which work closely with their local Shriners Hospital — either with children at the hospital or transporting patients to and from the hospital.
Each Shrine Center has a clearly defined territory from which it can obtain new members. Since these jurisdictions are often quite large, smaller geographical units may be organized for fellowship purposes. These are the clubs, under the control of their mother temple.
In addition, any number of Shrine Centers may form an association for social conventions, if the Imperial Council issues an appropriate charter. There are currently 20 regional associations and 19 unit associations.
The 192 Shrine Centers are governed by the Imperial Council, which is composed of representatives. Representatives of the Imperial Council include all past and present Imperial Officers, emeritus representatives (who have served 15 years or more) and representatives elected from each temple. A temple may have two representatives if its membership exceeds 300, three if more than 600, and four if more than 1,000. These representatives meet once a year — usually in July at the Imperial Council Session — to make policy decisions and legislation regarding both the fraternity and the hospitals. With nearly 900 representatives, the Imperial Council constitutes one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. The representatives also elect the Imperial Officers. The president of the Colorado Corporation and members of the Board of Trustees for Shriners Hospitals for Children are elected by members of the Colorado Corporation.
The Imperial Divan, Shriners’ international governing body, consists of 13 officers plus an Imperial Chaplain. The Imperial Treasurer and the Imperial Recorder may be elected for several consecutive years. They are the only officers who receive compensation. As with temple Divans, an officer (with the exception of treasurer and recorder) is elected to the bottom of the Divan and, barring unforeseen circumstances, moves up one position each year. These officers, elected from among the representatives, are usually past temple Potentates. The Divan plus the immediate Past Imperial Potentate constitute the Board of Directors of the fraternal corporation and they, with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, constitute the Board of Directors of the hospital corporation.
The chief executive officer of Shriners of North America is the Imperial Potentate, who is elected for one year. He visits many of the temples and hospitals and generally supervises both fraternal and hospital policies.
To help him with these tasks, the Imperial Potentate appoints committees to implement various programs. One of the most important of these committees is the donor relations committee, which coordinates and supervises contributions and bequests given to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The day-to-day operations — keeping the records and accounts of the fraternity and hospitals, supervising the estates left to Shriners Hospitals and producing printed materials for the entire organization — are carried out at Shriners International Headquarters in Tampa. These offices are supervised by an executive vice president of the Imperial Council, an executive vice president of Shriners Hospitals, and a legal department, which is under the supervision of a managing attorney.
However complex the organization may seem, its essence is the fraternal fellowship for which it was originally founded. It has been said that there are no strangers in Shrinedom. This is evident in the great times and laughter wherever Shriners get together, whether in a local club meeting, a temple ceremonial, an association gathering or an Imperial Session. All Shriners share not just a Masonic background but a zest for living.
Though this quality remains consistent — from the original 13 members to the hundreds of thousands of Shriners today — the fraternity has adapted to many changes. Many more temple and convention activities include the families of Shriners. Today, many Shriners are deeply involved in Shriners Hospitals work in addition to their fraternal activities.
Most temples sponsor fundraising events to provide funds for Shriners Hospitals. In one calendar year, there may be nearly 500 of these events, which range from the East- West Shrine Game and other football games to horse shows, hospital newspaper sales, and miscellaneous sports and social events.
During the 1980s, Shriners Hospitals experienced the greatest expansion in their history, with major building programs, increasing numbers of patients receiving care, and expansion of services. Today, Shriners Hospitals have maintained their position at the forefront of specialized pediatric care for orthopaedics, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. The Joint Boards plan to continue updating facilities, expanding research programs and increasing Shriners’ Hospitals ability to meet the medical needs of thousands of children.
Whatever changes occur within the fraternal organization or within the Shriners Hospitals system, Shriners of North America will remain the “World’s Greatest Fraternity,” operating and maintaining the “World’s Greatest Philanthropy.” Es Selamu Aleikum.
Note: The following essay was quoted from "A Short Shistory, Shriners Hospitals for Children & Shriners of North America," which can be downloaded in its entirety from the Shriners of North America website.