My Dear Fellow Templars,
To all of the knights and dames of our Order, who are carrying out our holy mission from China to Pakistan, and to our esteemed Council of Twelve, I salute you and commend you to the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ;
And likewise to our fellow knights and dames in Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Pakistan, Lebanon, Russia, Brazil, the Marshall Islands, and New Zealand, I send you greetings and salutations from the Priory of the Holy Angels.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the time has come to bid you adieu as the Grand Prior of the Sovereign Military Order of Christian Knights Templar. As I write this, we are having an election in our priory to select a new Grand Prior, Grand Chancellor, and Grand Marshall.
It has been my greatest privilege and honor to serve you as your Grand Prior for the past three years. Those years have been tumultuous, and I wish that I had more to show for them as far as personal accomplishments go, but I believe that the priory has never been so strong, and never so poised as to achieve its full potential. That we are at this point, where we have overcome the limitations of the past while still embracing our lineage and celebrating our heritage, is not due to my efforts, but to yoursÃ¢â‚¬"and most especially to our LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blessing of our efforts.
It is now time to step down as your Grand Prior. I am relinquishing this post not due to weariness or any sense of resignation, but because it is the right thing to do. As many of you know, I was originally appointed to serve for life. However, my observations of the various Templar orders convinced me that for any Grand Prior to serve for life inevitably means the death of that order. My observations have shown me that once a human being has served in any capacity beyond a number of years, his or her faculties of reason inevitably slip into decline, and unwise decisions are the ultimate result. I also have been convinced beyond any doubt of the adage, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.Ã¢â‚¬Â For these reasons, I decided that I would be the prioryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“last autocrat,Ã¢â‚¬Â and for these same reasons I asked all of you to join me in reforming this order into a democratic one. We did not need to have a Ã¢â‚¬Å“cult of personalityÃ¢â‚¬Â or any Ã¢â‚¬Å“dynasties,Ã¢â‚¬Â either of which is inimical to a Christian order. In this self-ordered reformation of our order, however, we did not stray from our Templar roots, but we have returned to them. For the first time in decades, a Templar order is holding a free election for its Grand Prior and other senior officers.
The Council of Twelve and a new constitution, drawing upon and enshrining the Declaration of Atlanta as its basis, will provide a series of checks and balances to ensure that the democratic reforms we have instituted will survive, thereby guaranteeing the survival of the order.
My dear fellow Templars, it was with a heavy heart that I led you into secession in May of last year, but we truly had no other choice. Our precious autonomy, which was underwritten by the Declaration of Atlanta, a document that was binding upon the entire Confederation of Scottish Knights Templar, had been violated in our considered estimation, and we had received orders to expel one of our own, and to demote others, all without even the appearance of fairness or due process. We could not have followed the orders we received and retained our honor as knights and dames, and we could not persuade the leader of our confederation to relent. Secession was our only alternative if we were to remain men and women of conscience, and it was upon that sad but necessary path that we embarked.
I will state in this farewell address, as a memorial for all time, that I still retain the greatest respect for our former Grand Prior General, and I will always consider myself to be his loyal friend. It is my fervent hope that one day we can meet in friendship and fellowship and put all the wounds of the past behind us. If it had not been for his valiant efforts on behalf of the order years before, the order would have been co-opted as a front for a terrorist group and would have disgraced its founders and all of the brave Templar knights who bravely fought and perished in the service of this holy order. I salute this great man whom I esteemed as my leader, my mentor, and my friend.
Now we look to the future, but always while standing upon the foundation of the past. We have returned to our Templar roots not only in the form of governance, but also to our original charter: the protection of Christians in foreign lands. We fully embrace this mission today, as did our spiritual and organizational forebears in Ã¢â‚¬Å“OutremerÃ¢â‚¬Â centuries ago. Defending and succoring the persecuted church is today our raison dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÂªtre, as it was in 1118 A.D. The Christian Church has been under unrelenting attack in the Islamic and Communist countries. One researcher has estimated that 359,000 Christians are being martyred each year for their faith in these countries. We already know that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined; if we do not demand accountability of our government and the leaders of the Islamic and Communist countries, the 21st century will undoubtedly eclipse the 20th in terms of Christians killed for their faith.
My dear fellow Templars, we must become the chief defender upon this earth of the persecuted church. We must do this, because there it is our holy mission, and because no one else is doing it. Our churches are asleep during this time of slaughter, and human rights are pushed aside as matters to be considered when military and business interests are at stake. We can become the organization that will demand accountability from our leadersÃ¢â‚¬"and we must become that organization. All nations upon this earth want aid from us or trade with us, and we must ensure that human rightsÃ¢â‚¬"and particularly the right to worship freelyÃ¢â‚¬"is made a centerpiece in any aid or trade negotiation. We will not be able to end religious persecution and oppression before the Second Coming of our Lord, but we can greatly attenuate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we must do no less if we are to worthy of our titles as knights. To this end let us dedicate ourselvesÃ¢â‚¬"our talents, our honor, and our lives if so demanded.
The last thing I wish to ask of you is to maintain our unity. We have already faced schismatic issues, and we have come to the point of schism, but we have laid aside our pride and have embraced each other with understanding and love.
In I Corinthians 1:10, the Apostle Paul wrote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.Ã¢â‚¬Â We must remain united, both in spirit and purpose. Because we are an ecumenical and very eclectic group of knights and dames, we shall seldom agree on everything. It is not necessary that we agree upon everything in order to do our LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work. The very Apostles themselves had disagreements, and they had disagreements even after Pentecost, where they had been gathered in one place and of one accord. I give to you again the example of St. Paul, who stood St. Peter Ã¢â‚¬Å“full in the faceÃ¢â‚¬Â concerning the treatment of Gentiles, but who humbly shaved his head and submitted himself to St. James, the brother of Christ and the head of the Jerusalem church. We must be upright and stalwart in our principles, but we must never forget to approach our fellow knights and dames with love and humility.
Pride always goes before a fall, but love never fails! In settling our differences, pride will never win the day, but humility always will show the way to victory. Let us never puff up ourselves with pride, but remember the comportment toward our fellow knights and dames that we are sworn to observe and practice as members of a holy and chivalric order. We should be proud that our Lord called us to this duty, but we should be humbled by our calling as well. We are not the lords of the earth, but ordinary men and women who have been called upon by our Lord to do extraordinary things.
The Apostle Paul, again in I Corinthians chapter 1, is quoted thusly in verses 26 through 31: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, Ã¢â‚¬ËœLet the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
I tell you, my dear brothers and sisters, that because you have answered the call to become knights and dames, and to defend the persecuted church, you are considered the most foolish and weak beings in all of the world. Your part for being knights and dames will more likely result in shame and derision than in titles or honors, for you are defending the Christian Church, which is under increasing attack both at home and abroad. Your cause is holy, but it is not a very popular one in this day and time. Those who seek glory and honors should doff their mantles, for wearing the mantle will not result in the bestowing of earthly honors and prestige. No, whoever wears the mantle should be prepared for this world to shame him or her, for this world has yet to acknowledge our Lord as its Savior and Redeemer.
In the eyes of the world, the death of our Lord upon the Cross was a shame and a disgrace from which there could be no recovery. But in the eyes of God, our LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death and Resurrection was a glorious victory. In the eyes of the world, the Cross is a symbol of abject defeat. In the eyes of heaven, however, the Cross is a symbol of eternal victory. The world respected pride and arrogance, but from our Lord it received humility and compassionÃ¢â‚¬"and love. Two millennia after the death and Resurrection of our Lord, so many in the world cannot accept that the Son of God would humiliate Himself by dying upon a Cross for our sins. They do not understand that through His shame and disgrace, he exalted and glorified Himself. A prideful messiah could not have endured death upon the Cross for our sins, but a humble Messiah would embrace a painful and shameful death to redeem us from our sins.
Let us, therefore, remember the example of our Lord, and reflect upon what a great victory He won for us through humility and love. Let us remember that such a victory could not have been won with pride or arrogance. Such a victory could not have been won for us without the greatest of love.
My fellow knights and dames, remember the Cross upon our mantles and that it symbolizes the humility of our Lord and the greatest of loves that He has for us. Let us remember that victories of the heart will never be won with pride or arrogance, and that we must always treat our fellow knights and dames with respect and love. Indeed, one of the pillars of our order states that we shall one day be called to give account of our treatment of our brothers and sisters, and that all excuses will be found wanting.
Finally, I give you this solemn warning: the Enemy has expended a disproportionate amount of time and effort to destroy this order, which is a clear signal that it is destined to do great things on behalf of the persecuted churchÃ¢â‚¬"as long as we stay together. In ten years, our order should become the premier organization upon this earth for defending and succoring the persecuted church. That is our mission. It will be our destiny if we resist pride and division, and embrace humility and unity.
My dear brothers and sisters, I want you to all know that you all have a crucial role to play in this order, and thereby in GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan for this world. Your role in this order was ordained before the foundation of this world was laid. I ask all of you to claim your destiny and to own the truth of it. Do not become discouraged, and especially do not let the Enemy discourage you. The chief weapons of the Enemy are doubt and discord, and he uses them with amazing deftness and effectiveness. But if you will guard your heartsÃ¢â‚¬"your own and that of each otherÃ¢â‚¬"you can resist the weapons of the Enemy and will prevail in the fight. And make no mistake about it: we are knights in a world at warÃ¢â‚¬"between the forces of heaven and the forces of darkness. We have sworn to stand by the Archangel Michael and all of his angels until death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, and we must stand by our oaths. Retreat or failure is not an option in this battle with powers and principalitiesÃ¢â‚¬"our real enemies, rather than the actual flesh and blood that is manifested as the persecutor of the church.
My dear fellow knights and dames, I now leave you and will revert to being a simple foot-soldier in the order. I plan to return to Pakistan this year, and I pray that we will this time secure the release of our brother in chains, Chev. Pervaiz Masih. I ask for your prayers and support, and especially for our dear brother, Chev. Dr. Ken Cooper, who is continuing his brave missionary work in China.
Please give your next Grand Prior the same loyalty and support that you gave me, which was beyond all measure of anything that I merited. I ask that you forgive me of my shortcomings, which were great and many. And I ask that you pray for me, that I may find favor in our LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes to continue my humble service as a knight in this order.
My love goes with you all in our Lord, whose peace I pray will be with you always!
Yours in Christ,
James R. Reese, Knight Grand Cross of the Templeof Jerusalem
Priory of the Holy Angels
Sovereign Military Order of Christian Knights Templar